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Oldest printed book, published without copyright

A note from my friend Paul Vahur about an interesting tidbit from Will Durant’s The Story of Civilization:

Continuing to listen the Story of Civilization. I found this nice gem:

“In 1907 Sir Aurel Stein persuaded the Taoist priests of Chinese Turkestan to let him examine the “Caves of the Thousand Buddhas” at Tun-huang. In one of these chambers, which had apparently been walled up about the year 1035 A.D. and not opened again until 1900, lay 1130 bundles, each containing a dozen or more manuscript rolls; the whole formed a library of 15,000 books, written on paper, and as well preserved as if they had been inscribed the day before their modern discovery. It was among these manuscripts that the world’s oldest printed book was found-the “Diamond Sutra”—a roll ending with these words: “Printed on (the equivalent of) May 1 I, 868, by Wang Chieh, for free general distribution, in order in deep reverence to perpetuate the memory of his parents.” Three other printed books were found in the mass of manuscripts; one of them marked a new development, for it was not a roll, like the “Diamond Sutra,” but a tiny folded book, the first known of its now multitudinous kind.”

(emphasis added). Of course, this paragraph was written in 1935 and maybe even older printed books have been found since then but it is still cool and especially the free general distribution part.

If anyone would ask me which is the best way to learn world history, my answer would be Durant’s “Story of Civilization”. This book is just amazing. It is almost antithesis of a typical history book where descriptions of wars and battles are interrupted by short descriptions of normal life, in SoC it is vice-versa. I’m really enjoying reading that book.

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To the extent possible under law, Stephan Kinsella has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to C4SIF. This work is published from: United States. In the event the CC0 license is unenforceable a  Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License is hereby granted.