What was the first book?

12.18.12

The older I get the more I find myself waking up early and having this excess of time in the mornings before venturing to work…inevitably earlier than is really required. This morning downtime is a great time for me to let my mind wander as it often does and eventually my subconscious will spit out a random thought or question. This morning’s question as I sit at a coffee shop I was hit with the following question. What was the first book? Now to some this is a complicated question. The definition of a book differs greatly as you travel backwards on the timeline of human existence. Papyrus scrolls….stone tablets…cave paintings….so many different ways to document a story, thought or idea in hopes that future generations would retain and in some way gain from a story, belief system, or idea.

I turned to Google to try and satisfy my curiosity, and thought I can’t claim to have the perfect answer, i was able to educate myself to a certain degree by understanding important recorded texts and general time-lines. The documentation of several religious belief systems is obviously one of the first documented “books” or at least form of attempts to pass on an idea. I was rather confident such would be the case, however I did stumble across the Epic of Gilgamesh, which was a Sumerian epic poem. it would be a stretch to consider this the first “book” as we’re familiar with the term today, as it survives as a story composed on clay tablets dating to the 7th Century B.C. The form writing is called cuneiform which seems to be the earliest form of writing to be documented. These angled wedges were chiseled into varying patterns most often into tablets or surfaces of clay, rock, or stone.

I could try and give you the cliff notes version of the story, but Wikipedia already does that here

For those who prefer a more modern way of getting their book fix, don’t worry the original document exists alive and well today and is readily available in all languages. Who knows I might even check it out sometime.

The idea strikes me however that perhaps the name Gilgamesh might be a great name for the software/app platform that has yet to come into existence that successfully bridges traditional educational books into a platform suitable for the iPad or other Tablet computers on a universally embraced platform by publishers, educators, and technology companies. Seems like it would be a fitting to visit the past to help shape the future. At any rate I better get busy trademarking that. Speaking of first books, do you recall the first book you read that really made an impact on you? I’d love for you to hear about it in the comments below.