Monday, 24 October 2011

Books and Bark


Most of the words for books in various languages either refer to the material its made from or the idea of a book as a written thing.

Arabic KiTaB and Chinese SHU are examples of this.

However many more words refer to the materials books were made of before paper and parchment were common.

Latin LIBER originally meant the inner bark of a tree. Yes bark not the other Liber though that word is probalbly connected since LIBER may have been seen as a tree / plant god before that Italian diety was linked to the Greek Dionysios.

Codex derives from Caudex meaing something wooden or a block of wood.
Before paper and parchment codices were once tablets of wood bound down one side.

The Chinese word Pian  used to refer to sheets once referred to thin slices of wood and the word CE?
Well the oldest ideogram shows bound tablets long strips of wood or bamboo .

Before parchment or paper or papyrus in northern europe and other places bark was used.

Birch bark writings have been discovered in India Russian Norway and throughout Northern Eurasia

Particularly bark or thin slices of wood from trees of the birch family that have a fiber arrangement that makes preparing slices and bark easier.

Papyri plants are unique to Africa and nealry becmae extinct in Egypt due to over harvesting.

Parchment from leather was developed because of the high cost of papyrus and its processing.

It is a fortunate thing that the Chinese discovered how to turn a pulp of plant fibers into paper.

I do wonder sometimes if some Chinese merchant somehow visited an island in the Pacific where tapa cloth was made from plant fibers and described the process to some one back in China who wanted an cheaper alternative to silk ?

Our word book in its oldest form is related to beech so perhaps beech was used also?

Book was booc in Old English. Beech was Booec Birch was Bierc.

In Modern German Beech is Buche Birch Birke and Book is BUCH.

Although our word PAPER derives from papyrus  our ancestors often wrote on bark or wood.

Perhaps in Australia we might be writing in paperbark if paper in its modern form had never been developed?