Long, long ago, in a world without e-book technology, way before the printing press, the world’s oldest book was made. I’m not talking cave drawings or clay tablets, which depict the first “writings”, but the very first official “book”. In 600 BCE the North Italian Etruscans created a book of 24-karat gold with six illustrated gold pages joined by gold rings. Wow. I think it’s pretty darn cool that the ancestor of all books was something so special, so valuable, and so symbolic of how books would be treasured by humankind.
Relatives of the books we know today also include one from China dating back to 868 CE, made from carved wooden blocks, and many others were created from scrolls of leather or parchment. It wasn’t until the mid-1400’s that Johann Gutenberg invented the movable-type printing press and published the first mass-produced book–the Gutenberg Bible. A whopping 200 copies were made, and an estimated 21 complete copies exist today, each valued between $25-$35 million dollars (cha-ching!).
(picture of Chinese Bamboo Book)
With the printing press, came the start of mass communication. Eventually, everyone could enjoy what only the very rich or very religious (i.e. clergy) had access to. In 1611 the best-selling book of all time was completed–the King James Bible. It celebrated its 400 year anniversary this year with more than 6 billion copies having been published. It was written over a span of 1,000 years by more than 40 authors. Of course the first bibles were mighty expensive and actually chained to the front pulpit of churches to prevent theft. It was the first English bible printed in the U.S., and whether or not you’re a bible buff, many of our common phrases come from it. Here are just a few:
- Fell flat on his face (Numbers 22:31)
- To everything there is a season (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
- At their wits’ end (Psalms 107:27)
- Labour of love (Hebrews 6:10)
- In the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52)
- Strait and narrow (Matthew 7:13-14)
- Apple of his eye (Deuteronomy 32:10)
- The root of the matter (Job 19:28)
- The skin of my teeth (Job 19:20)