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Older Than Print

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The Oldest Ones in the Book
Older Than the NES | Before 1985
Older Than Cable TV | 1939 — 1980
Older Than Television | 1890 — 1939
Older Than Radio | 1698 — 1890
Older Than Steam | 1439 — 1698
Older Than Print | 476 — 1439
Older Than Feudalism | ~800 BC — 476 AD
Older Than Dirt | Before ~800 BC
The Aberdeen Bestiary, c. late 12th century

From the fall of Rome during the 5th century (c. 476 CE) to the invention of movable-type printing. The precise dates vary from region to region, but this was a time when literacy was low and books were rare and cost a king's ransom. In the era before movable type, most documents were hand-written, so if you were a wealthy, educated Blue Blood or church leader and you wanted to read a book, you got your scribes to hand copy the book. Most Western folklore originated here, often echoing earlier tropes. Chivalric Romance and Courtly Love developed in this era.

Note: this is older than Johannes Gutenberg's printing press (1439 CE), not metal movable-type characters (ca. 1230 CE, Korea), movable-type printing (1040 CE, China), and certainly not wood-block printing (220 CE or earlier, China again). These earlier printing methods could be used to cut down the cost of reproduction to 90 percent lower than hand-copying, but they each had drawbacks. Wood blocks used for printing had to be laboriously carved by hand, and then they'd wear out and have to re-carve the entire page.

In short, the Middle Ages — assuming you don't take Petrarch's definition for it, as he lived in the 1300s. Even all things Shakespeare, Don Quixote, and many late medieval and high Renaissance era books are only Older Than Steam.

Specific works from this time period include:

Tropes from this time period: