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Basel became famous for the scholarly editions of Johann Amerbach and Johann Froben , who had the benefit of distinguished advisers, including the Dutch humanist scholar Desiderius Erasmus. It was partly to them that John Wycliffe directed his English translation of the Bible. The average Greek book was shorter. Printers used woodcuts to print illustrations by the relief process and experimented with intaglio in copper engravings. This was prepared by a corps of specialists in medicine, military science, philosophy, poetry, divination, and astronomy. The centres of textual criticism fostered the preservation of some texts by establishing a canon of writings to be taught in the schools. The following account, keeping mainly within the scope of civilization as it developed in western Europe and North America, considers the book as it appeared at different times in history, the characteristic content and survival of copies and texts, and the means of production and distribution. Although these writing bricks varied in shape and dimension, a common form was a thin quadrilateral tile about five inches long. The folded note tablets used by the Greeks and the Romans may have suggested the codex form, but its development to the point of eventual supremacy was related to changes in the world of learning and in the materials for making books. When the Aramaic language and alphabet arose in the 6th century bc, the clay tablet book declined because clay was less suited than papyrus to the Aramaic characters.
The business founded at Antwerp in by Christophe Plantin , a Frenchman by birth, came to dominate the Roman Catholic south of the country, both in quantity and in quality. Fittings for the scriptoria were spare; they lacked heat and artificial light. These figures indicate the impact of the press, the rapidity with which it spread, the need for an artificial script, and the vulnerability of written culture up to that time. After its founding by Louis Elzevir, who issued his first book in , its publishing endeavours were extended by succeeding generations to The Hague, Utrecht, and Amsterdam, with varying fortunes. Objects called books are mentioned by ancient Greek writers as having been in use in the 5th century bc. Finally, the universal interest and application of the content was an important factor that led to the survival of some nonliterary texts through translation into Arabic, Latin, and other foreign languages. Christianity, which aimed at universality, produced a stream of books, whereas the literary remains of pagan religions are scarce. Sometimes the copying was done in carrels, individual cells built in the cloister or library. Because the monastic book trade was largely internal, the contents of books are evident from the monastic library catalogs. Publishers were not slow to promote their books. The worldwide outlook thus led to a greater dependence on books. During the golden age of Athens in the 5th century bc, books were known and used but were lightly regarded as avenues of learning. In the important Hellenistic cities, most notably at Pergamum and Alexandria, centres of learning grew up; these aimed at a world synthesis of knowledge. For longer texts he used several tablets, linking them together by numbers and catchwords as is done in modern books. Of the nonperiodical publications, books constitute by far the largest class; they are also, in one form or another, the oldest of all types of publication and go back to the earliest civilizations. Unlike the monumental Egyptian survivals in a decorative hand that sometimes exceeded feet in length, Greek rolls seldom exceeded 35 feet in length and featured little embellishment. Under the system of royal privileges begun by Henry VIII, a printer was sometimes given the sole right to print and sell a particular book or class of books for a specified number of years, to enable him to recoup his outlay. The monks did not follow the practice of the Roman commercial scriptorium where a reader dictated a book while several scribes made simultaneous copies of it. Newspapers have long been by far the most widely read published matter; the democratizing process of the 19th and 20th centuries would be unthinkable without them. Concurrently with the revived interest in classical literature and language came the production of vernacular books. Two German printers, Konrad Sweynheim and Arnold Pannartz , who had settled there, soon moved to Rome , where the church encouraged the production of inexpensive books. Fearing the library at Pergamum might outstrip the collections at Alexandria, Ptolemy placed an embargo on papyrus to prevent his rival from making any more books, whereupon Eumenes made parchment. The monasteries The dissolution of the western Roman Empire during the 5th century, and the consequent dominance of marauding barbarians, threatened the existence of books. But because engravings required a different press and introduced a separate process into printing, and because experiments with woodcut illustrations were so satisfactory, there was no extensive use of engravings before Competition was fierce and unscrupulous. Many medieval manuscripts attained a high perfection of colour and form and are renowned for their beauty.
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