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Portal:Books

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Johannes Trithemius'Polygraphiae (1518)

A book is a medium for recording information in the form of writing or images, typically composed of many pages (made of papyrus, parchment, vellum, or paper) bound together and protected by a cover. The technical term for this physical arrangement is codex (plural, codices). In the history of hand-held physical supports for extended written compositions or records, the codex replaces its immediate predecessor, the scroll. A single sheet in a codex is a leaf, and each side of a leaf is a page.

As an intellectual object, a book is prototypically a composition of such great length that it takes a considerable investment of time to compose and a still considerable, though not so extensive, investment of time to read. This sense of book has a restricted and an unrestricted sense. In the restricted sense, a book is a self-sufficient section or part of a longer composition, a usage that reflects the fact that, in antiquity, long works had to be written on several scrolls, and each scroll had to be identified by the book it contained. So, for instance, each part of Aristotle's Physics is called a book. In the unrestricted sense, a book is the compositional whole of which such sections, whether called books or chapters or parts, are parts.

The intellectual content in a physical book need not be a composition, nor even be called a book. Books can consist only of drawings, engravings, or photographs, or such things as crossword puzzles or cut-out dolls. In a physical book, the pages can be left blank or can feature an abstract set of lines as support for ongoing entries, e.g., an account book, an appointment book, an autograph book, a notebook, a diary, or a sketchbook. Some physical books are made with pages thick and sturdy enough to support other physical objects, like a scrapbook or photograph album. Books may be distributed in electronic form as e-books and other formats.

Although in ordinary academic parlance a monograph is understood to be a specialist academic work, rather than a reference work on a single scholarly subject, in library and information science monograph denotes more broadly any non-serial publication complete in one volume (book) or a finite number of volumes (even a novel like Proust's seven-volume In Search of Lost Time), in contrast to serial publications like a magazine, journal, or newspaper. An avid reader or collector of books is a bibliophile or colloquially, "bookworm". A shop where books are bought and sold is a bookshop or bookstore. Books are also sold elsewhere. Books can also be borrowed from libraries. Google has estimated that as of 2010, approximately 130,000,000 distinct titles had been published. In some wealthier nations, the sale of printed books has decreased because of the increased usage of e-books.

Selected article

First edition of Oroonoko, 1688

Oroonoko is a short novel by Aphra Behn (June 10, 1640 – April 16, 1689), published in 1688, concerning the tragic love of its hero, an enslaved African in Surinam in the 1660s, and the author's own experiences in the new South American colony. It is generally claimed (most famously by Virginia Woolf) that Aphra Behn was the first professional female author in English, living entirely by her own earnings. While this is not entirely true, Behn was the first professional female dramatist, as well as one of the first English novelists, male or female. Although she had written at least one novel previously, Aphra Behn's Oroonoko is both one of the earliest English novels and one of the earliest by a woman.Behn worked for Charles II as a spy during the outset of the Second Dutch War, working to solicit a double agent. However, Charles either failed to pay her for her services or failed to pay her all that he owed her, and Behn, upon returning to England, needed money.

Selected picture

The 99th plate illustration from Ernst Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur (1904), showing a variety of hummingbirds.

Credit: Ernst Haeckel

The 99th plate illustration from Ernst Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur (1904), showing a variety of hummingbirds.Kunstformen der Natur (Art Forms of Nature) is a book of lithographic and autotype prints by German biologist Ernst Haeckel. Originally published in sets of ten between 1899 and 1904 and as a complete volume in 1904, it consists of 100 prints of various organisms, many of which were first described by Haeckel himself.

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In the news

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March 14, 2012

After a 244-year span in print, the Encyclopædia Britannica will discontinue its published volumes. With less than 1% of revenue coming from print versions, Jorge Cauz, Britannica's president, indicates there simply is not sufficient demand for the print publication. In the last 11 years demand has plummeted due to competition from Wikipedia and Britannica's own digital version. Britannica peaked in sales in 1990 with 120,000 sets sold. The 2010 edition will be the last in print and has sold 8,000 sets to date; with 4,000 sets remaining.

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Selected biography

Joseph Johnson (engraving by William Sharp after a painting by Moses Haughton)
Joseph Johnson (15 November 1738 – 20 December 1809) was an influential eighteenth-century London bookseller. His publications covered a wide variety of genres and a broad spectrum of opinions on important issues. Johnson is best known for publishing the works of radical thinkers such as Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, and Joel Barlow as well as religious Dissenters such as Joseph Priestley, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, and Gilbert Wakefield.In the 1760s, Johnson established his publishing business, which focused primarily on religious works. He also became friends with Priestley and the artist Henry Fuseli—two relationships that lasted his entire life and brought him much business. In the 1770s and 1780s, Johnson expanded his business, publishing important works in medicine and children's literature as well as the popular poetry of William Cowper and Erasmus Darwin. Throughout his career, Johnson helped shape the thought of his era not only through his publications, but also through his support of innovative writers and thinkers. He fostered the open discussion of new ideas, particularly at his famous weekly dinners, the regular attendees of which became known as the "Johnson Circle".

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