A new “oldest book in the world” has been discovered! And it’s about tax records pertaining to beer and olive oil.
Researchers at Special Collections at Graz University Library recently…
…came across an Egyptian papyrus from the 3rd century BC [that] shows evidence of sewing, indicating that it must have been part of a book in codex form. Being 400 years older than the earliest known books to date, the find challenges the currently accepted timeline of book history.
The fragment, which measures 6 by 10 inches, was first discovered in 1902 in the Egyptian necropolis of Hibeh as part of a mummy’s wrapping, and seems to be from a notebook accounting for the taxation of beer and olive oil. According to the curator, Theresa Zammit Lupi, who first discovered the tell-tale evidence of stitching:
First I saw a piece of thread, only then did I notice the format of a book. I saw a central fold, the stitching holes and the written text within clearly defined margins on the papyrus. As a conservator, it feels very special to contribute to the history of the book. At the same time, you think it’s surreal. It’s like watching a movie!
Not exactly Indiana Jones material, but cool nonetheless.