A Brief History of the Book

From Tablet to Tablet

by Steven K. Galbraith


Take a journey through the fascinating history of the book, from cuneiform to Kindle.

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Cover image for A Brief History of the Book

June 2020

Libraries Unlimited

Pages 200
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Librarianship: Philosophy, Values, and Issues/History of Books, Publishing, and Librarianship
  Archives and Records Management/Special Collections, Rare Books
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This book leads readers through an intriguing examination how books began and have evolved through history, and explores where future technologies may lead them.

From ancient clay tablet and scrolls, to medieval manuscripts and printed books, to personal computers and iPads, this guide examines the fascinating history of books from 4000 BCE to the present. Taking an archaeological approach, the work presents books not only as vehicles for texts but also as physical artifacts that carry with them important evidence of the cultures that produced them.

Moving chronologically from the ancient world to the present, the book shows how written communication media evolved from cuneiform to the Kindle. Focusing on key technologies and vital periods of historical transition, it traces an evolution that elucidates the history of the written word, at each step examining and evaluating aspects of technologies such as memory capacity, readability and write-ability, durability, recyclability, information security, ease and mode of access, and cost. Additional attention is paid to how these technologies were made, how they were circulated, and who was reading them.


  • Provides faculty and students with a brief but fascinating and engagingly written textbook
  • Includes hands-on activities and course assignments that encourage student learning
  • Features interesting factoids and illustrations, making this book able to be used as a text, as a professional guide, or for pleasure reading
Author Info

Steven K. Galbraith, PhD, is curator of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at Rochester Institute of Technology and former Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Books at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC. He is coauthor of Libraries Unlimited's Rare Book Librarianship. Galbraith has taught History of the Book classes at RIT.

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Evolving Global Information Infrastructure and Information Transfer cover imageAdding Value to Libraries, Archives, and Museums cover imageFoundations of Museum Studies cover image

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