Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Financial, Idioms, Wikipedia.
Related to Books: Good Books



the most important historical means, and one still developing, for recording semantic information, primarily a connected text of considerable length. Books are designed for repeated reproduction and for transmission in time and space. The text of a book is imprinted on sheets by means of signs (letters or other graphic symbols), which are to be apprehended visually (with the exception of books for the blind, intended to be read by touch). The modern book is a codex—a set of bound pages with a text and illustrations and with outer protective components (binding and cover). For statistical purposes a book is a printed work in the form of a codex with an established minimum number of pages (in accordance with UNESCO specifications, more than three printer’s sheets, or not less than 48 pages).

Books are an extremely important means of popular, scholarly, and technical communication and play a great role as weapons in political and ideological struggle, in the dissemination of knowledge, and in upbringing and education. As a sociopolitical, artistic, and scientific work the book is partisan and has a distinct class character. Books are the product of social consciousness and, consequently, are instruments in the class struggle. In all periods books have served as powerful means of popularizing and spreading political views. Lenin wrote that “the book is an enormous force” (Lenin i kniga, 1964, p. 362). Lenin’s tenet that two cultures exist in every national culture fully applies to books. The book plays a revolutionary or reactionary role, depending on the social forces whose ideology it reflects and propagates and on who controls the equipment and means of book production —the publishing houses, printing shops, paper, and so forth. In a capitalist society books propagating reactionary ideas are used by the ruling classes as a means of political and national oppression of the broad working masses. In a socialist society books serve the interests of the people and are closely bound up with the life of the people. They are based on the principles of partiinost’ (party-mindedness), narodnost’ (conformity to people’s needs), and nauchnosf (scientific approach), of active humanism, and of proletarian internationalism.

Books are the product of knizhnoe delo (“book industry”), the sum total of the branches of culture and production associated with the creation and manufacture of books, their distribution, storage, description, and study. The selection of scientific, literary, or artistic works for printed reproduction and distribution, the party and professional evaluation of these works, and their preparation for publication are functions of publishing. The reproduction of books is carried out by the printing industry. The distribution and popularization of books are the functions of the book trade. The collection, special processing, and storage of books, as well as their popularization, are within the province of libraries and library science, which also provide guidance to readers. Bibliographies inform readers about books and other published works and actively popularize them. Books and book publishing are studied in their historical and contemporary aspects by the scholarly discipline known as book science.

Manuscript books. The emergence of books is closely linked with the creation and development of writing, whose structural characteristics (a system of signs, the order of their disposition, the traits of their outlines) to a considerable degree determined the book’s form, as did the writing material and the writing instruments. In antiquity there were two basic types of books: the roll (Egypt, Greece, Rome, the states of the ancient East) and the stack of tablets or leaves (the palm-leaf books in India and Ceylon, Roman polyptychs). In the fourth and third millennia B.C., books in the form of papyrus rolls appeared in Egypt. From the second century B.C., parchment rolls were used. The average length of a roll did not exceed 10 m, although rolls over 40 m long are known to have existed, for example, the Harris Papyrus in the British Museum. In ancient Egypt the making of books was an extremely complex and diverse activity of scribes and artists, who decorated the roll manuscripts with ornaments and pictures. A characteristic trait was the striving for a functional and stylistic connection between the hieroglyphic text and the conventionally symbolic pictures.

The prototype of the modern codex book was the polyptych, consisting of several small waxed tablets fastened together, used for writing by the ancient Romans. The oldest extant parchment codex, the Codex Sinaiticus, dates from the fourth century. By comparison with the roll, the codex could contain more information and was more durable. Turning bound pages proved to be more convenient for writing and reading than unwinding and simultaneously winding a roll. The codex acquired a title page (from the Latin titulus, “inscription,” “title”) and pagination. With the codex, binding also appeared, initially made from several glued sheets of papyrus or parchment and later with wooden boards. Craftsmen of the manuscript book strove for a harmonious positioning on the page of text, illustrations, and ornamentation.

Beginning in the 13th century paper became the basic writing material in Europe. The centers of book production during the Middle Ages were the scriptoria, where rudimentary division of labor was employed. The text was written by the scribe, the spaces left by him for headings and initial letters were filled in by the rubricator, and the decorations and miniatures were executed by the illuminators and miniaturists. The bindings and the frames of precious stones were made by binders and gold-smiths. During the early Middle Ages books were richly decorated with ornamentation depicting fish and birds. In England and Ireland from the seventh through the ninth century, interlace ornament predominated. Masterpieces of the bookmaking art of this period were the Book of Durrow (c. 670) and the Book of Kells (c. 800). In the Carolingian age, when bookmaking centers arose in Paris, Reims, Fulda, and Tours, a unique form of Latin script appeared—the Carolingian minuscule. After the disintegration of the Carolingian empire the monastery on the island of Reichenau (in the Bodensee) became the foremost center of book production. Beginning in the 13th century Gothic script was predominant in European books, and ornamentation became especially important. Unique beauty and a high degree of perfection in execution mark the manuscripts of the calligraphers of the East.

The appearance of books in Russia was linked with the spread of the Slavic script, created in the second half of the ninth century. The earliest extant Russian dated manuscript book is the Ostromir Gospel (1056–57). There are seven dated books from the 11th century and eight from the 12th century. An outstanding survival of book art is the Mstislav Gospel (c. 1117), encased in a costly frame. In Moscow at the turn of the 15th century the Koshka Gospel and the Khitrovo Gospel were created, whose artistic decoration was executed by craftsmen associated with Theophanes the Greek and Andrei Rublev. A large role in the history of the manuscript book of the first half of the 16th century was played by craftsmen influenced by Theodosius the Isograph, who executed ornamentation using metal engravings, for example, the Uvarov Gospel. In the mid-l6th century the state workshop created a multivolume chronicle compilation containing a large number of miniatures. A succession of styles was employed in the ornamentation of Russian manuscript books: old Byzantine, “animal,” Balkan, new Byzantine, and old style type. At first the predominant script was the ustav, replaced in the 14th century by the poluustav.

Printed books. The first method used in the multiple reproduction of books was xylography, printing from wood engravings. The oldest printed book is considered to be a text printed from 12 wooden blocks in Korea between 704 and 751. European woodcuts, which began to appear during the 15th century, were initially pictorial broadsheets, sometimes with a text; later, “block books” with pages printed on one side, known as anopis-thographic books, appeared. Subsequently, the facing and reverse sides of the page were printed on two separate sheets, which were then pasted together (opisthographic books).

A new era in the history of books began with the emergence of printing in Europe, which dates from the 1440’s and is associated with the name of J. Gutenberg (Germany). A masterpiece of early printing was his 42–line Bible; only the text was reproduced by the printing method. The first attempt at a typographic reproduction of ornamentation may be found in P. Schoeffer’s Mainz Psalter (1457), in which publication data and the printer’s mark also appeared for the first time. In 1461, A. Pfister in Bamberg printed a book with woodcut illustrations. During the 1470’s and 1480’s, E. Ratdolt (Venice, Augsburg) introduced multicolored printing in books, began to use gold in printing, and furnished books of a practical nature with drawings and diagrams. During the 15th and 16th centuries printers aimed at creating economical and beautiful type faces suitable for reading texts.

The first printed books in Italy appeared in 1465, in Bohemia and Switzerland in 1468, in the Netherlands in 1469, in France in 1470, in Poland about 1473, in Hungary in 1473, in Spain and Belgium in 1474, and in England in 1477. Books printed before Jan. 1, 1501, are called incunabula, and books published during the first half of the 16th century are known as paleotypes.

The first books to be printed in Cyrillic were those of S. Fiol in Kraków in 1491. Printing in Moscow began in the 1550’s. The first Russian book to be precisely dated was issued by Ivan Fedorov and Petr Mstislavets in 1654 (Acts of the Apostles). In 1574, Ivan Fedorov in L’vov printed the first books in Ukrainian (ABC Book and Acts of the Apostles).

The development of the book as an organic whole was retarded and complicated by mass production. To overcome this contradiction, the most important printer-publishers of the 16th and 17th centuries—the Manutius family in Venice, the Estiennes in France, C. Plantin in Belgium, and the Elzevirs in the Netherlands—developed different types of editions and arrived at the most efficient and aesthetically perfect solutions for their books.

Further development of the printed book was linked with efforts to increase the amount and improve the transmission of information and to achieve specialization by type of publication (scientific, educational, artistic, religious, reference).

The 18th and early 19th centuries saw an increasing separation of the typographic and artistic aspects of bookmaking. This often had the effect of weakening the hitherto close relationship of text and illustrations.

The use of ornamentation cast in type and of rules became widespread.

The invention of lithography (1798) and the innovations in wood engraving (1780’s) facilitated the reproduction of the author’s drawing, and after the mid-19th century made possible a considerable increase in the publication of illustrated editions. Outstanding Russian and West European artists fostered realist tendencies in book illustrations.

From the mid-19th century the pace of technical development in printing accelerated. The invention of the photomechanical method of reproducing pictures opened the way for the extensive use of black-and-white and colored illustrations.

The second half of the 19th century was marked by a growing subordination of bookmaking to publishers’ commercial interests, resulting in the decline of the artistic quality of books intended for large audiences and the emergence of a special category of books designed for bibliophiles. The English writer and artist W. Morris attempted to renew the art of bookmaking by turning to handicraft methods of production. In the late 19th century he published 53 superbly made books. At the turn of the 20th century new stylistic forms emerged, reflecting the aspirations of the painting and graphic arts of the period.

In contemporary capitalist countries the art of bookmaking shows high achievements in printing, particularly in scholarly and art books, although the artistic-pictorial aspect is generally less developed. Reflecting the commercial interests of the publishers, book production is divided into mass editions, with colorful covers and no illustrations, and expensive editions, in whose production major artists frequently participate.

From their earliest appearance, Soviet books have sought to resolve the ideological, educational, and artistic problems that arose during the country’s cultural transformations. In accordance with the goal of making Soviet books accessible to all and instructive in character, Soviet publishers and printers have devoted their primary attention to books for the masses. In the USSR the art of book illustration has been highly developed by leading artists, notably the Moscow engravers V. A. Favorskii, A. I. Kravchenko, A. D. Goncharov, G. A. Echeistov, and M. I. Pikov and the Leningrad artists L. S. Khizhinskii, A. F. Pakhomov, G. D. Epifanov, V. V. Lebedev, V. M. Konashevich, E. I. Charushin, and Iu. A. Vasnetsov. The innovations of the constructivists during the 1920’s and the early 1930’s (L. M. Lisitskii, A. M. Rodchenko) influenced book design and promoted the use of photomontage. N. V. Kuz’min, the Kukryniksy group, D. A. Shmarinov, and E. A. Kibrik illustrated many works of classical literature. Notable contributions to the design of type fonts and books have been made by I. F. Rerberg, S. B. Telingater, and S. M. Pozharskii.

Since the 1950’s, Soviet bookmaking has endeavored to integrate the various elements of the book, giving special attention to problems of organizing the book as a whole (artistic design) and to stylistic problems.

In the mid-20th century, the rapid increase in printed information and the widespread use of new media of mass communications (radio, television, motion pictures) have posed new problems. The place of books within the overall system of mass communications must be more precisely defined. Book organization requires improvement, for example, through using new printed materials, publishing microform editions, improving readability, and supplementing scientific and educational books with sound recordings and stereoscopic pictures. Yet another task is to raise the quality of printing.

Structure and typology of the modern book. The book is attached to its cover by endpapers. The upper and lower edges of the signatures are fastened by braiding with a thickened edge. Sometimes the binding is enclosed in a jacket, which protects the cover and is part of the book’s design. The title page may occupy the second page (duplicate title) or the third page of the book. Some information may be placed in the bastard title, which occupies the book’s first page. The title page is sometimes preceded by a frontispiece. For the organization of the text various methods of rubrication are used. The divisions of a book are sometimes preceded by a half title, giving the name of the individual part. The opening pages of a division are set apart by makeup or artistic embellishment. Type-face and nontype-face methods may be used to accentuate headings or parts of the text. Use of the book is facilitated by running headings—the titles of individual parts found at the top of the printed page—and by pagination. The consecutive numbering of the signatures and the use of direction lines (found on the first or sometimes third page of each section) facilitate the gathering of the sheets in preparation for binding.

The book’s makeup includes the imprint, the table of contents, the foreword (or afterword), annotation, notes, commentaries, indexes, bibliographical lists within the book, appendixes, and footnotes. The table of contents and the imprint are placed in each book, whereas the other elements are primarily found in scholarly publications. The size of a book’s pages is called the publication format.

Books are differentiated according to readership, purpose, and subject matter. With respect to readership, books may be intended for the general reader, for specialists, or for children. In terms of purpose, books are classified as official, scientific, popular-science, educational, literary-artistic, reference, or advertising. An important type of scholarly book is the monograph. Among educational books are textbooks, teaching manuals, methods’ materials, and the like. Characteristic reference publications include dictionaries, encyclopedias, reference works on specialized subjects, books containing instructions and rules, prospectuses, catalogs, calendars, and guidebooks. Books are classified in accordance with library and bibliographical classification systems.


Lenin i kniga. Moscow, 1964.
Piat’sot let posle Gutenberga, 1468–1968. Moscow, 1968.
400 let russkogo knigopechataniia, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1964.
Sidorov, A. A. Kniga i zhizn’. Moscow, 1972.
Sidorov, A. A. Istoriia oformleniia russkoi knigi, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1964.
Liublinskii, V. S. Kniga ν istorii chelovecheskogo obshchestva. Moscow, 1972.
Katsprzhak, E. I. Istoriia knigi. Moscow, 1964.
Nemirovskii, E. L. Nachalo slavianskogo knigopechataniia. Moscow, 1971.
Nemirovskii, E. L. Vozniknovenie knigopechataniia ν Moskve: Ivan Fedorov. Moscow, 1964.
Kniga ν Rossii, parts 1–2. Edited by V. Ia. Adariukov and A. A. Sidorov. Moscow, 1924–25.
Nazarov, A. I. Oktiabr’ i kniga. Moscow, 1968.
Cherniak, A. Ia. Istoriia tekhnicheskoi knigi, part 1. Moscow, 1969.
Pakhomov, V. V. Knizhnoe iskusstvo, books 1–2. Moscow, 1961–62.
Liakhov, V. N. Oformlenie sovetskoi knigi. Moscow, 1966.
Liakhov, V. N. Ocherki teorii iskusstva knigi. Moscow, 1971.
Kniga: Issledovaniia i materialy, collections 1–25. Moscow, 1959–72.
Iskusstvo knigi (anthology), issues 1–7. Moscow, 1960–71.
Aldis, H. The Printed Book. Cambridge, 1951.
Barge, H. Geschichte der Buchdruckerkunst. Leipzig [1940].
Dahl, S. Histoire du livre de l’antiquité à nos jours, 2nd ed. Paris, 1960.
Flocon, A. L’Univers des livres. Paris [1961].
Labarre, A. Histoire du livre. Paris, 1970.
McMurtrie, D. C. The Book. New York [1943].
Steinberg, S. H. Five Hundred Years of Printing. London, 1959.


References in classic literature ?
It will be impossible for anyone who has read this book not to believe in the existence of the pushmi-pullyu, who would be credible enough even were there no drawing of it, but the picture on page 145 settles the matter of his truth once and for all.
The Garden of Flowers,' and truly there is no deciding which of the two books is the more truthful, or, to put it better, the less lying; all I can say is, send this one into the yard for a swaggering fool.
Judge, therefore, of my horror when books small and great, books of every possible shape and size and thickness, came tumbling from the shelf, and flew and sprang over the table, and under the chairs, and about the whole room.
The Other Professor instantly rose to his feet, and carried the book away to the end of the room, where he put it back in its place in the book-case.
Your delightful books carry the imagination into a maritime period so remote that, often as you have been in my mind, I could never satisfy myself that you were still amongst the living.
Thus, to sum up what we have hitherto said, in a fashion which is necessarily incomplete and mutilated, the human race has two books, two registers, two testaments: masonry and printing; the Bible of stone and the Bible of paper.
Carey drew up Philip's chair to the dining-room table--they had bought him a high chair by now--and placed the book in front of him.
And then like a good mother she took up one of her son's books and read it most determinedly.
For Glinda has a big book in which is recorded every event that takes place anywhere in the world, just the moment that it happens, and so of course the book would tell her about the wireless message.
It was the bourgeoisie that bought his books and poured its gold into his money-sack, and from what little he knew of the bourgeoisie it was not clear to him how it could possibly appreciate or comprehend what he had written.
Here the collection of books exhibited a greater variety.
In the dim, far-off times when our forefathers were wild, naked savages, they had no books.