My three-year-old niece sits on her Grammy's lap with one of her beloved books and says so wistfully, I wish I was big so I could read these words.
Just one tiny speck in the incredibly long line of people wanting to know those words. Have you ever wondered who created those first words, who created pictures for those words? Who created the first medium for placing those words? And on and on until there sits little Carolina wanting so badly to read them.
Eyewitness creates another "museum between covers" as the New York Times describes the Eyewitness series, and answers the above questions. We don't know who the actual first persons were, but we do know the culture, the race of people, the locations. Archaeology unearths that much. Then again, anthropologists, historians, artists provide more answers. With each successive step, a more advanced symbolism of words is applied all the way to a scholarly outlay. Until we come again to little Carolina trying to decipher the code.
"Book," unsurprisingly begins at the beginning with a first accounting of expressing thoughts on a medium: cave art for a hunting quest, seals for contracts, bills of sale. Then the tools of the trade are illustrated through gorgeous arrays of brushes, inks, calligraphy, materials to write upon. That great translating tool, the Rosetta Stone, is shown and an explanation given for its use.
To have language that goes into a scroll or stone requires ABCs. Similar sets exist for multiple peoples with variations here and there. Precision begins in placing the letters for straightness and practicality, then evolving into works of art, so to speak. Only the best scribes and finest materials were used in creating the Koran and the same with the illuminated manuscripts of the European monks.
Do you ever wonder who thought of pounding the stalks of papyrus to make the first writing material? Or who thought of taking the skin of a young sheep, scraping off flesh and hair to create parchment. Do you know it took one sheep to make one sheet of parchment and an entire flock to make a book? In China someone thought to use mulberry bark and bamboo, in Europe rags were used to make paper.
The second half of the book shows the development of the primitive printing press, then all the rapid advancements and more ways devoted to making books beautiful. Think of all the new branches of human invention that words bring: inks, nibs, vocabulary, handwriting, children's books, typewriters, libraries. It is all so amazing what man can do to communicate not only thoughts, but even setting those thoughts in their own houses of beauty--books. Perhaps that is why we want leather-bound classics--to show we value what is inside.
And there's little Carolina, so anxious to take her place in the procession.