Millions miss a meal or two each day.
Help us change that! Click to donate today!
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
2. Inward Books
(1) Mechanical Copies
(2) Personal Copies
4. Oral Transmission
6. Printed Books
8. Textual Criticism
9. Higher Criticism
10. Literary Criticism
11. Origin of New Forms
13. Book Collections
14. Early History of Books in Bible Lands
A book is any record of thought in words. It consists of a fixed form of words embodied in some kind of substance.
The form of words is the main factor, but it has no existence without the record. The kind of record is indifferent; it may be carved on stone, stamped on clay, written or printed on vellum, papyrus or paper, or only stamped on the mind of author or hearer, if so be it keeps the words in fixed form. Looked on as a form of words the book is called a work, and looked on as a record it is called a volume, document, inscription, etc., as the case may be; but neither volume nor work has any real existence as book save as united.
The Biblical words for book, both Greek and Hebrew, oscillate in meaning (as they do in all languages) between the two elements, the form of words and the material form. The common words for book in the New Testament, from which too the word "Bible" comes, refer back to the papyrus plant or the material on which the book is written, just as the English word "book" was long supposed to be derived from the beech tree, on whose bark the book was written. The usual word in the Hebrew of the Old Testament (
The fact that the Bible is a book, or indeed a library of many kinds of books, makes necessary that to approach its study one should have some systematic idea of the nature of the book; the origin of new forms and their survival, oral and manuscript transmission, the nature of the inward book and the various kinds of inward books. Apart from the matter of general archaeological use for historical interpretation, the questions of inspiration, the incarnate, creative, and indwelling word and many other doctrines are wholly bound up with this question of the nature of the book, and many phrases, such as the Book of Life, can hardly be understood without knowing with some degree of clearness what a book is.
The archaeology, text criticism and higher criticism of the past few years have revolutionized book history and theory in their respective fields. Above all the young science of experimental psychology has, in its short life, contributed more even than the others to an understanding of the book and The Book, the word of God and the Word of God, the Bible and Jesus Christ.
2. Inward Books
Modern experimental psychology by its study of inward images, inward speech, inward writings and other kinds of inward book forms has, in particular, thrown on Biblical inspiration, higher criticism and text criticism and the various aspects of the doctrine of the word, an unexpected light. Inward books, it appears, are not only real, but of many kinds, visual and auditory, oral and written, sensory and motor, and these different kinds have perhaps a material basis and local habitation in different parts of the brain. At least they have real existence; they are real records which preserve a fixed form of words, to be brought out of the recesses of the mind from time to time for re-shaping, re-study or utterance. (See Dittrich, Sprachpsychologie , 1903; LeRoy, Le langage , Paris, 1905; Van Ginneken, Principes de linguistique psychol ., 1907; A. Marty, Untersuch. Sprachphilosophie , 1908; Macnamara, Human Speech , 1909; the classical work is Wundt, Völkerpsychologie: Die Sprache , Leipzig, 1900.)
Inward books may be originals or copies. Every book is, to begin with, inward. Men sometimes speak of an autograph as the "original," but it is in fact only a first-hand copy of the original, which is inward, and never by any chance becomes or can become outward. Besides these originals there are also inward copies of the books of others. The fact that a book may be memorized is no new thing, but the analysis of the process is. It seems that a book may be inwardly copied through eye or ear or touch or any sense from some outward book; or again it may be copied back and forth within, from sense copy to motor copy, from visual to oral, auditory to inward writing. In reading aloud the visual image is copied over into oral; in taking dictation the auditory image is copied over into inward writing. Many men, even in reading from print, cannot understand unless they translate as they go into oral images or even move their lips. Many others either hearing or reading a French book, e.g. have to translate inwardly into English and have in the end two memory copies, one French and one English, both of which may be recalled. In whatever way they are recorded, these memory impressions are real copies of outward books, and in the case of tribal medicine men, Vedic priests, the ancient minstrels, village gossips, and professional story-tellers of all kinds, the inward collection of books may become a veritable library.
The end for which a book is created is in general to reach another mind. This means the utterance or copying into some outward material and the re-copying by another into memory. The commonest modes of utterance are oral speech and writing; but there are many others, some appealing to eye, some to ear, some to touch: e.g. gesture language of the Indian and the deaf mute, pressure signs for the blind and deaf, signal codes, drum language, the telegraph click, etc. If the persons to be reached are few, a single oral speech or manuscript may be enough to supply all needs of publication, but if there are very many the speech or writing must somehow be multiplied. This may be done by the author himself. Blind Homer, it is alleged, repeated the Iliad in many cities; and the modern political orator may repeat the same speech several times in the same evening to different audiences. So too the author may, as many Latin writers did, copy out several autographs. If the audience is still too great to be reached by authors' utterances, the aid of heralds, minstrels, scribes and the printing-press must be called in to copy from the autographs or other author's utterances; and in case of need more help yet is called in, copies made from these copies, and copies again, and so on to perhaps hundreds of copyings. This process may be represented as x plus x 1 plus x 2 plus x 3 plus x n where x = an original, x 1 a first-hand copy of author's utterance, x 2 a second-hand copy, x 3 a third-hand, etc.
Books may Thus be divided into originals, first-hand or authors' copies and re-copies. Re-copies in turn whether at second-, third-, fourth- or nth-hand, may be either mechanical or personal, according as the copy is direct from outward material to outward material or from the outward material to a human memory.
(1) Mechanical Copies
Mechanical copies include photographic copies of manuscripts, or of the lips in speaking, or of gesture, or any other form of utterance which may be photographed. They include also phonographic records, telegraph records, and any other mechanical records of sound or other forms of utterance. Besides photographic and phonographic processes, mechanical copies include founding, stamping by seal or die, stereographic, electrotype, stencil, gelatine pad and printing-press processes, any processes, in short, which do not pass via the human mind, but direct from copy to copy by material means. They do not include composition in movable types or by type-setting machines, typewriting machines and the like, which, like writing, require the interposition of a human mind. These mechanical copies are subject to defects of material, but are free from psychological defects and error, and defect of material is practically negligible.
(2) Personal Copies
Personal copies include inward copies, or memory books, and the re-uttered copies from these copies, to which latter class belong all copied manuscripts. The memory copy may be by eye from writing, or from the lips of a speaker in the case of the deaf. Or it may be by ear from oral speech, telegraph key, drum or other sound utterances. Or it may be again from touch, as in the case of finger-tip lip-reading or the reading of raised characters by the blind. Each of these kinds may perhaps be located in a different part of the mind or brain, and its molecular substratum may be as different from other kinds of inward record as a wave of light is different from a wave of sound, or a photograph from the wax roll of a phonograph; but whatever the form or nature, it somehow records a certain fixed form of words which is substantially equivalent to the original. This memory copy, unlike the mechanical copy, is liable to substantial error. This may arise from defects of sense or of the inward processes of record and it is nearly always present. Why this need be so is one of the mysteries of human nature, but that it is, is one of the obvious facts; and when memory copies are reuttered there is still another crop of errors, "slips of tongue and pen," equally mysterious but equally inevitable. It comes to pass, therefore, that where oral or manuscript transmission exists, there is sure to be a double crop of errors between the successive outward copies. When Thus a form of words is frequently re-copied or reprinted via the human mind the resulting book becomes more and more unlike the original as to its form of words, until in the late manuscript copies of early works there may often be thousands of variations from the original. Even an inspired revelation would Thus be subject to at least one and perhaps two or three sets of errors from copying before it reached even the autograph stage.
4. Oral Transmission
Before the knowledge of handwriting became general, oral publication was usual, and it is still not uncommon. The king's laws and proclamations, the works of poets and historians, and the sacred books were in ancient times published orally by heralds and minstrels and prophets; and these primitive publishers are survived still by town criers, actors, reciters, and Scripture readers.
Up to the point of the first impression on another mind, oral publication has many advantages. The impression is generally more vivid, and the voice conveys many nice shades of feeling through inflection, stress, and the delicate variations in tone quality which cannot be expressed in writing. When it comes to transmission, however, oral tradition tends to rapid deterioration with each re-copy. It is true that such transmission may be quite exact with enough painstaking and repetition; Thus the modern stage affords many examples of actors with large and exact repertories, and the Vedas were, it is alleged, handed down for centuries by a rigidly trained body of memorizers. The memorizing of Confucian books by Chinese students and of the Koran by Moslem students is very exact. Nevertheless, exact transmission orally is rare, and exists only under strictly artificial conditions. Ear impressions, to begin with, tend to be less exact than eye impressions, in any event, because they depend on a brief sense impression, while in reading the eye lingers until the matter is understood. Moreover, the memory copy is not fixed and tends to fade away rapidly; unless very rigidly guarded and frequently repeated it soon breaks up its verbal form. This is readily seen by the great variety in the related legends of closely related tribes; and in modern times in the tales of village gossips and after-dinner stories, which soon lose their fixed verbal form, save as to the main point.
There is great difference of opinion as to the part which oral transmission played in the composition of the Old Testament. The prevailing theory of the higher critics of the 19th century made this the prime factor of transmission to at earliest the 8th century bc, but the recent remarkable revelations of archaeology regarding the use of written documents in Palestine at the time of the Exodus and before has changed the situation somewhat. The still more recent developments as to the Semitic character of Palestine before the invasion of the Israelites, together with the growing evidence of the prevailing use of handwriting all over Palestine by not later than the 9th century, point in the same direction. It is now even asserted (Clay, Amorites ) that the Semitic wave was from the north rather than the south, in which case the only possible ground for ascribing illiteracy to the Hebrews at the time of the conquest, and therefore exclusive oral tradition, would be removed.
Whatever may be the facts, it may be said with some definiteness that theory which implies two sets of traditions, handed down for several centuries and retaining a considerable amount of verbal likeness, implies written tradition, not oral, for no popular tradition keeps identical verbal forms for so long a time, and there is little ground for supposing artificial transmission by professional memorizers. The schools of the prophets might, indeed, have served as such, but there is no evidence that they did; and it would have been curious if, writing being within easy reach, this should have been done. As in almost all literatures, it is far more likely that the popular traditions are derived from and refreshed by literary sources, than that literature was compiled from traditions with long oral transmission.
Biblical references to oral publication are found in the references to heralds (see under the word), to Solomon's wisdom as "spoken" (1 Kings 4:32-34 ), proclamations and edicts, the public reading of the law in the Old Testament, and the reading in the synagogue in the New Testament. All the oracles, "Thus saith the Lord" and "the word of Yahweh," to Moses, etc., and all allusions to preaching the word, belong to this class of oral publication and transmission. A direct allusion to oral transmission is found in Psalm 44:1 , "We have heard with our ears,
The distinction of handwriting as against oral utterance lies first in the permanence of the record, but it has also a curious psychological advantage over speech. The latter reaches the mind through hearing one letter at a time as uttered. With writing, on the other hand, the eye grasps three to six letters at a time, and takes in words as wholes instead of spelling them out. The ear always lags, therefore, the eye anticipates, although it may also linger if it needs to. While therefore impressions from hearing may perhaps be deeper, one may gather many more in the same time from reading.
When it comes to transmission, the advantage of handwriting is obvious. In the first place, even the poorest ink hardly fades as rapidly as memory. Then at best few men reach a hundred years, and therefore no memory, copy, while on the other hand the limit to the life of writing has never been reached. We have writings that have lasted 6,000 years, at least; while if the Palermo stone, e.g. had been orally transmitted it must needs have passed through some 200 copyists at least, each producing two sets of errors. The advantage of manuscript transmission over oral tradition in its permanence is Thus very great. It is true, of course, that in the case of fragile material like papyrus, paper, or even leather, transmission ordinarily implies many re-copyings and corresponding corruption, but even at worst these will be very much better than the best popular oral tradition.
In the broad sense manuscripts include all kinds of written books without regard to material, form or instruments used. In the narrowest sense they are limited to rolls and codices, i.e. to literary manuscripts. Inscriptions are properly written matter engraved or inscribed on hard material. Documents, whether private letters or official records, are characteristically folded in pliable material. Literary works again are usually rolls or else codices, which latter is the usual form of the printed books as well. These three classes of written books have their corresponding sciences in epigraphy, diplomatics and paleography.
Epigraphy has to do primarily with inscriptions set up for record in public places. These include published laws, inscriptions, biographical memorials like the modern gravestone inscriptions and those on memorial statues, battle monuments and the like. It includes also votive inscriptions, inscriptions on gems, jewels, weights and measures, weapons, utensils, etc. Seals and coins from all points of view belong here and form another division under printing. These have their own sciences in numismatics and sphragistics. The chief Biblical reference is to the "tables of stone" (Exodus 24:12 ). See TABLE; ALPHABET; WEIGHT; WRITING; etc.
(See Lidzbarski, Handb. nordsemit. Epigr ., 1898-.)
Numismatics has to do with inscriptions on coins and medals, and is becoming one of the greatest sources of our knowledge of ancient history, especially on account of the aid derived from coins in the matter of dating, and because of the vast quantity of them discovered. See MONEY .
Diplomatics , or the science of documents, has to do with contracts of sale and purchase (Jeremiah 3:8; Jeremiah 32:14 ), bills of divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1 ) and certificates of all sorts of the nature of those registered in the modern public records. These may be on clay tablets, as in Babylonia and the neighboring regions, or on ostraca as found especially in Egypt, but everywhere in the ancient Mediterranean world, and notably for Biblical history, in Samaria, as discovered by the Harvard expedition. Multitudes of the Egyptian papyri discovered in modern times are of this character as well as the Italian papyri until papyrus was succeeded by vellum. Many are also found on wax, gold, silver, brass, lead tablets, etc. See LETTERS; OSTRACA;
Paleography has to do with volumes or books of considerable bulk, chiefly. It has, therefore, to do mainly with literary works of all sorts, but it shades into diplomatics when official documents, such as collections of laws (e.g. Deuteronomy), treatises, such as the famous treaty between the Hittites and Egypt, and modern leases are of such bulk as to be best transmitted in volume form. It has to do chiefly with the clay tablets, papyrus, leather, vellum and paper volumes. The clay tablet is mentioned in the Old Testament at various points (see TABLET ), the roll in both Old Testament and New Testament (see
6. Printed Books
Printing differs from writing chiefly in being executed in two dimensions. In writing, a chisel or brush or pen follows a continuous or interrupted line, while printing stamps, a letter or a part of a letter, a line, a page, or many pages at a stroke. The die, the wedge for clay tablets, seals, molds, xylographic plates, as well as the typewriter, movable type or electrotype plates, etc., belong properly to printing rather than writing. The wedge stamp, or single-letter die, the typewriter, the matrix and movable type form, however, a sort of transition between the pen point and the printing-press in that they follow letter after letter. Coins and seals, on the other hand, differ little from true printing save in the lengths of the writings; Babylonian seals and the rotary press are one in principle. Sphragistics, or the science of seals, and numismatics, or the science of coins, medals, etc., belong Thus with printing from this point of view, but are more commonly and conveniently classed with epigrap hy, on the principle that they depend on the light and shade of incision or relief in one color as distinguished from the color contrasts of ink or paint. Printed books include the xylographic process of Chinese and early European printing, page and form printing from movable type, and all electrotype, stencil, gelatine pad, etc., processes.
The advantage of printing over writing is in the more rapid multiplication of copies, and still more in the accuracy of the copies. The first setting in movable type is as liable to error as any written copy, but all impressions from this are wholly without textual variations. For printed editions of the Bible see
In the natural process of transmission all reprints in movable type, manuscripts or oral repetitions accumulate variations with each re-copying. These are, in general, errors, and the process is one of degeneration. In oral transmission the average error with each generation is very great, and it is only with incredible pains that the best copies are made equal to even the average manuscript, which in turn at its best only equals the first type-set copy. The same expenditure of care on this type-set copy produces thousands of copies in printing where it produces one in manuscript. The phonograph, the typewriter, type-bar composition, photographic and electrotype methods have reduced the average error in modern books to a very low point. But even after incredible pains on the part of the authors and professional proofreaders, the offered reward of a guinea for each detected error in the Oxford revised version of the Bible brought several errors to light. This version is however about as nearly free from textual error as any large book ever made, and millions of copies of it are now printed wholly without textual variation.
But textual errors are not the only variations. It often happens that the author or someone else undertakes to correct the errors and makes substitutions or additions of one sort or another. The result is a revised edition, which is, in general, an improvement, or evolution upward. Variations are Thus of two kinds: involuntary and intentional, corresponding pretty well with the words "copies" and "editions" of a work.
Strictly speaking, every book with intentional changes is a new work, but colloquially it is counted the "same work" until the changes become so great that the resemblance of the form of words to the original is hard to recognize. It is a common thing for a work to be edited and reëdited under a certain author's name (Herzog), then become known by the joint name of the author and editor (Herzog-Plitt or Schaff-Herzog), and finally become known under the name of the latest editor (Hauck). In this case it is often described for a time on a title-page as "founded" on its predecessor, but generally the original author's name is dropped from the title-page altogether when no great portions retain the original verbal form. All editions of a work are recognized in common use in some sense as new works; and in the bookshop or library a man is careful to specify the latest edition of Smith, or Brown's edition of Smith, to avoid getting the older and outdated original work.
Sometimes the original work and the additions, corrections, explanations, etc., are kept quite separate and distinct - additional matter being given in manuscripts in the margins, or between lines, and in printed books as footnotes or in brackets or parentheses. This is commonly the case with the text-and-comment editions of Biblical books and great writers. Sometimes, as often in ancient manuscripts, it happens in copying that what were marginal and interlinear notes become run in as an undistinguished part of the text and, still more often, what was indicated as quotation in an original work loses its indications and becomes an undistinguished part of the work. In the case of the paraphrase the comment is intentionally run in with the words of the text; and most editors of scientific works likewise make no attempt to distinguish between the original matter and additions by another hand, the whole responsibility being thrown forward on the editor. Sometimes the original work itself to begin with is largely made up of quotation, or is a mere compilation or collection of works in which the "originality" is confined to title-page or preface or even a mere title, as in the case of the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Bible, and the order of arrangement of parts.
Almost all books are Thus composite. Even in a manuscript copy of a manuscript, or an oral repetition of an oral tale, two human minds have contributed to the net result, and the work of each may perhaps be distinguished from that of the other. In the case of a new edition by the same author, the result is still composite - a new work composed of old and new material. With all new editions by other authors the compositeness increases until, e.g. an edition of the Bible with textual variants and select comments from various writers becomes the combined work of thousands of writers, each distinguished as to his work from all the rest by his name or some symbol.
The work proper or work unchanged, save for involuntary error, includes Thus copies, translates, abridgments, selections and quotations; the revised work or work with voluntary changes includes editions and paraphrases (which are simply texts with commentary run into the text), digests, redactions, etc., and perhaps compilations.
These two kinds of variations give rise to the two sciences of text-criticism and higher or historical criticism. The former distinguishes all accidental errors of transmission, the latter all the voluntary changes; the former aims to reconstruct the original, the latter to separate in any given book between the work of the original and each editor.
In this connection it must not be forgotten that the original itself may be a composite work - containing long quotations, made up wholly of selections or even made up of whole works bound together by a mere title. In these cases textual criticism restores not the original of each, but the original text of the whole, while higher criticism takes up the task of separating out the elements first of later editions and redactions of this original, then of the original itself.
8. Textual Criticism
The involuntary variations of manuscripts or oral tradition give rise to the science of text-criticism. The point of the science is to reconstruct exactly the original form of words or text. Formerly the method for this was a mere balancing of probabilities, but since Tregelles it has become a rigid logical process which traces copies to their near ancestors, and these in turn farther back, until a genealogical tree has been formed of actual descent. The law of this is in effect that "like variations point to a common ancestor," the biological law of "homology," and if the groupings reveal as many as three independent lines of copies from the original, the correct text can be constructed with mathematical precision, since the readings of two lines will always be right against the third - granting a very small margin of error in the psychological tendency of habit in a scribe to repeat the same error. The method proceeds (1) to describe all variations of each manuscript (or equally of each oral or printed copy) from the standard text; (2) to group the manuscripts which have the most pronounced variations; (3) to unite these groups on the principle of homology into larger and larger groups until authors' utterances have been reached and through these the inward original. The results are expressed in a text and variants - the text being a corrected copy of the original, and the variants showing the exact contribution of each copyist to the manuscripts which he produced.
It is carefully to be remembered that text-criticism proper has only to do with a particular form of words. Every translation or edition is a separate problem complete in itself when the very words used by translator and the editor have been reconstructed. These may in turn be useful in reconstructing the original, but care must be had not to amend, translate or edition from the original, and the original in turn, when it contains quotations from other writers, must not be amended from the originals of these writers. The task of textual criticism is to set forth each man's words - each original author, each copyist, each translator, each editor, just as his words were - no more and no less. See TEXT OF THE OLD TESTAMENT;
9. Higher Criticism
Higher criticism has to do with voluntary variations or variations in subject-matter. Like text-criticism it has to do with distinguishing the share of each of several coöperators in a composite work; and like it higher criticism traces the contributions of various authors each to its source. It differs, however, in dealing with original matter. While the variations by officious scribes, or intelligent scribes who correct spelling, grammar, wrong dates and the like, come pretty closely into the region of editing, and on the other hand the redactor is sometimes little more than an officious copyist, still the line of involuntary and voluntary change holds good, whether it be the grafting into an original work by the author of many quotations, or the grafting onto the work by others of the work of themselves or of other authors. It is not the business of the textual critic to separate out either of these (it is expressly his business not to), although his work may greatly help and even furnish results which can be used automatically. The whole of this double field of composite authorship belongs to higher criticism.
In the case of most modern works the task of the higher critic is a simple one. Quotation marks, a growing ethical feeling against plagiarism, the mechanical conveniences of typographical display, and the like, all contribute to a careful separation of the work of each contributor. Nevertheless, in many cases as, for example, in the editing of textbooks and newspapers, this is not regarded. While the signed article in the encyclopedia is now nearly universal, the signed review more and more common, the signed editorial is still rare, and the others by no means universal. It is still a matter of interest to many to pick out by his "style" the author of an unsigned article, review or editorial - which is higher criticism.
In ancient literature, where there were few such mechanical conveniences in discriminating, and little or no conscience had been developed about incorporating anything which suited the purpose of the writer in part or as a whole, the result was often a complete patchwork of verbal forms of many writers. The task of higher criticism is to sort out the original and each of its literary variants, and to trace these variants to their originals. The net result in the case of any work does not differ much from an ordinary modern work with quotation marks and footnotes referring to the sources of the quotations. It restores, so to speak, the punctuation and footnotes which the author omitted or later copyists lost. It includes many nice questions of discrimination through style and the historical connection of the fragments with the works from which they were taken; and after these have been analyzed out, many nice questions also of tracing their authorship or at least the time, place and environment of their composition. It includes Thus the questions of superhuman authorship and inspiration.
10. Literary Criticism
Literary criticism has to do with originals as originals, or, in composite works, the original parts of originals. An original work may include quotations from others or be mainly quotations, and its "originality" consists in part in the way these quotations are introduced and used. By "original," however, is meant in the main new verbal forms. The original work must not plagiarize nor even use stereotyped phrases, although it may introduce proverbs or idiomatic phrases. In general, however, originality means that literary food has been digested - reduced to its chemical elements of word or briefest phrase and rebuilt into a wholly new structure in the mind. The building in of old doorways and ornaments may be a part of the literary architect's originality, but they themselves were not "original" with him.
The literary critic has Thus to do with a man's originality - the contribution that he has made to the subject, the peculiar quality of this in its fitness to influence other minds which is effected by the "reaction of the whole personality," all his learning and emotional experience, on every part of his material - what in short we call style. This involves a judgment or comparison with all other works on the same subject as to its contribution of new matter and its readability.
11. Origin of New Forms
The chief problems of book science may be described in the words of biological science as (1) The origin of new forms, (2) survival. The question of the origin of a new literary work and its survival is so like that of the origin of a new species and its survival that it may be regarded less as analogy than as falling under the same laws of variations, multiplication, heredity and natural selection. The origin of variant forms of the same original through involuntary and voluntary changes has been traced above up to the point where editorial variants overwhelm the original and a new author's name takes the place of the old. After this step has been taken it is a new work, and at bottom the origin of all new works is much the same. The process is most clearly seen in treatises of some branch of science, say physics. A general treatise, say on Heat, is published, giving the state of knowledge on the subject at that time. Then monographs begin to be produced. The monograph may and generally does include, in bibliographical or historical outline, the substance of previous works, and in every event it implies the previous total. The point of the monograph itself is, however, not the summary of common knowledge but the contribution that it makes, or, in the language of natural science, the "useful variant" of the subject which it produces. After some accumulation of these monographs, or useful variants of previous treatises, some author gathers them together and unites them with previous treatises into a new general treatise or textbook, which is in effect the latest previous treatise with all variants developed in the meantime.
In either case a permanent new form has been produced - the old common knowledge with a difference, and the process goes on again: the new work is multiplied by publication into many like individuals; these like individuals develop each its variations; the variations in the same direction unite in some new accepted fact, idea or law, expressed in a monograph; common knowledge with this new variation forms a new general work which again is multiplied, and so on.
And what is true of scientific monographs is just as true in substance of literature, of oral tradition and of the whole history of ideas. It is the perpetual putting together of variations experienced two or more times by one individual or one or more times each by two or more individuals, with the common body of our ideas, and producing Thus a new fixed form. Popular proverbs, for example, and all poetry, fiction and the like, come Thus to sum up a long human experience.
And carrying the matter still farther back, what is true of the scientific book and of poetry and of folk-literature, is true also of the inward evolution of every thought, even those phrased for conversation or indeed for self-communion - it is the result of a series of variations and integrations. The workings of the scientist's mind in producing a contribution and the workings of the farmer's mind in evolving a shrewd maxim, are alike the result of a long series of these observations, variations and integrations. Repeated observations and the union of observations which vary in the same direction is the history of the thought process all the way along from the simplest perception of the infant, up through the ordinary thinking of the average man, to the most complex concept of the philosopher.
Through all the processes of inward thought and outward expression Thus the same process of evolution in the production of a new form holds good: it is the synthesis of all works on a given subject (i.e. any more or less narrow field of reality), the multiplication of this synthetic work, the development of new variations in it and the reunion again of all these variations in a more comprehensive work.
When it comes to the matter of the survival of a new work when it has been produced, the problem is a double one: (1) The survival of the individual book, and (2) The survival of the work, i.e. any copy of the original whose text does not vary so far that it may not be recognized as the "same" work. The original book is in a man's mind and survives only so long as its author survives. In the same sense that the author dies, the individual book dies. No new book, therefore, survives its author. If, however, by survival is meant the existence of any copy, or copy of a copy of this original, containing much (but never quite) the same form of words, then the book survives in this world, in the same sense that the author survives, i.e. in its descendants; it is the difference between personal immortality and race immortality. At the same time, however, the survival of species depends on the individual. A work or a species is no metaphysical reality, but a sum total of individuals with, of course, their relations to one another.
On the average, the chance of long survival for any individual copy of a book is small. Every new book enters into a struggle for existence; wind and weather, wear and tear conspire to destroy it. On the whole they succeed sooner or later. Some books live longer than others, but however durable the material, and however carefully treated they may be, an autograph rarely lasts a thousand years. If survival depended on permanence of the individual, there would be no Bible and no classics.
The average chance of an individual book for long life depends (1) on the intrinsic durability of its material, or its ability to resist hostile environment, (2) on isolation.
The enemies to which books are exposed are various: wind, fire, moisture, mold, human negligence and vandalism, and human use. Some materials are naturally more durable than others. Stone and metal inscriptions survive better than wood or clay, vellum than papyrus or paper.
On the other hand, however, if isolated or protected from hostile environment, very fragile material may outlast more substantial. Papyrus has survived in the mounds of Egypt, and unbaked clay tablets in the mounds of Babylonia, while millions of stone and metal inscriptions written thousands of years later have already perished. Here the factor of isolation comes in. Fire and pillage, moth and rust and the bookworm destroy for the most part without respect of persons. It is only those books which are out of the way of destructive agencies which survive. An unbaked tablet which has survived 5,000 years under rubbish may crumble to dust in 5 years after it has been dug up and exposed to the air. This isolation may be accidental or "natural," as when tablets and papyri are preserved under ruins, but it may also be artificial and the result of human care. A third factor of survival is therefore the ability of a work to procure for itself human protection, or artificial isolation. In brief this ability is the "value" of a book to its owner. This value may lie in the material, artistic excellence, association or rarity. Any variation in the direction of value which may be expressed financially tends to preserve. In fire or shipwreck, these are the ones saved, in pillage the ones spared. They are the ones for whom fireproof buildings and special guardians are provided. An exception to this rule is when the material is more valuable for other than book purposes. In times of war the book engraved on gold or lead or paper may be melted down for coin or bullets or torn up for cartridges, while stone and vellum books are spared. The general law is, however, that value tends to preserve, and it has been remarked that all the oldest codices which have survived in free environment are sumptuous copies.
Literary value on the other hand is, on the whole, a factor of destruction for the individual rather than of survival. The better a book is the more it is read, and the more it is read, the faster it wears out. The worthless book on the top shelf outlasts all the rest. In cases of fire or shipwreck an owner will save books which cannot be replaced and the books most easily replaced are those with literary value. A man will sometimes save his favorite books, and does treat them often with a certain reverent care, which tends to preservation but, on the whole, literary value tends to destruction.
When it comes to the survival of the work or race survival, matters are reversed. Literary value is the prime factor. It is the ability of a book to get itself multiplied or re-copied which counts - the quality, whatever it may be, which tends to make a man wish to replace his copy when it is worn out, and to make many men wish to read the work.
This literary interest operates first to produce a large number of copies in order to meet the demand, each of which copies has its chance of survival. It operates also by inducing men to use the very best material, paper, ink, binding, etc., which results in giving each individual book a longer time to produce a new copy.
The modern newspaper published in a million copies is ephemeral, in the first place, because it is printed upon paper which cannot last, save in very favorable conditions of isolation, for more than forty or fifty years. In the second place, it is very rarely reprinted save for an occasional memorial copy. Books like the Bible or Virgil, Dante or Shakespeare, on the other hand, are reprinted in multitudes of editions and in many instances in the most permanent material that art can devise.
It often happens that a book is popular for a short time, but will not survive a changed environment. The newspaper is popular for a few hours, but the time environment changes and interest is gone. It sometimes happens that a book is very popular in one country and wholly fails to interest in another. Millions of copies of Uncle Tom's Cabin and Ben Hur were required to fill the demand of one generation where a few hundreds may suffice for the next.
All the time popular taste, which is only another name for average human experience, is judging a book. A book survives because it is popular - not necessarily because it is popular with the uneducated majority, but because it appeals continually to the average human experience of some considerable class, good or bad. Survival is, therefore, natural. Skilled critics help popular judgment, and select lists aid, but in the long run the test is simply of its correspondence with human experience; in short, it is because men "like" it that a book survives.
There is Thus going on all the time a process of struggle and "natural selection" which in the end is a survival of the fittest in the true evolutionary sense, i.e. books survive because fitted to their environment of human experience or taste. There grows up, therefore, continually in every country a certain class of books which are counted classics. These are those which have survived their tests, and are being still further tested. Some have been tested from remote antiquity, and it is the books which survive the test of many periods of time, many kinds of geographical environment, and many varieties of intellectual environment, i.e. which appeal to many classes of readers, which are the true classics and which, on the other hand, show that they do correspond with the fundamental facts of human experience, simply because they have survived. In general it is the religious books which have survived in all nations, and the only books which have been tested in all lands and ages and appeal to Oriental and Western, ancient and modern alike, are those of the Christian Bible.
13. Book Collections
It has been noticed above that the process of forming a new work is the bringing together of all works on the same subject in order to unite all their variations in the new work. It is for this purpose that every student brings together the working library on his specialty; it is what the librarian does when he brings together all the books on a subject for the use of students. Every man who reads up on a subject is performing the same task for himself, and likewise every man who does general reading.
There are few libraries, however, which attempt to get together all the books on a subject. Most libraries are select libraries containing the best books on the subject: by this is meant all books which have anything new or in short have a useful variation. This is an artificial process of the critical human mind, but in humanity in general it is going on all the time as a natural process. Men are perpetually at work choosing their "five-foot shelves," the collections of the very "best of best books." The reason for this lies in the fact that the average human mind can read and hold only a limited number of books; an unconscious process is all the time going on tending to pick out the small number of books which on the whole contain the greatest amount of human experience to the average page. The mass of world's books, however enormous, is Thus boiled down by a natural selection to a few books, which contain the essence of all the rest. The process tends to go on in every country and every language. The most universal example is the Bible, which represents a long process of natural selection through many periods of time and considerable variety of geographical influence. It unites the quintessence of Semitic ideas with the corresponding quintessence of Indo-European ideas, each embodied in a correspondingly perfect language - for language itself is in the last analysis the quintessence of the experience of any people in its likeness and unlikeness to other peoples. It is therefore by the mere fact o f "survival" and "natural selection" proved to be the "fittest" to survive, i.e. that which corresponds most nearly to universal human experience. Councils do not form the canon of Scripture: they simply set a seal upon a natural process. The Bible is Thus the climax of evolution among books as man is among animals. It is as unique among books as man is unique among all living things. See LIBRARIES .
14. Early History of Books in Bible Lands
The history of books begins at least with the history of writing. Some of the pictures on the cave walls of the neolithic age (Dechelette, Man: Archaeol. , Prehist . (1908), 201-37) seem to have the essential characteristics of books and certainly the earliest clay tablets and inscriptions do. These seem to carry back with certainty to at least 4,200 years bc. By a thousand years later, tablet books and inscriptions were common and papyrus books seem to have been well begun. Another thousand years, or some time before
Articles by Dziatzko on "Buch" and "Bibliotheken," in Pauly-Wissowa, Real-encyclopedia d. class. Altertumsw. , V, 5, and his Antikes Buchwesen , Leipzig, 1900, are mines of material, and the bibliographical reference thorough. The rapid developments in the history of most ancient books may be followed in Hortzschansky's admirable annual volume, Bibliographie des Bibliotheks und Buchwesens , Leipzig, 1904ff. For a first orientation the little book of O, Wiese, Schrift und Buchwesen in alter u. neuer Zeit (3rd edition, Leipzig, 1910), or in English, the respective articles in the Encyclopedia Britannica , are perhaps best. On the scientific side the best introductions are Vol I of Iwan Müller's Handb. d. klass. Altertumsw . and T. Birt's D. antike Buchwesen (Berlin, 1882). For Biblical aspects of the Book, the best of all, and very adequate indeed, is the long article of E. von Dobschütz on the "Bible in the Church" in the Hastings' Encyclopedia of Religion , II, 579-615, and especially on account of the bibliographical apparatus at the end of each section. These little bibliographies give a complete apparatus on many of the above subjects. Paragraphs with bibliographies on others of above topics will be found in the W. Sanday article on "Bible," just preceding.
These files are public domain and were generously provided by the folks at WordSearch Software.
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Book'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/isb/b/book.html. 1915.