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Fighting for Kansas veterans -4/17/2014, 10:25 AM

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Does losing due process create inadequacies? -4/16/2014, 10:09 AM

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On with the prom -4/15/2014, 8:57 AM

Newman proud to be in western Kansas -4/14/2014, 8:57 AM

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Wake up, people, and see the danger we’re in -4/13/2014, 12:03 PM

Patronizing paychecks -4/13/2014, 12:03 PM

Stripping of teachers’ due process worrisome -4/13/2014, 6:11 AM

The Kansas Ministry of Truth -4/13/2014, 6:14 AM

Letterman, Hillary and Jeb: 21st Century symbols -4/13/2014, 6:10 AM

Expensive school bill -4/13/2014, 6:12 AM

How to assist evil -4/11/2014, 9:15 AM

Taxing life away -4/11/2014, 9:12 AM

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The talk radio party? -4/10/2014, 11:04 AM

Term limits -4/10/2014, 11:06 AM

Let's do what we do best -4/10/2014, 11:05 AM

Satisfying the court -4/9/2014, 10:45 AM

Late-night funding fight -4/9/2014, 10:44 AM

‘Farmland’ — art is life on screen -4/9/2014, 10:45 AM

Tradition not changing -4/8/2014, 12:02 PM

Flat as a pancake -4/8/2014, 11:22 AM

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Exposure to violence threatens children’s future -4/8/2014, 11:23 AM

Battling MS -4/7/2014, 8:58 AM

Why Renewable Fuel Standard matters -4/7/2014, 9:23 AM

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Are 'religious viewpoint' laws needed in schools? -4/6/2014, 2:11 PM

School non-funding -4/6/2014, 2:11 PM

Sex and race equality -4/4/2014, 8:08 AM

Rest of the story -4/4/2014, 8:08 AM

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Not merely water under the bridge -4/3/2014, 9:51 AM

Federal fine -4/3/2014, 9:51 AM

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School funding battle continues -4/2/2014, 9:59 AM

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Will Hays enter the 21st century? -4/1/2014, 10:09 AM

Tax breaks -4/1/2014, 10:09 AM

Hobby Lobby case a slippery slope -3/31/2014, 9:16 AM

Happy birthday, Gloria -3/31/2014, 9:16 AM

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Healthy aging -3/30/2014, 11:37 AM

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As temperatures rise, pay attention to stored grain -3/30/2014, 3:49 PM

Bizarre arguments and behavior -3/28/2014, 10:06 AM

In your dreams -3/28/2014, 10:06 AM

Against the wind -3/28/2014, 10:05 AM

Discovering the salt of the earth -3/28/2014, 10:05 AM

Entrepreneurship key to economic growth -3/27/2014, 8:36 AM

Kansas goes Kremlin with arrests, secrecy -3/27/2014, 8:36 AM

Get ready for Arbor Day -3/26/2014, 2:03 PM

Reading between the lines -3/26/2014, 2:02 PM

Switching parties -3/26/2014, 1:53 PM

Putting a price tag on damages -3/25/2014, 10:13 AM

Privately piercing, serious sacrifice -3/25/2014, 10:13 AM

Autism bill passes House -3/25/2014, 10:13 AM

United stance -3/25/2014, 10:13 AM

Legislative session getting down to the end -3/25/2014, 10:12 AM

Taxation bill involving livestock successful -3/25/2014, 10:12 AM

STARBASE Day hits Topeka -3/24/2014, 10:13 AM

Judging based on accomplishments -3/24/2014, 10:14 AM

Who speaks for the voiceless? -3/24/2014, 10:14 AM

Fly Hays -3/23/2014, 1:12 PM

Learning from the candidates -3/23/2014, 1:12 PM

hedy -3/21/2014, 1:12 PM

-3/20/2014, 9:59 AM

Fred Phelps -3/20/2014, 9:59 AM

Is There Wage Stagnation? -3/20/2014, 9:58 AM

Cost of living, wages don't add up -3/20/2014, 4:01 PM

Legislative proposal raises questions -3/20/2014, 4:01 PM

No vote on war -3/19/2014, 3:32 PM

Wonder of St. Fidelis -3/19/2014, 4:01 PM

Protein for breakfast -3/19/2014, 2:58 PM

A pointed comment on guns -3/19/2014, 8:57 AM

Campaign madness -3/19/2014, 2:58 PM

Counting the cost of Kansas' Medicaid expansion -3/18/2014, 9:26 AM

Tax-relief spells a sure vote -3/18/2014, 9:26 AM

Tourney madness -3/18/2014, 9:25 AM

St. Patrick's Day -- The value of Irish humor -3/16/2014, 5:44 PM

Not all things are bad -3/16/2014, 5:44 PM

Supreme Court takes Legislature to school -3/16/2014, 5:43 PM

Parochial education -3/16/2014, 5:43 PM

Governed by rules, not men -3/14/2014, 10:00 AM

More guns: Merrier or scarier? -3/14/2014, 10:00 AM

The war on women -3/13/2014, 9:51 AM

Labeling the education can -3/13/2014, 9:51 AM

Taking exception -3/12/2014, 2:03 PM

Choose wisely in today's society -3/12/2014, 2:02 PM

Budget concerns -3/12/2014, 2:01 PM

Courting judicial changes -3/11/2014, 10:33 AM

House now on home stretch -3/11/2014, 10:33 AM

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SPOTLIGHT
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In praise of books

Published on -12/15/2013, 3:21 PM

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I always have loved books. I love their feel, their solidity. I love their heady mixture of scents -- paper, ink, sometimes leather, even dust. I love to walk the stacks of a library, looking at the titles, removing the occasional book for closer inspection. Books are my constant companions.

I own cookbooks and prayer books, scholarly books and books for fun, books for reference, and books that just look nice in the bookcase. When I was a child, I would get out of going to school as often as possible so I could stay home and read. At school, I would sometimes miss group activities because I was absorbed in reading a book.

I could not, and cannot, live without books.

Few people realize books are a relatively modern invention. Around the fifth century, when Christianity spread from Rome to northern Europe, monks invented books for educational purposes (to teach other monks to read and write and to help them convert and teach local populations everything from agriculture to medicine).

The invention of the book parallels our modern progress from tape to digital technology. The ancient world knew only scrolls, rolls of parchment (sheepskin) or papyrus (reed). This made it difficult to look anything up, since, as with a tape, you had to scroll through the document to find the desired information. Like CDs and computer files, books are more practical, since they enable you to go directly to the right place.

Many Medieval manuscripts are beautiful as well as instructive. Scribes unused to reading and writing seem to have viewed the characters on the leaf (manuscript page) as works of art in themselves (since everything was in Latin, only experienced monks could read well enough to know what the words meant). But scribes embellished margins and capital letters with all kinds of doodles--angels, devils, animals and plants. Sometimes they wrote down poetry from oral tradition for practice in handwriting--these treasures occasionally turn up, recycled as padding in leather manuscript covers. Later, artists decorated biblical stories and Books of Hours with sumptuous illustrations, using gold leaf and other precious materials. Later still, during periods when wealthy lay people could afford a library, elaborate manuscripts of love poetry, Arthurian and heroic narratives appeared.

Toward the end of the Middle Ages, paper began to replace parchment, and the price of ink went down. This enabled the newly emerging merchant class to afford books.

These people had to learn how to read and write so they could conduct their businesses.

But the big breakthrough in book production occurred circa 1450, when Johann Gutenberg invented moveable type. Prior to this, printers had to cut a new block print for every page or small group of pages. Gutenberg's press, a frame into which letters quickly could be set, then removed to be replaced by others, made printing large numbers of longer books practical. This made books, therefore education, accessible to nearly everyone.

It also promoted the development of standard written languages because printers could sell their books over a larger area if they avoided local dialects.

I welcome the convenience and effectiveness of digital technology, but think the world will be greatly impoverished if books, physical and intellectual documents of the history of our civilization, ever fall into disuse and decay.

Ruth Firestone, Hays, is a frequent contributor to The Hays Daily News.

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