I’m teaching a class on early American communication technology/introduction to digital history next (almost this!) semester. For one of the early classes, I wanted to drive home how books (and pens and paper and presses etc.) fit into a history of technology. While there are some great theoretical articles on book-as-tech, I ended up going with an extended quotation from Jasper Fforde’s The Well of Lost Plots, on the genealogy of books – and then I made an infographic:
“First there was OralTrad, upgraded ten thousand years later by the rhyming (for easier recall) OralTradPlus. For thousands of years this was the only Story Operating System and it is still in use today. The system branched in two about twenty thousand years ago; on one side with CaveDaub Pro (forerunner of Paint Plus V2.3, GrecianUrn VI.2, Sculpt- Marble VI.4 and the latest, all-encompassing Super Artistic Expression-5). The other strand, the Picto-Phonetic Storytelling Systems, started with ClayTablet V2.1 and went through several competing systems (Wax-Tablet, Papyrus, VellumPlus) before merging into the award-winning SCROLL, which was upgraded eight times to V3.5 before being swept aside by the all new and clearly superior BOOK VI. Stable, easy to store and transport, compact and with a workable index, BOOK has led the way for nearly eighteen hundred years.
When we first came up with the ‘page’ concept in BOOK VI, we thought we’d reached the zenith of story containment — compact, easy to read, and by using integrated PageNumberTM and SpineTitleTM technologies, we had a system of indexing far superior to anything SCROLL could offer. Over the years . . . . we have been refining the BOOK system. Illustrations were the first upgrade at 1.1, standardized spelling at V3.1 and vowel and irregular verb stability in V4.2. Today we use BOOK V8.3, one of the most stable and complex imaginotransference technologies ever devised — the smooth transfer of the written word into the reader’s imagination has never been faster.”