The story of 'Book'
26 August - By Fay Clayton
Paraparaumu has just celebrated Love Your Library Day. With the staff wearing hats and dressing in pink or red, it was indeed a happy Friday – a fun event celebrating, among other things. the fact that this library has over 50,000 visitors a month.
Books take centre stage in any library, and 'book' has a story all of its own to tell. This very old word arrived in ancient times in England, where the native peoples used the bark of a certain tree as a writing surface. That tree was a beech, for them a 'boc'. And that's how our 'book' came about.
But why, if books are so important, do we keep them in a library? The word is so different. We have to come much further forward in time, to about the 14th century for an answer: The French had left the shores of Britain, no longer ruling there, but French influence was still strong and the English kept borrowing from that distinguished language. 'Librarie' was from Old French, and earlier Latin 'liber' book and from this we have our library.
With that all sorted, why do we have a Bibliography, a list of books on a subject, or by a particular author, often at the end of a book. Why this 'biblio' instead of 'book'? Thereby hangs a tale:
In earlier times when papyrus was used for writing, the Greeks imported this precious commodity from the port of Byblos. Pinpoint that on the map of your mind. Just north of Beirut, site of the present capital, and chief seaport in Lebanon, it was once a thriving Phoenician port.
From there, as early as 3000 BC the Egyptians imported pine and cedar. And Solomon, in his time, imported the 'cedar of Lebanon' for the building of the Temple. The Greeks imported papyrus – it was always from Byblos. You can almost hear the workmen calling, "(From) Byblos" And so in time a Greek a roll of papyrus became 'byblos'. In time that became the Greek word for book. Our bibliography developed from there. 'The Bible' with capital letters, is 'The Book'.
A bibliophile is one who loves books, or collects books – and that's only one of more than a dozen words to be found beginning 'biblio-' We own much to the Greeks of old.
The story of 'Book' is just one example of our three tiered language.
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