A Brief History of the Book
From Tablet to Tablet
by Steven K. Galbraith
August 2020, 164pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Libraries Unlimited

Paperback: 978-1-4408-6939-6
$55, £43, 48€, A76
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-6940-2
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

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

This book leads readers through an intriguing examination of 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. At each step of this evolution, technologies are examined and evaluated to show how these ideas are present from the very beginning of written communication.

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 such aspects of technologies as memory capacity, readability and writability, 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 useful as a text, as a professional guide, or for pleasure reading
Steven K. Galbraith is curator of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) 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.


"Accessible for library school students, undergraduates, even high school students—really anyone with an interest in book history but no background in the field."—Technical Services Quarterly, April 30, 2021

"A profoundly well-written, delightfully readable and very engaging book which will prove useful to those new to the subject of book history, those who desire to teach the subject, and to bibliophiles with a desire to learn more about the origins of their passion.”—RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage, September 22, 2021
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