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Johannes Trithemius'Polygraphiae (1518)

As a physical object, a book is a stack of usually rectangular pages (made of papyrus, parchment, vellum, or paper) oriented with one edge tied, sewn, or otherwise fixed together and then bound to the flexible spine of a protective cover of heavier, relatively inflexible material. The technical term for this physical arrangement is codex (in the plural, codices). In the history of hand-held physical supports for extended written compositions or records, the codex replaces its immediate predecessor, the scroll. A single sheet in a codex is a leaf, and each side of a leaf is a page.

As an intellectual object, a book is prototypically a composition of such great length that it takes a considerable investment of time to compose and a still considerable, though not so extensive, investment of time to read. This sense of book has a restricted and an unrestricted sense. In the restricted sense, a book is a self-sufficient section or part of a longer composition, a usage that reflects the fact that, in antiquity, long works had to be written on several scrolls, and each scroll had to be identified by the book it contained. So, for instance, each part of Aristotle's Physics is called a book, as of course the Bible encompasses many different books. In the unrestricted sense, a book is the compositional whole of which such sections, whether called books or chapters or parts, are parts.

The intellectual content in a physical book need not be a composition, nor even be called a book. Books can consist only of drawings, engravings, or photographs, or such things as crossword puzzles or cut-out dolls. In a physical book the pages can be left blank or can feature an abstract set of lines as support for on-going entries, i.e., an account book, an appointment book, a log book, an autograph book, a notebook, a diary or day book, or a sketch book. Some physical books are made with pages thick and sturdy enough to support other physical objects, like a scrapbook or photograph album. Books may be distributed in electronic form as e-books and other formats.

Although in ordinary academic parlance a monograph is understood to be a specialist academic work, rather than a reference work on a single scholarly subject, in library and information science monograph denotes more broadly any non-serial publication complete in one volume (book) or a finite number of volumes (even a novel like Proust's seven-volume In Search of Lost Time), in contrast to serial publications like a magazine, journal, or newspaper. An avid reader or collector of books or a book lover is a bibliophile or colloquially, "bookworm". A shop where books are bought and sold is a bookshop or bookstore. Books are also sold elsewhere. Books can also be borrowed from libraries. Google has estimated that as of 2010, approximately 130,000,000 distinct titles had been published. In some wealthier nations, the sale of printed books has decreased because of the use of e-books, though sales of e-books declined in the first half of 2015.

Selected article

A page from the Ormulum: note the careful and repeated editing performed over time by Orm, as well as the insertions of new readings by "Hand B."

The Ormulum or Orrmulum is a 12th-century work of biblical exegesis, written in early Middle English verse by a monk named Orm (or Ormin). Because of the unique phonetic orthography adopted by the author, the work preserves many details of English pronunciation at a time when the language was in flux after the Norman Conquest; consequently, despite its lack of literary merit, it is invaluable to philologists in tracing the development of English. Orm was concerned that priests were unable to speak the vernacular properly, and so he developed an idiosyncratic spelling system to tell his readers how to pronounce every vowel, and he composed his work using a strict poetic meter that ensured that readers would know which syllables were stressed. Modern scholars can use these two features to reconstruct Middle English just as Orm spoke it. The name "Orm" is derived from Old Norse, meaning worm, dragon. With the suffix of "myn" for "man" (hence "Ormin"), it was a common name throughout the Danelaw area of England. The choice between the two forms of the name was probably dictated by the meter. The title of the poem itself, "Ormulum", is modeled on the Latin speculum ("mirror"); it can be interpreted as either the boastful "Reflection of Orm" or the modest "Researches of Orm".


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Plates vi & vii of the Edwin Smith Papyrus at the Rare Book Room, New York Academy of Medicine.

Credit: author unknown

The Edwin Smith Papyrus is an Ancient Egyptian textbook on trauma surgery, written in hieratic around the 19th century BC, but thought to be based on material from a thousand years earlier. It is the world's earliest known example of medical literature.

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March 14, 2012

After a 244-year span in print, the Encyclopædia Britannica will discontinue its published volumes. With less than 1% of revenue coming from print versions, Jorge Cauz, Britannica's president, indicates there simply is not sufficient demand for the print publication. In the last 11 years demand has plummeted due to competition from Wikipedia and Britannica's own digital version. Britannica peaked in sales in 1990 with 120,000 sets sold. The 2010 edition will be the last in print and has sold 8,000 sets to date; with 4,000 sets remaining.

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Chinua Achebe , born Albert Chinualumogu Achebe on May 12, 1930, is a Nigerian novelist, poet and critic. He is best known for his first novel, Things Fall Apart (1958), which is the most widely-read book in modern African literature.Raised by Christian parents in the Igbo village of Ogidi in south Nigeria, Achebe excelled at school and won a scholarship for undergraduate studies. He became fascinated with world religions and traditional African cultures, and began writing stories as a university student. After graduation, he worked for the Nigerian Broadcasting Service and soon moved to the metropolis of Lagos. He gained worldwide attention for Things Fall Apart in the late 1950s; his later novels include No Longer at Ease (1960), Arrow of God (1964), A Man of the People (1966), and Anthills of the Savannah (1987). Achebe wrote his novels in English and has defended the use of English, a language of colonisers, in African literature. In 1975, his lecture An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" became the focus of controversy, for its criticism of Joseph Conrad as "a thoroughgoing racist".

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