BOOK, the general name of almost every literary composition; but, in a more limited sense, is applied only to such compositions as are large enough to make a volume. As to the origin of books or writing, those of Moses are undoubtedly the most ancient that are-extant: But Moses himself cites many books that behoved to be wrote before his time. See CHARACTER.
Of profane books, the oldest extant are Homer's poems, which were so even in the time of Sextus Empiricus; though we find mention in Greek writers of seventy others prior to Homer; as Hermes, Orpheus, Daphne, Horus, Linus, Musaeus, Palamedes, Zoroaster, &c.; but of the greater part of these there is not the least fragment remaining; and of others the pieces which fo under their names are generally held by the learned, to be suppositious.
Several sorts of materials were used formerly in making books: Plates of lead and copper, the barks of trees, bricks, stone, and wood, were the first materials employed to engrave such things upon as men were willing to have transmitted to posterity. Josephus speaks of two columns, the one of stone, the other of brick, on which the children of Seth wrote their inventions and astronomical discoveries: Porphyry makes mention of some pillars, preserved inCrete, on which the ceremonies prcatised by Corybantes in their sacrafices were recorded. Hesiod's works were originally written upon tables of lead, and deposited in the temple of Muses, in Boeotia: The ten commandments, delivered to Moses, were written upon stone; and Solon's laws upon wooden planks. Tables of wood, box, and ivory, were common among the ancients: When of wood, they were frequently covere with waxs, that people might write on them with more ease, or blot out what they had written. The leaves of the palm-tree were afterwards used instead of wooden planks, and the finest and thinnest part of the bark of such trees, as lime, the ash, the mapple, and the elm; from hence comes the word liber, which signifies the inner bark of the trees: and as these barks were rolled up, in order to be removed with greater ease, these rolls were called volumen; a volume; a name afterwards given to the like rolls of paper or parchment.
Thus we find books were first written on stones, witness the Decalogue given to Moses: Then on the parts of plants, as leaves chiefly of the palm-tree; the rind and barks, especially of the tilia, or phillyrea, and the Egyptian papyrus. By degrees wax, then leather were introduced, especially the skins of goats and sheep, of which at length parchment was prepared: Then lead came into use; also linen, silk, horn, and lastly paper itself.
The first books were in the form ofblocks and tables; but as flexible matter came to be wrote on, they found it more convenient to make their books in the form of rolls: These were composed of several sheets, fastened to each other, and rolled upon a stick, or umbilicus; the whole making a kind of column, or cylinder, which was to be managed by the umbilicus as a handle, it being reputed a crime to take hold of the roll itself: The outside of the volume was called frons; the end of the umbilicus, cornua , which were usually carved, and adorned with silver, ivory, or even gold and precious stones: The title was struck on the outside; the whole volume, when extended, might make a yard and a half wide; and fifty long. The form which obtains among us the square, composed of seperate leaves; which was also known as, though little used, by ancients.
To the form of books belongs the internal economy, as the order and arrangements of points and letters into line and pages, with margins and other appurtenants: This has undergone many varieties; at first the letters wee only divided into lines, then into seperate words, which, by degrees, were noted with accents, and distributed, by points and stops, into periods, paragraphs, chapters, and other divisions. In some countries, as among the orientals, the lines began from right and ran leftward; in others, as the northern and wetern nations, from left to right; others, as the Greeks, followed both directions, alternately going in one, and returning in the other, called, boustrophendon: In most countries, the lines run from one side to the other; in some, particularly the Chinese, from top to bottom. See Composition.
Addendum to the article BOOK.
All foreign bound books pay duty on importation 14s. for every 112lb. As to unbound books, they are commonly entered by the hundred weight, and pay, in French 13s. 6.45d. but if from any other country, only 7s. 7.20d. It is also to be observed, that all popish books are prohibited to be imported; as are all English books printed abroad, unless with the consent of the proprietor of the copy.
(The above taken from vol. I of the ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA 1771)