Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Book (German buch; A.S. boc: the term is by some connected with German biegen, to bend; by others, with more probability, with buche, beech, on the bark of which runes (q.v.) were inscribed). A certain number of pages of an ordinary modern book are printed at once, and, until the introduction of rolls of machine-made paper, each set was printed on a separate sheet. From the number of pages on a sheet (four, eight, etc.) the size of the book, quarto, octavo, etc., formerly derived its designation; but the changes in modern printing have rendered this inexact and often misleading. Probably the earliest form of book was a roll of papyrus, written on both sides, and mounted on two sticks, one at each end. so that it could be unrolled as the reader required. The earliest extant example, the Papyrus Prisse, containing two short ethical treatises, can hardly be later than 4,000 B.C., and is known to be a copy. Parchment or vellum was afterwards introduced when papyrus was scarce for a time - it is mentioned indeed by Herodotus, in the fifth century B.C., and was used by the Phoenicians - and probably, as its use became more common, the form of book familiar to us was adopted from the arrangement of the sets of oblong wax tablets used by the Romans for writing memoranda, probably during the first century A.D. Seemingly, however, the papyrus roll was not finally obsolete till the seventh century A.D. The title-page of a modern book, containing the title and place of publication, as well as (usually) the date and author's name, does not occur in printed books till after 1476. Instead there is (as in MSS.), a colophon, a sentence or short verse at the end, giving some particulars about the book and sometimes the author. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries title-pages were overloaded with detail, and until the present century books were commonly described as "printed for" a number of specified booksellers; and they were not always accurately dated. Moreover, books which were supposed likely to be stopped by the authorities as containing prohibited doctrines, or as obscene, have often had false title-pages (thus an edition of Spinoza's Ethica was issued as Daniel Heinsius' Poems), or at least the place of publication has been misstated. Books published at the end of a year now often bear the date of the next, otherwise the tendency is in favour of accurate dating. The subdivision of a book into volumes has reference usually to the convenience of handling, rather than to contents. (Volumes, however, are often subdivided into "books," which usually has the latter significance, though it is suggested by the division of Greek and Latin works, which had the former.) In Germany it is a common practice to subdivide volumes (so-called) of a technical or scientific character into "parts" or half-volumes, and to publish each part separately, the later parts sometimes before the earlier - to suit the author's convenience. This is partly due to the custom of issuing revised and enlarged editions of standard works.

An "edition" means the quantity of copies issued at one time - often 1,000 - but it may be any number. "Editions de luxe," handsomely bound and finished, are often limited to a small number, each being sometimes signed by the author, and the type is then broken up to increase their rarity and value. In the second-hand book trade, "uncut" means that the margins have never been cut down by the bookbinder, "curious" is a euphemism for improper, while "foxed" means that the pages are spotted.