Narrowing down exactly what the oldest preserved books in the world are is something that is a little tricky, even for scholars. This is because there are a lot of debates about what actually constitutes as a book. For example, do clay tablets or scrolls count? Is the content what matters most or the shape? Does the fact that it is printed or hand written make a difference? Because of these debates, it is unlikely that there will ever be a conclusive answer to what exactly the oldest books in the world are. However, here are five examples of preserved books that are undeniably ancient and of great historical value.
Etruscan Gold Book
This book, which is said to date back to 600 BC, is thought to be the oldest in the world. It was found in an ancient tomb, which was uncovered by accident during construction work on a road. It consists of only six pages, but all of them are made from gold that is fastened with golden rings. The contents of the book include text as well as images of a horseman, lyre, and warriors.
St Cuthbert Gospel
The Cuthbert Gospel is considered to be one of the oldest intact books in the whole of Europe and was buried more than 1300 years ago inside the coffin of Saint Cuthbert. What makes the book so unique is the fact that it still has its original leather cover, dating back to the 7th century. Even more miraculous is the fact that the book not only survived the ravages of time, but also Viking raiders.
Found at a remote Ethiopian monastery, this bible is thought to be one of the earliest illustrated Christian books in existence. It was created by a monk who traveled to Ethiopia in the fifth century and still contains its vivid colors as well as beautiful illustrations. According to experts, this book is amongst the earliest examples of book binding that is still attached to the original pages.
The Codex Selden
The Codex Selden is one of the very few pre-Hispanic Mixtec books to survive the conquest of Mexico by the Spanish. However, what makes it even more remarkable is that after an accidental scratch, it was found that the codex might actually be overlaidon top of an even earlier book. Since traditional x-ray techniques could not be used, it remained a mystery until more than 60 years later when hyperspectral imaging finally revealed the original book underneath the layers of plaster and chalk.
Jewish Prayer Book
This ancient prayer book was tested using sophisticated carbon dating methods and found to have originated in the first half of the 9th century AD. This makes it one of the oldest known Jewish prayer books in existence. It is a 50-page volume containing Hebrew writing, which remarkably still has its original binding. Since Hebrew documents were typically written on scrolls, this book marked a very important find.