Friday, October 29, 2010
The scroll held many advantages over the clay tablet. They weren't as cumbersome, could hold much more information as the scroll could be made as long as was needed, and offered opportunities of editing text that were not possible with clay tablets once they had been fired. The ancient Judeans used the scroll to transmit their holy texts, beginning a tradition that is still practiced in modern Judaism with Torah scrolls.
The advantage that books had over scrolls was that individual pages made access to information easier by indexing, which eventually made books more popular. Hand written on fine parchment or vellum, hand bound in fine leather and sometimes highly decorated outside and in, these early books were works of art in themselves. They were of such high value that books were actually chained to the shelves they were stored on to prevent theft. They took so long to produce at such great expense that a library with as few as 25 volumes was worth a fortune. These were stored in piles, or singly on slanted boards where they were read.
The development of movable type for printing them slowly made them more affordable and numerous. With so many more books available, shelving systems holding books vertically to save space, with the spines facing outward for ease of identification were developed to categorize and store them for ready use. The problems of a half-row of them constantly falling over, sometimes off the shelf, was solved by the use of bookends in these Renaissance libraries. Bookends have been with us ever since.