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Portal:Books

The Books Portal

Johannes Trithemius'Polygraphiae (1518)

A book is a medium for recording information in the form of writing or images, typically composed of many pages (made of papyrus, parchment, vellum, or paper) bound together and protected by a cover. The technical term for this physical arrangement is codex (plural, codices). In the history of hand-held physical supports for extended written compositions or records, the codex replaces its 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. In a 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. Each part of Aristotle's Physics is called a book. In an 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, crossword puzzles or cut-out dolls. In a physical book, the pages can be left blank or can feature an abstract set of lines to support entries, in an account book, an appointment book, an autograph book, a notebook, a diary 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 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 is a bibliophile or colloquially, "bookworm". A place where books are traded is a bookshop or bookstore. Books are also sold elsewhere and can be borrowed from libraries. Google has estimated that in 2010, approximately 130,000,000 titles had been published. In some wealthier nations, the sale of printed books has decreased because of the increased usage of e-books.

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The initial page of the Peterborough Chronicle.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a collection of annals in Old English narrating the history of the Anglo-Saxons. The annals were created late in the 9th century, probably in Wessex, during the reign of Alfred the Great. Multiple manuscript copies were made and distributed to monasteries across England and were independently updated. In one case, the chronicle was still being actively updated in 1154.Nine manuscripts survive in whole or in part, though not all are of equal historical value, and none of them is the original version. The oldest seems to have been begun towards the end of Alfred's reign, while the most recent was written at Peterborough Abbey after a fire at the monastery there in 1116. Almost all of the material in the chronicle is in the form of annals, by year; the earliest are dated at 60 BC, and historical material follows up to the year in which the chronicle was written, at which point contemporary records begin. These manuscripts collectively are known as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. The Chronicle is not unbiased: there are occasions when comparison with other medieval sources makes it clear that the scribes who wrote it omitted events or told one-sided versions of stories; there are also places where the different versions contradict each other.

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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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Anna Laetitia Barbauld

Anna Laetitia Barbauld (, by herself possibly , as in French, née Aikin; 20 June 1743 - 9 March 1825) was a prominent English poet, essayist, literary critic, editor, and author of children's literature.

A "woman of letters" who published in multiple genres, Barbauld had a successful writing career at a time when women rarely wrote professionally. She was a noted teacher at the Palgrave Academy and an innovative writer of works for children; her primers provided a model for more than a century. Her essays showed it was possible for a woman to be publicly engaged in politics; other women authors such as Elizabeth Benger emulated her. Barbauld's literary career spanned numerous periods in British literary history: her work promoted the values of the Enlightenment and of sensibility, while her poetry made a founding contribution to the development of British Romanticism. Barbauld was also a literary critic. Her anthology of 18th-century novels helped to establish the canon as it is known today. Read more...

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