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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 sketchbook. 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 increased usage of e-books.

Selected article

The Book of Kells, (folio 292r), circa 800, showing the lavishly decorated text that opens the Gospel of John.

The Book of Kells (Irish: Leabhar Cheanannais) (Dublin, Trinity College Library, MS A. I. (58), sometimes known as the Book of Columba) is an illuminated manuscript that is a masterwork of Western calligraphy and represents the pinnacle of Insular illumination. It is also widely regarded as Ireland's finest national treasure. Transcribed by Celtic monks ca. 800, it contains the four Gospels of the New Testament in Latin, together with various prefatory texts and tables. The text of the Gospels is largely drawn from the Vulgate, although it also includes several passage drawn from the earlier versions of the Bible known as the Vetus Latina.The illustrations and ornamentation of the Book of Kells surpasses that of other Insular Gospels in extravagance and complexity. The decoration combines traditional Christian iconography with the ornate swirling motifs of typical of Insular art. Figures of humans, animals and mythical beasts together with intricate knotwork and interlacing patterns in vibrant colours enliven the manuscript's pages. Many of these minor decorative elements are imbued with Christian symbolism and so further emphasize the themes of the major illustrations.

Selected picture

Upper cover of the Felbrigge Psalter.

Credit: Anne de Felbrigge

The Felbrigge Psalter is an illuminated manuscript Psalter from mid-thirteenth century England that has an embroidered bookbinding which probably dates to the early fourteenth century.

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In the news

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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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Selected biography

Lady Gregory pictured on the frontispiece to "Our Irish Theatre: A Chapter of Autobiography" (1913).

Isabella Augusta, Lady Gregory (March 15, 1852 – May 22, 1932), née Isabella Augusta Persse, was an Irish dramatist and folklorist. With William Butler Yeats and others, she co-founded the Irish Literary Theatre and the Abbey Theatre, and wrote numerous short works for both companies. Lady Gregory produced a number of books of retellings of stories taken from Irish mythology. Born into a class that identified closely with British rule, her conversion to cultural nationalism, as evidenced by her writings, was emblematic of many of the changes to occur in Ireland during her lifetime.Lady Gregory is mainly remembered for her work behind Irish Literary Revival. Her home at Coole Park, County Galway served as an important meeting place for leading Revival figures, and her early work as a member of the board of the Abbey was at least as important for the theatre's development as her creative writings. Lady Gregory's motto was taken from Aristotle: "To think like a wise man, but to express oneself like the common people."

Selected quote

T Jefferson by Charles Willson Peale 1791 2.jpg


Did you know...

Gutenberg Bible.jpg
  • ...that by 2007, the Bible was translated into 429 languages, with portions of it translated in 2,426 languages?(Pictured)
  • ...that Muslims believe that the Qur’ān is the book of divine guidance and direction for mankind?
  • ...that the Rig Veda is one of the oldest religious texts?

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