How Did People Make Books?

Serious Question #12 comes from George! He always asks such good questions, but I finally got around to writing about one of them.  Thanks, George!  Let’s get down to books!

A long time ago, people needed a way to write down their ideas.  They also needed a way to send those ideas to other people.  Before people started making books, they would write things down on stones, wood, bone, bamboo, animal skins and tree bark. Bark is the brown, outside part of a tree.  4500 years ago, people in Egypt (ee – jipt) made something new and better to write on.  They invented papyrus (puh – pie – rus).   Papyrus is made from a plant, and it looks a lot like paper, but it is not as thin as paper.

papyrus plant

2500 years ago, Cai Lun started making paper in China.  Paper was thinner than papyrus, so more papers could be put together in one place.  Cai Lun did not make books yet, though.  The next step to books was 2300 years ago in India.  People in India started putting things together, and then putting hard boards on the front and back to protect the pages.  Today, we call those boards the cover of the book.

gute block letters

The last step to books like today was the from Germany.  About 500 years ago, a man named Gutenberg (goo – tin  -berg) made a machine that could make a lot of books very quickly.  The machine was called the printing press.  Before the printing press, people had to write each book by hand.  This took an extremely long time!  Writers could only write a few pages every day. So the printing press helped people make books more quickly.  The printing press could print 3,600 pages every day!  It used small letters on blocks.  The letters would be dipped into black ink, and then pressed onto white paper.  Add a cover, and you have a book!


read some books


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