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Booktopia - Surviving the Holocaust, Freestyle Express: On the Front Line (Hardcover) by Cath Senker, 9781410921970. Writing and literature are thought to have been first developed between the 7th and 4th millenium BC.
We have tried to pull together what we hope is an interesting range of some of the oldest surviving books in the world. Most likely produced in Yucatan, the book is written in Yucatecan, a group of Mayan languages which includes Yucatec, Itza, Lacandon and Mopan.
Experts disagree on the exact date the Madrid Codex was created, though it is said by some to have been made before the Spanish conquest of the 16th century. The book is thought to be have been created in the 11th century AD, making it Scotland’s oldest surviving book. A Buddhist holy text, the Diamond Sutra is considered to be the oldest surviving dated printed book in the world.
Found in a walled up cave in China along with other printed materials, the book is made up of Chinese characters printed on a scroll of grey printed paper, wrapped along a wooden pole.
The book was copied by a man called Wong Jei, in May 868 AD, on the instruction of his parents, which is noted at the end of the text. The complete parchment, still in its original binding, is so old that it contains Babylonian vowel pointing – akin to the Old or Middle English for the English language.


The Book of Kells is kept in the Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland, and is thought to have been created by Celtic monks around 800 AD. The book is an incredibly ornate illuminated manuscript Gospel book, written in Latin, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament. The book was buried with St Cuthbert, an early British Christian leader, on the island of Lindisfarne off Northumberland, in around 698 AD.
Only just surviving the Vikings conquests, the book was moved to Durham to avoid Viking raiders, narrowly escaping destruction. The book was again rediscovered in 1104 AD, with an inscription added to the inside cover (see image below). The books, containing Gnostic texts, are dated from around the first half of the 4th century AD.
Found in 1964 in the excavation of a sanctuary in ancient Pyrgi, Italy, the three gold plates date back to 500 BC. Two are written in Etruscan text, with one written in Phoenician – comprising of a dedication from King Thefarie Velianas to the Phoenician goddess Astarte. Thought to be the oldest multi-page book in the world, dating to about 660 BC, the Etruscan Gold Book was discovered 70 years ago whilst digging a canal off the Strouma river in Bulgaria.
The plates are written in Etruscan characters, and also depicted is a horse, horseman, a Siren, a lyre, and soldiers.


The book was donated to Bulgaria’s National History Museum in Sofia, by an anonymous 87 year old donor.
Since the dawn of writing an incredible array of different materials have been used for recording text, including clay, silk, pottery, papyrus, even coffins – so the question of the oldest surviving book depends very much on how you classify one.
This definition rules out clay tablets, scrolls and similar, though many scholars have expanded the definition to include any significant piece of writing bound together inside a cover. Some scholars have considered that a significant book should contain a worldview, setting it apart from mere accounting or administrative records.
We cover everything from the earliest surviving printed books, to the oldest known surviving book in existence. The above image is of the New York Public Library’s copy, the first to come to the USA. The pocket-sized book of Psalms is housed at the University of Edinburgh, where it went on public display in 2009 for the first time.




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