Portal:Books

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The books portal

Johannes Trithemius'Polygraphiae (1518)

As a physical object, a book is a stack of usually rectangular pages (made of papyrus, parchment, vellum, or paper) oriented with one edge tied, sewn, or otherwise fixed together and then bound to the flexible spine of a protective cover of heavier, relatively inflexible material. The technical term for this physical arrangement is codex (in the plural, codices). In the history of hand-held physical supports for extended written compositions or records, the codex replaces its immediate predecessor, the scroll. A single sheet in a codex is a leaf, and each side of a leaf is a page.

As an intellectual object, a book is prototypically a composition of such great length that it takes a considerable investment of time to compose and a still considerable, though not so extensive, investment of time to read. This sense of book has a restricted and an unrestricted sense. In the restricted sense, a book is a self-sufficient section or part of a longer composition, a usage that reflects the fact that, in antiquity, long works had to be written on several scrolls, and each scroll had to be identified by the book it contained. So, for instance, each part of Aristotle's Physics is called a book. In the unrestricted sense, a book is the compositional whole of which such sections, whether called books or chapters or parts, are parts.

The intellectual content in a physical book need not be a composition, nor even be called a book. Books can consist only of drawings, engravings, or photographs, or such things as crossword puzzles or cut-out dolls. In a physical book, the pages can be left blank or can feature an abstract set of lines as support for on-going entries, i.e., an account book, an appointment book, a log book, an autograph book, a notebook, a diary or day book, or a sketchbook. Some physical books are made with pages thick and sturdy enough to support other physical objects, like a scrapbook or photograph album. Books may be distributed in electronic form as e-books and other formats.

Although in ordinary academic parlance a monograph is understood to be a specialist academic work, rather than a reference work on a single scholarly subject, in library and information science monograph denotes more broadly any non-serial publication complete in one volume (book) or a finite number of volumes (even a novel like Proust's seven-volume In Search of Lost Time), in contrast to serial publications like a magazine, journal, or newspaper. An avid reader or collector of books or a book lover is a bibliophile or colloquially, "bookworm". A shop where books are bought and sold is a bookshop or bookstore. Books are also sold elsewhere. Books can also be borrowed from libraries. Google has estimated that as of 2010, approximately 130,000,000 distinct titles had been published. In some wealthier nations, the sale of printed books has decreased because of the increased usage of e-books.

Selected article

John Vanbrugh (1664–1726), author of The Relapse.

The Relapse, or, Virtue in Danger is a Restoration comedy from 1696 written by John Vanbrugh. The play is a sequel to Colley Cibber's Love's Last Shift, or, Virtue Rewarded. In Cibber's Love's Last Shift, a free-living Restoration rake is brought to repentance and reform by the ruses of his wife, while in The Relapse, the rake succumbs again to temptation and has a new love affair. His virtuous wife is also subjected to a determined seduction attempt, and resists with difficulty.Vanbrugh planned The Relapse around particular actors at Drury Lane, writing their stage habits, public reputations, and personal relationships into the text. One such actor was Colley Cibber himself, who played the luxuriant fop Lord Foppington in both Love's Last Shift and The Relapse. However, Vanbrugh's artistic plans were threatened by a cutthroat struggle between London's two theatre companies, each of which was "seducing" actors from the other. The Relapse came close to not being produced at all, but the successful performance that was eventually achieved in November 1696 vindicated Vanbrugh's intentions, and saved the company from bankruptcy as well.

Selected picture

Studies of Embryos by Leonardo da Vinci (Pen over red chalk 1510-1513)

Credit: Leonardo da Vinci

A page from Leonardo Leonardo da Vinci's journal showing his study of a foetus in the womb (c.1510) Royal Library, Windsor Castle.

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In the news

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March 14, 2012

After a 244-year span in print, the Encyclopædia Britannica will discontinue its published volumes. With less than 1% of revenue coming from print versions, Jorge Cauz, Britannica's president, indicates there simply is not sufficient demand for the print publication. In the last 11 years demand has plummeted due to competition from Wikipedia and Britannica's own digital version. Britannica peaked in sales in 1990 with 120,000 sets sold. The 2010 edition will be the last in print and has sold 8,000 sets to date; with 4,000 sets remaining.

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Selected biography

Rudyard Kipling

Joseph Rudyard Kipling (December 30, 1865 – January 18, 1936) was an English author and poet, born in Bombay, India, and best known for his works The Jungle Book (1894), The Second Jungle Book (1895), Just So Stories (1902), and Puck of Pook's Hill (1906); his novel, Kim (1901); his poems, including Mandalay (1890), Gunga Din (1890), "If—" (1910) and "Ulster 1912" (1912); and his many short stories, including "The Man Who Would Be King" (1888) and the collections Life's Handicap (1891), The Day's Work (1898), and Plain Tales from the Hills (1888). He is regarded as a major "innovator in the art of the short story"; his children's books are enduring classics of children's literature; and his best work speaks to a versatile and luminous narrative gift.Kipling was one of the most popular writers in English, in both prose and verse, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The author Henry James famously said of him: "Kipling strikes me personally as the most complete man of genius (as distinct from fine intelligence) that I have ever known."In 1907, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, making him the first English language writer to receive the prize, and he remains its youngest-ever recipient.

Selected quote

Augustine Birrell - Project Gutenberg eText 13220.png


Did you know...

  • ...that in English language works the table of contents is at the beginning of a book, but in French and Spanish ones it is at the back, by the index?
  • ...that print space determines the effective area on the paper of a book, journal or other press work, and is limited by the surrounding borders?
  • ...that the craft of bookbinding may have originated around the 1st century A.D.?

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