Signed.. .Book Worm

Dear Arrighi,

I’ve read about books being written on papyrus rolls & then on parchment pages in books called “codex”. Can you tell me what this means and what were the first codex books?


Book Worm

Dear Book Worm,

I have turned to the book, “The Art & History of Books” by Norma Levarie for information.

A codex book is made of folded leaves bound at one side. The form was doubtless first suggested by the GReen and Roman habit of fastening several wax-filled wooden tablets along one side to provide space for longer notes or letters. The British Museum has two perfect examples of these bound wax tablets, one with seven leaves and the other with six. The six-leaved tabled must have beloned to a Greek school boy of the third century B.C.; it has school notes scratched into it and a crude little drawing. The Latin name for the multiple tablets was “codex,” signifying “something made of wood.” In the time of Ccero, the first century before Christ, the name “codex” was given to collections of laws or constitutions of the emperors, which for convenience of reference must have been made of side-bound leaves.

The first books using this style were written in uncials and were to be the books of the next thousand years and more. In the first century after the death of Jesus, by the end of the fist century A.D., they had a foothold in every important town in the Roman Empire. The rising church was eager to distinguish its scriptures from pagan writings. The papyrus scroll was associated with pagan literature; the Christian Church chose parchment and the codex format.