Fascinating Database Provides Easy Exploration

“Stripping away non-essentials, I believe that we may characterize a book as a container for text and related information, designed for storage, distribution and communication…Prior to the Internet and the electronic book we might have assumed that the book was defined by its most common physical form, which for about 1500 years has been the codex. Or, if we took a wider historical approach, we would probably have acknowledged that throughout their history books have existed in a variety of physical forms, and we would have described the book in terms of its physical attributes.” (link)

This extensive essay goes on to examine our concept of ‘book’ in its many accepted forms, from oral stories to digital media. The essay is part of Jeremy Norman’s From Cave Paintings to the Internet: Chronological and Thematic Studies on the History of Information and the Media.

The front side of the Cyrus Cylinder, dated circa 537 BCE, upon which is written a declaration of the King Cyrus II in Babylonian cuneiform.

On the front page you’ll find the Timeline where entries can be searched by era, from 2,500,000 years BCE to the present. A subject index on the right narrows results to sourced articles within a specific theme. For example clicking on “Censorship” returned 58 entries from “Pope Gregory IX Orders the Seizure and Burning of Jewish Books June 9 – June 20, 1239” to “Major Websites Go Dark to Protest Web Censorship Legislation January 17, 2012”.

Click twice for large view

“Just before his death Nicolaus Copernicus published De revolutionibus orbium coelestium in Nuremberg. De revolutionibus set out Copernicus’s revolutionary theory of the heliocentric universe—that the earth and other planets revolve around the sun…In 1616 the Church placed De revolutionibus on the Index librorum prohibitorum “until suitably corrected,” and, for the only time in its history, spelled out the expected alterations to be made in the text.” (more at The Copernican Revolution)

Another method is provided on the Outline tab, showing image and title information for each entry by era and again by subject. The essay quoted at the top of the post is from the Narrative and Analysis tab, with a handily linked table of contents sidebar on each page.

The website on History of Science.com, is an expanded version of the author’s two printed books from 2002 & 2004 – Origins of Cyberspace, and  From Gutenberg to the Internet. I’m very impressed with the content, scope and  presentation of this website and can only imagine the many, many hours put into creating and updating it. Hats off to Jeremy Norman, his partners and Gore Creative, the website designers.


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Filed under History of Books & Libraries, Online Resources

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