Book ‘em, Danno!’

Have you ever thought of the many ways in which we use the term ‘book’?

We can use it as a noun to refer to a set of pages, bound together in some way, which may or may not have written matter on it. Usually we assume it will have a cover too.

Nowadays, we expect our books to be written on some form of paper or card. In the past, books could be written on the prepared skin of calf, sheep or goat and called parchment. Words were also carved into ivory or wood. The resultant book would consist of only two or three ‘pages’, but could still be classified as a book.

Other definitions of ‘book’ include: brochure, handbook, manual, textbook, volume, opus, tome and tract. Whatever their name, most are written with the intention of publishing for others to read. There are other uses. Account books provide us with a means to write down our income and expenses, to keep track of our finances and spending via our cheque book. We can buy books set out with lines for writing in, squares for drawing or maths, with staves for writing music or pages that are completely blank for drawing on.

‘Book’ can also be used as a verb, such as when we book a room, book a ticket to the theatre or even book a holiday.

If we are very unlucky, we may be booked by the police for some infringement of the law or by a referee if we indulge in foul play at a football match.

We delight in reading in the papers that some miscreant, who has been cooking the books, has been brought to book and, no matter if they try every trick in the book to avoid court, we expect their trial to be strictly by the book.

Some folk can be read people like an open book, others are very much a closed book. Though in my book, we should all be on the same page or we will just have to read between the lines. Always remembering, naturally, that you cannot judge a book by its covers.

Some books are not actually called books; they have special names. Most of us will have an album of some sort for our collection of photographs or stamps; we may have an atlas of maps and probably a diary for daily jottings.

Few of us will need an armorial to look up any coats of arms in our family history, but perhaps a grimoire of sorcery and magic could be useful? Probably best to get it as a bibelot (miniature book) so it can easily be hidden. Where you would place a bestiary, is a matter of debate. This medieval collection of descriptions and illustrations of real and mythical animals is intended to be moralizing but some you may not want to show it to the vicar. As writers we should all have in our collections a Commonplace book – a notebook in which to jot down quotations, poems, remarks, etc.

In the Huddersfield Authors’ Circle, we probably think of ourselves as bookish or bookworms. We are definitely all bibliophiles, which comes from the Greek ‘biblio’ (book) and philos (friend).

Where did the word ‘book’ come from? The Old English word ‘boc’ originally meant a document or charter. It is probable that it came from the word for ‘beech’ since that wood is very hard and was often used for carving runes.

The Latin word ‘codex’, which means a book, one with separate leaves and a bound cover, originally meant ‘block of wood’. So be very careful next time you decide to throw the book at someone.


By Vivien T

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