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Old 11-13-2016, 07:02 PM   #1
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Default 10,000 Books

Every once, in a while, when I'm thinking about what it means to be human in the age of exploding information, and how far we've come as a race, I run across something which gobsmacks me anew.

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Old 11-13-2016, 07:13 PM   #2
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Imagine how that once again soared upwards with the internet.
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Old 11-13-2016, 07:31 PM   #3
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I bet if you ran it according to bits of information and continued it into the present with digital information, the exponential growth would continue on the same line.
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Old 11-13-2016, 08:59 PM   #4
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But 10,000 books, in the entire continent of Europe, in a century! Doesn't that blow you away?
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Old 11-13-2016, 09:07 PM   #5
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Roughly 1000 books a year - my Gawd, they would have been exceptionally precious treasures.

Going to see if I can find an estimate of the population of Europe in the 6th & 7th centuries.
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Old 11-13-2016, 09:13 PM   #6
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Still hunting but so far I've found that the 5th & the 6th centuries sae declines in population due to extreme weather events & massive plagues, including the Plague of Justinian - have to confirm the dates on that one. Yeah - mid to almost the end of the 6th century are the rough dates given for the Plague of Justinian - it wiped out half the population of Europe. The art of illumination & writing of manuscripts wasn't quickly learned & who knows how many were killed?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_demography
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Old 11-13-2016, 09:20 PM   #7
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Having trouble finding a solid number - closest I can get is an estimated world population of several hundred million in the year 500.
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Old 11-13-2016, 09:53 PM   #8
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But 10,000 books, in the entire continent of Europe, in a century! Doesn't that blow you away?
Considering that they were hand written on vellum, and that few people were literate? No.
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Old 11-14-2016, 11:20 AM   #9
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Roughly 1000 books a year
100. For an entire continent.
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Old 11-14-2016, 11:28 AM   #10
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Duh! Sorry about the added zero.
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Old 11-14-2016, 02:45 PM   #11
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I don't remember where I read or heard this but it kind of puts this into perspective: "We'd be colonizing space right now if it weren't for the Dark Age."

10,000 manuscripts for an entire continent in a century is pretty darned dark.
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Old 11-14-2016, 02:57 PM   #12
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Hard to write books when dying of malnutrition, disease, poverty, and warfare is an every day present concern for most people.

As economic and agricultural conditions improved (for enough people) more books began to be written. When an economically viable method of reproducing written works came along book production skyrocketed.

The Dark Ages are called that for a reason.

Other parts of the world were in better shape fortunately.
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Old 11-14-2016, 03:09 PM   #13
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It's a marvel books were commissioned & written. The vellum had to be painstakingly prepared & had to be fairly expensive. Inks either had to be bought from fair distances or mixed up using local materials & I suppose it was difficult to keep batches the same in terms of intensity of colour for the illuminated portions of manuscript.

The illustrators had to be skilled at all aspects of their craft, from whittling quills, to mixing dyes, centering script in their minds, being aware of margin spaces & how they managed hours & hours of writing in poor light... yikes!

I can't imagine how much they cost in relative terms.
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Old 11-14-2016, 05:30 PM   #14
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The Dark Ages (500 AD to 1000 AD - i.e. the first half of the Middle Ages) in Europe experienced adverse climate change and numerous waves of emerging diseases. Even if the social, political and religious environments were conducive to progress, there would have been a lot of headwind.

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I don't remember where I read or heard this but it kind of puts this into perspective: "We'd be colonizing space right now if it weren't for the Dark Age."

10,000 manuscripts for an entire continent in a century is pretty darned dark.
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Old 11-14-2016, 06:00 PM   #15
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The Dark Ages (500 AD to 1000 AD - i.e. the first half of the Middle Ages) in Europe experienced adverse climate change and numerous waves of emerging diseases. Even if the social, political and religious environments were conducive to progress, there would have been a lot of headwind.
True.

But society and technology in middle to northern Europe actually regressed after the Fall of Rome in the late 4th to 5th century. If Europe hadn't needed to spend a few centuries reinventing the wheel, so to speak, who knows how much more developed we'd be by now?
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Old 11-14-2016, 06:53 PM   #16
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If Europe hadn't needed to spend a few centuries reinventing the wheel, so to speak, who knows how much more developed we'd be by now?
This isn't really quite true. More recent historical research is moving away from the idea that society regressed (from a technological standpoint) significantly below the level of the Romans during the Dark Ages. There were innovations in agriculture, maritime technology, astronomy, navigation and other areas that by 1000 AD actually had Europe somewhat ahead of the Roman Empire.

It definitely regressed from a cultural and artistic standpoint though. They simply did not "create" much. Roads and monuments crumbled, and were picked away to use for other, smaller buildings. The fine arts stagnated and focused inwards on religious themes. And, so forth.
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Old 11-14-2016, 09:37 PM   #17
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The fine arts stagnated and focused inwards on religious themes.
Cathedrals.

Walking through Winchester Cathedral and marveling at the pomp, complexity, and sheer size, I excleimed aloud at the amazing amount of pure human effort that must have been involved. How much more advanced would the world have been, I wondered, if so much wealth, labor, and ingenuity not been channeled into these useless monuments?

Which got me an earful from my very Christian companion.

I later wondered whether the lay society i envisioned could have mustered the will to repel the Muslim aggression that almost overwhelmed the continent. Dunno. Lots of moving parts.
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Old 11-14-2016, 09:37 PM   #18
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Close examination of the Book of Kells shows a high degree of sophistication in artistic layout. Folio 30v has been laid out, but was never finished for some reason. (Probably the death of the artist, as the final half of the book is lacking the marvelous work that the first half does.) You can see the very faint lines for the layout if you enlarge the page. They were not pencil lines, but either scoring of the vellum or a stylus made of silver.
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Old 11-14-2016, 09:53 PM   #19
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I spent a fair bit of time in the UK gawping my way through some of the cathedrals, Great Houses & flat out castles. In many cases, the level of workmanship was simply staggering. The attention to detail & the level of workmanship that has literally stood the test of time is stunning. My admiration only grows when I think of the raw labour involved & the learning over time that had to come before that.

On one level these buildings that literally soared over the surrounding landscapes were raw demonstrations of wealth & more importantly, power. I find it easy to forget how much power the Church held back then - it literally regulated every aspect of your life & frequent, visual reminders of that certainly didn't hurt the Church. A little too much free thought & innovation might have resulted in too much open questioning - a matter to be feared & avoided at all costs.
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Old 11-16-2016, 01:25 PM   #20
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Plague of Justinian
Darn you Sue...

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Old 11-16-2016, 02:31 PM   #21
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I owed you one - I had a nightmare involving you of all people, last night.
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Old 11-16-2016, 04:05 PM   #22
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Was something happening to me or because of me?
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Old 11-16-2016, 04:08 PM   #23
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It was all your fault - let me write it up in the Lounge.
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Old 11-17-2016, 10:25 AM   #24
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Darn you Sue...

I am glad I am not the only one, and not just Wikipedia, but that seems to be the worst site for it to happen.

At the end I come away with two things.

The issue (whatever it is) is more complex than I thought.

History textbooks suck.
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Old 11-17-2016, 10:29 AM   #25
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Yes, Wikipedia is the worst for a single site.

I only wanted a quick refresher of the Battle of Rourke's Drift.

By the time I was done I had reviewed three centuries of British history over four continents and had somehow ended up on YouTube watching Cold War Era Civil Defense shorts.
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