A History of Reading (A collab. with Tia@Tall Blonde Tales)

Hope you’re all doing great! Today’s post is a collaboration with Tia @ Tall Blonde Tales. She is an amazing friend who writes on relatable lifestyle topics in an informative and interactive manner. Apart from being a brilliant blogger, she is also a Potterhead! You have got to check out her Harry Potter bucket lists, they are fantastic!

Since, the both of us share a common love for reading, what better topic than that, to collaborate on? She penned down a stunning post mentioning the benefits of reading. Make sure you check out her take on the benefits of reading here!

And now for a blast back into the past (and eventual return)! Boy, I wish I could stay there for a while..


I find it rather amusing that you’re reading a post about the history of reading while questioning your reading practices(at least overthinkers would!) I’ll get started by explaining what reading means, quoting Wikipedia of course, “Reading is the complex cognitive process of decoding symbols to derive meaning. It is a form of language processing. Reading is a means for language acquisition, communication, and sharing information and ideas.”

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels

I know history is often considered a boring subject by many but reading has saved and continues to save many lives both figuratively and literally, that I think not knowing a brief account of its history is almost a crime. Reading as an asocial solo activity is actually a relatively recent phenomenon. 

Let’s go through its history one century at a time. Print technology dates back to as far as AD 594. The earliest kind of print technology, which was a system of hand printing was developed in China, Japan and Korea. According to Wikipedia, “The history of reading dates back to the invention of writing during the 4th millennium BC”. 

The 13th, 14th and 15th centuries (one century at a time after this, I promise):

In 1295, i.e the 13th century, Marco Polo returned to Europe after a period of exploration in China. He brought the Chinese art of woodblock printing along with his return expediting the spread of this technology across Europe which subsequently, led to an increase in the demand for books which in turn, led to booksellers exporting books to many different countries. Johann Gutenberg came to the rescue when booksellers found it increasingly difficult to keep up with rapidly increasing demands by inventing a new method of printing. The Gutenberg Bible is known to be the first printed book and was printed in Europe in 1445 by Johannes Gutenberg.

Fast forward to the 17th century:

By the 17th century, text technologies like moveable type and the rise of vernacular writing gave birth to the leisure reading we practice today. Also, as urban culture gained more popularity in China, uses of print diversified.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels

The 18th century:

Quoting Wikipedia yet again, “during the Age of Enlightenment (1715-1789), elite individuals promoted passive reading, rather than creative interpretation. Reading has no concrete laws, but lets readers escape to produce their own products introspectively, promoting deep exploration of texts during interpretation.” Reading played an important role in the French Revolution(1789) where controversial views were published and spread in the form of brochures and magazines. These were also read aloud for the benefit of the illiterate. Naturally, through the 17th and 18th centuries, literacy rates increased in many parts of Europe.

The 18th century had some peculiar views which included considering the act of reading in bed as dangerous and immoral. It was also thought that reading would cause women to question existing practices and beliefs. This was a widespread belief in many countries around the world.

We’re almost there i.e the 21st century.  Before the Industrial Revolution (1760-1840), only a tiny percentage of the population in many countries were considered literate. Europeans who could read did so aloud, Ancient Greeks and the monks of Europe did the same too. Classical Athens and the Islamic Caliphate were among the few pre-modern societies where the literacy levels were comparatively high. 

Photo by Wendy van Zyl on Pexels

The 19th century, finally:

 By the 19th century, mandatory schooling, cheaper production, and wider availability of books caused a noticeable increase in the literacy rate which benefitted reading. Towards the end  of the 19th century, gas and electric lighting also ensured that reading didn’t have to be limited to the day time.The development and subsequent growth of the rail network helped make novels cheaper still at railway stations. Spreading of literacy and diverse kinds of reading material led to people reading more voraciously (newspapers and periodicals) and by the late 1800s i.e the 19th century, it had branched out into children’s literature and novels. 

The 20th century to the now:

Well, soon after came the 20th century where reading as we know became something of a usual act ranging from educational purposes to mental relaxation purposes. Something of a turning point in the 21st century was the increasing popularity of ebooks which substituted a large number of hard copies and became highly preferred due to the ease of use and portability it provided. But, interestingly, starting back in 1971, Michael S. Hart launched Project Gutenberg and digitized the U.S. Declaration of Independence, which became the first eBook in the world. The idea soon gained popularity and its public use skyrocketed with various companies producing their own e-readers and e-books.

This is by no means, a wholesome or compact history. We compiled information from a variety of sources and have mainly focused on the development of reading as both an act and hobby from the 13th century to the present while laying special emphasis on the European part although much of everything mentioned here took place at relatively the same time everywhere with variations due to socio-economic conditions and traditional beliefs in particular places.

So, that was all for the history. A huge thank you to Tia for doing this with me! I had great fun working with her! Don’t forget to check out her take on reading’s benefits here! Thank you so much for reading! Let me know what you think!

Previously on Random Specific Thoughts:
Disney Q&A with Renee

Similar Posts:
Parallels of Life (ft. Eleanor@Wishing Upon A Star)
Harry Potter Q&A with Aanya
Q&A with Catie

Just a Thought….#2 // Imagination

Imagination is the only weapon in the war with reality.
– Cheshire Cat (from Alice in Wonderland)

I wonder what life would be like if all the fictional books we read was the real life and we were all fictional. Would they be bored or fascinated with our lives? I know for a fact that I’m not bored or fascinated when I read Harry Potter or Alice in Wonderland, I want to be there with them, be a part of their world.

Books are the only weapons I have to wage a war with my reality. I crave more magic and excitement in my life. It’s funny what imagination can do. It provides us a brief respite from the world outside. We could live in our daydreams forever, but that just isn’t practical.

Like everything else, the difficult path is often the right and practical path to take. The ability to imagine is a gift, one that we should preserve.

Cherish each word, each story, each dream and each piece of imagination because they are all that you have to preserve your sanity. I dream and read about things that I know I can never have. I’ve often considered the reason I read. I think it’s because it is the only way that I can live life and the life that I want simultaneously.

Big-hearted Books


“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”

George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5)

Some find it difficult to believe that books could be a person’s best friend, others think it’s ridiculous to make reading one’s hobby. Books come in many shapes, sizes, colours with varying personalities just like people do. Although they can’t literally talk, they speak through words we can’t hear, but can feel.

A book is always written by a person who is unique in themselves. It is an exhibition of that person’s perceptive knowledge or his/her ability to imagine. Sometimes a book may even be a pathway to the deep and unexplored places of a man’s mind. Anything that is written by a person be it a story, a poem, an article or an essay is always unique and different in the sense that it’s author is a unique individual.

A book may be singular in terms of speaking but once you delve deeper into it, you’ll realise that the ideas and thoughts that the books beholds is anything but singular. The concepts, the ideas, the characters each with a different personality etc. just make the book seem a new world in itself.

Reading books not only widens our perspective towards life and everything but also opens up newer avenues for opportunities. It can be a source of inspiration or sorrow.

Just like food, air, water or shelter, books too are a necessity. Books are the keys to worlds that remain unopened to many. There’s a world for each of us out there. Each book makes up a small adventure as we venture out into the marvelous world of imagination.

But then again, not all books are fictional. Non- fiction is a genre of books that shows us the true face of mankind. Some help us in relating our lives to other lives out there. They don’t make life exciting, they make us aware of what ‘living’ really means. They make us feel grateful for everything we have. Above all, they help us realise that our lives could be someone else’s dream.

Books have a huge heart simply because they remain unaffected by evils like greed and hatred. They will always have a big heart, ready to help anyone who’s curious enough to explore their pages, even when humans fail to do so.