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History of the Bookshelf

Roman times

First private bookshelves appeared in homes of wealthy, to store long cylindrical parchment scrolls. Having a bookshelf was a status symbol, up there with bathrooms and hot water.

First century

Codex (handwritten books made of papyrus or vellum) and long scrolls were difficult to store, so people decided to hide them away in chests or closed bookcases called Armaria which were widely used until the Middle Ages.

8th Century China

Chinese develop a rotating bookcase for Buddhist scripts; an early version of our public library carousels.

Middle ages

Books are stacked any which way; flat on the shelf, spines to the back of the shelf because books are irregularly shaped, or embossed with jewels. The main reason is because books are chained. Chained libraries in monasteries are the equivalent to public libraries. The chained library at Hereford Cathedral is largest example still intact.

1703 Samuel Pepys

On Samuel Pepys death in 1703, he’d collected over 3,000 books in his personal library. He was very particular about how the books were arranged; stating in his will that the books should " strictly reviewed and, where found requiring it, more nicely adjusted".

1800 Children’s miniature bookcases

John Marshall created tiny libraries for children that were more toys than books and they proved very popular. They were created with the idea of making books and reading seem more of a ‘sport’ than a ‘task’.

1862 First children’s public library

Manchester public library created the first dedicated children’s area. Later, children’s libraries had designated areas, or tables to separate boys and girls.

1930s “Where there are bookshelves, there will be books”

So said ‘father of spin’ Edward Bernays, who worked with publishers in the US to get the public to buy more books in the Depression era. He started the home decor trend for built in bookshelves, and for displaying your home library. It became so popular that you could buy mimic books; sheets of card, printed to look like a row of books so that your bookshelf did not look embarrassingly empty.

2004 The first Tidy Books Bookcase

Created by Geraldine for her daughter, in her violin workshop. The first children’s bookcase for the home that displays books face-out. Geraldine revolutionized kid’s home libraries.

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