Language, images and writing are fundamental for our communication and we use them to identify the components that make up our world and to find our way around in it. Information was conveyed for thousands of years using only the spoken word with the aid of gestures, images and symbols. Early systems of writing, which emerged in 4000 BC in Egypt and the Middle East, were the first great media innovation in human history. While the spoken word is bound to space, time and the capacity of the human memory, writing can store ideas and information permanently, thus making it possible to consult or check it at a later date, transport it across great distances and drive civilisation in its development. And yet there are still cultures without writing in today’s world.
The establishment of writing systems in different parts of the world went hand in hand with the emergence of different book cultures. The respective materials available for chronicling text and image determined the form and function of those early “books”. Religion and magic also had an influence on the multifaceted aesthetics used in books and in how they were valued within society. The oldest form of the book, the scroll, spread from Egypt across the entire world and is still used for religious purposes today. The most important media revolution to take place during the period of transition from ancient world to the Middle Ages came in the form of the codex, precursor of the wax tablet book. The codex provided us with the basic format of the book which has remained largely unchanged until today.