The Printed Word

Paper Art

Writing is important for record keeping, but mankind is never happy unless other uses can be applied to any art or craft. While records for business and retaining knowledge were important to ancient man, writing began to be used to create books. Fiction is no more than storytelling written down, and printing books eventually became its own form of art when bookbinding was invented in Western Asia and spread throughout the civilized world.

Binding pages into books became the task of artisans and craftsmen who worked with leather and paper. It was not enough that the book would hold together, and bookbinders developed their work into a form of art. They learned which leathers would wear the longest, and they experimented to discover the threads that would work best with each type of leather. While books today are printed, glued and bound in hours, books of ancient times took weeks and months to craft.

The books originally crafted were works of art, and they were quite expensive. Ownership was limited due to cost and availability, and this further separated those who could afford this luxury from the rest of mankind. It was not until Gutenberg experimented with the printing press that large quantities of books began to be printed, and many of these were Bibles. Over time, the art of bookbinding became an automated process, but some of the original books made still survive today.

While few but scholars will ever see some of the original books that were bound with leather, it is still a form of art that continues to be admired today. There are still a few companies that print on rag paper rather than the modern version made of chemically treated wood, and they bind their books with hand-sewn leather. Unfortunately, this is a form of art that is slowly disappearing in the modern world.