Timeline of Book History

Before the Common Era

– Egyptian first dynasty
3100: Earliest papyrus rolls found in Egypt [1]
– Egyptian Fifth Dynasty
2494-2345: First known inscribed papyrus roll [1]
2025-1700: Egyptian Book of the Dead [1]
800: Wooden and Ivory tablets used by the Neo-Hittites and gathered by cord, metal or leather [1]
500: Papyrus roll used in Greece, used for literary works [1]
332: Alexander the Great conquers Egypt, introduces papyrus rolls to Greece [1]
300-400: Dead Sea Scrolls, think leather sewn together [1]
295: Founding of the Library at Alexandria [2]
200: Technology and craft knowledge to create simple or elaborate bindings existed in Egypt, but no examples survive [1]
100: The development of vegetable fiber paper in China [2]
100: Roman Conquest of Egypt, papyrus rolls used in Roman Italy [1]

Common Era

85: Roman poet referred to a multi-leaved leather or parchment copy of Homer as a curiosity compared with the familiar book scroll [1]
100: Rise of the Codex. Began use by early Christians, found in Roman Egypt [1]
300: Roman jurist Ulpian describes a “book” as a scroll and a codex as something different but may be included in the definition of a book [1]
-395: Rise of the Byzantine Empire
3rd or 4th Century: Glaizier Codex first example of Coptic illumination
400: Various forms of scrolls, tablets, parchment notebooks, and multi-quire codices coexisted at this time [1]
400: Oldest surviving “fine bindings” such as Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus (no covers) [1]
450: Nag Hammadi Codices [1]

610: Paper making is introduced to Japan from China [2]
700: Paper size is developed in asia [2]
750-800: Paper making reaches Central Asia and Middle East [2]
868: Diamond Sutra is published in China. It is the earliest example of wood block printing [2]
1000: Book rolls and parchment sheets are widely replaced by the codex [1]
-1453: Fall of the Byzantine Empire [1]
1500: Coptic bound codices are established as a common form of binding [1]
15th and 16th Century: Examples of Ethiopian Coptic style bindings exist [1]
1798: Cyperus Papyrus plant is extinct in the marshes of lower Egypt [1]
1800s: Excavation of carbonized papyrus scrolls from Herculaneum [1]
1910: Discovery of the Hamuli Bindings. Largest cache of Coptic bindings from a single source. 60 parchment manuscripts found in southern Fayum region of Egypt [1]
1930: Papyrus codex of Manichaean texts were discovered in Fayum [1]
1945: Nag Hammadi Codices are discovered in the Nag Hammadi region of Egypt [1]
1947: Dead Sea Scrolls are found at the Wadi Qumran site in Israel [1]
1953: Hinged, inscribed ivory and wooden tablets found at Nimrud [1]
1960: Cyperus Papyrus is reintroduced into the Nile delta [1]
1966: Florence Flood and the rise of professional book conservation [1]
1986: Multi-leaved wooden tablets found at the Dekhleh Oasis in Upper Egypt [1]

* This is intended as a personal reference to become familiar with book history. It will be periodically updated, changed, and cited as my own knowledge grows.


[1] Miller, Julia. Books Will Speak Plain: A Handbook for Identifying and Describing Historical Bindings. Ann Arbor, MI: Legacy, 2010. Print.

[2] http://english8.fsu.edu/Courses/ENG4834_S11/Book_History_Timeline.pdf

  • conservation of Nag Hammandi manuscripts
  • over conservation of Hamuli manuscripts
  • Edfu bindings

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