Books in fantasy

This was originally posted to patreon as patron-only content in October 2019.

Given the title and pitch for BOOKS & BONE, it might not surprise you that I spend a lot of time thinking about books as technology and as a resource. When were books as we understand them available, did I want books to be mass-produced or did I want them to be hand-written, how available are books to the every day person, how literate is society?

These were all very important to the flavour of the world but also mechanically to the story. If books are hand-written, they’re more rare but also more valuable. But if they aren’t available, citizens are unlikely to be literate. Does that mean that the only people who can become necromancers must necessarily be wealthy and educated?

It … was a lot to think about. I went with what I hope is the best of both worlds. In Ard, most folk are literate to at least a degree. Printing presses are a new technology not fully on its feet, and the older a magical text is the rarer it is — because it was both handwritten *and* illegal. For me, this meant access to necromancy as a magic was available to anyone who could get their hands on a book, but more powerful necromancy required finding older books — such as in the libraries of Tombtown’s crypt.

On the whole, there’s less paper and more parchment about as well (it lasts better and was available sooner), but both exist as book-making materials.

Just a little musing on worldbuilding and small details, I guess.

And for a more scholarly take on it, the incredible Jeanette Ng has an excellent thread on book production in pre-modern fantasy (with lots of very cool photos of old books):

And an excerpt from BOOKS & BONE for fun:

Once the door was safely locked behind them, Smythe froze, mouth agape. Ree tucked away a tired smile. ‘It is impressive, isn’t it?’ she said. She looked around at the small library, as if seeing it for the first time. It had a small reading room down a set of stairs to the side, and it was lined on all sides with heavy oak shelves and thick tomes in several languages. ‘There are several libraries in the crypt, some from the kings and bureaucrats, some built by some long-ago denizens, before the town was settled. This is one of the smaller ones.’

Smythe walked up to a shelf and ran his hand down the spine of a book. ‘This must be a hundred years old,’ he said. His eyes shone as if he’d just fallen in love.

‘I think that one’s … maybe a hundred and twenty? This isn’t the oldest of the libraries, but it’s cosy.’

Image by Gerhard Gellinger from Pixabay.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top