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Blog 01.29.2024

Oldest Books in the World

Oldest Books of the World

Experts believe that the first form of writing was invented around the seventh and fourth B.C. Since then, writing has taken many forms, and alongside this was the development of long-term storage and protection of the writing. Some cultures used scrolls, some used stone or clay tablets, but eventually, they invented books. The dictionary definition of a book is: a set of printed sheets of paper that are held together inside a cover. However, many experts have expanded the definition of a book’s definition is to include scrolls, tablets, and the modern digitalized book. Here are several of the world’s oldest surviving books.

Madrid Codex

In the 1860s, the Madrid Codex was discovered in Spain. The Madrid Codex is also called “Tro-Cortesianus Codex.” This book is considered to be one of the only surviving books from the pre-Colombian Mayan people. The book is estimated to be from around 900-1521 AD. The book is mainly written in Yucatecan, which is a Mayan language group that consists of Mopan, Itza, Lacandon, and Yucatec. The Madrid Codex is currently on display in Museo de América in Madrid, Spain.

Book of Kells

The Book of Kells is a Celtic biblical manuscript that has only the four Gospels of the New Testament of the Bible written in it. This manuscript is an ornate illuminated script, meaning it is heavily decorated and illustrated. No one for sure knows who actually created the Book of Kells, but it is widely considered to have been created by Celtic Monks. The Book of Kells is housed at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, for safe storage and preservation. This book is thought to be 1,213 years old.

Celtic Psalter

Considered the “Book of Kell” for Scotland, the Celtic Psalter was written around the 11th century AD that only contains the book of Psalms. The book itself is pocket-sized and incredibly illustrated. The Celtic Psalter is on display at the University of Edinburgh, where it first went on display in 2009. The Celtic Psalter is believed to be 983 years old. This makes the Celtic Psalter the second oldest book found in Scotland.

Nag Hammadi Library

In 1945 a man in Nag Hammadi, Upper Egypt, found a large, sealed jar with ancient books within it. There were 13 leather-bound books in total within the jar that contained texts that are Gnostic in origin. These books are made of papyrus and written using the Coptic language. Nag Hammadi Library is believed to have been transcribed from Greek. The Nag Hammadi Library is considered to be roughly 1,693 years old.

Etruscan Gold Book

Considered the oldest book in the world, the Etruscan Gold Book is 2,673 years old and was found in a canal off the Strouma River. The book is made up of 6 golden sheets of 24-carat gold and bound by metallic rings. The book is written in Etruscan writing with images of soldiers, horses, instruments, and a siren embossed on the pages within. The people who wrote this book were called The Etruscans, and they finally settled in what is now called Turkey nearly three thousand years ago. It is now on display in Bulgaria at the National History Museum in Sofia, Bulgaria.

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