Have you ever wondered or looked into the history of books and how they are made?
For the protagonist of Ascendance of a Bookworm, our next Light Novel Club title, that sort of information turned from fun trivia to a matter of grave importance. As a total bookworm, she spent her days practically buried in books, until one day an earthquake literally and painfully buried her in books falling from her bookshelf. She does get reincarnated into another world, though, so she figures she’s fine as long as that other world has books to read too. Unfortunately for her, she is reincarnated as Myne, a sickly five-year-old daughter of a poor soldier, whose house has not a single sheet of paper. Books do exist, but they are incredibly expensive and only owned by nobles, so as far as Myne is concerned, she has no chance of getting ahold of books…
Well, if you cannot get any books, why not make them yourself?
And thus, Myne begins her ordeal in learning how to make books. Of course, she first has to figure out how to make something to write on, and not only is her own knowledge of the history of book-making somewhat spotty, but there is also the matter of procuring the necessary materials, which might not even exist in this new fantasy world (though interesting alternatives might be available). Her sickly body certainly does not make matters any easier. But Myne is determined to make a book, and in the process she learns firsthand just how complex the process is.
Just how important are books and the various inventions associated with books? For Christians, at the very least, there is one book that stands as the foundation of our faith, considered to be the very Word of God: the Bible. However, would Christianity even exist if it were not for the ability to write down Scriptures onto something that could be stored for future generations? Imagine what our faith would be like if we had to rely entirely on oral tradition. How important were the discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other manuscripts in eventually putting together what we now recognize as the Bible?
Even with the Bible compiled, what would our faith look like if the Bible was not readily available to people? Modern Christians probably cannot imagine a life when they cannot open up a Bible at home, whether for a devotional session or even just for some inspirational verses. And yet, before the invention of the printing press, the idea of every person owning a Bible was preposterous; books were so expensive that only a few privileged people could own them. If you were a commoner with no connections, you would go to church to hear the priest read from the Bible, and that was pretty much it until the next time you went to church. But then, the printing press was invented, the Gutenberg Bible was mass-produced, and suddenly the idea of having a Bible at home to read was no longer out of reach for the common people.
And as technology marches onward, how might the Bible further benefit from new advances? How might the availability of the Bible as an e-book, or on websites like BibleGateway, change the way we go about the Christian mission? What inventions might people come up with for the sake of spreading the Word?
Of course, all of the above also applies to all other kinds of books in the world. How much has education advanced because we can put knowledge in a book and let people read them at home? How has the boom of fictional literature thanks to the proliferation of books changed lives across history? Would we even have an “otaku culture” if manga and light novels either never existed, or were out of reach for the common people?
I really like learning about how the common things in our life that we oftentimes take for granted developed throughout history. Not only is the information fascinating in and of itself, but also, it allows me to appreciate the contributions of the historical people and civilizations involved. And in the greater picture, I come to appreciate how God has guided human history in the development of things like books, and in turn, consider how I can use these things in my Christian life.
As such, I definitely enjoyed Myne’s exploration of primitive book-making in Ascendance of a Bookworm. Whether you are also interested in a story about a bookworm trying to make books in a world where they are still hard to get, or just want to try a light novel that does not follow the usual overpowered isekai protagonist story, why not read volume 1 and join our discussion in two weeks?