It’s National Read A Book Day, which brings to mind an article from HowStuffWorks called “What is the oldest book in the world?”

Answering that question is a little harder than just looking at the title pages of each book and finding the oldest publication date.

The experts in the article said you first have to define what a book actually is.

For example, they point to the Epic of Gilgamesh, a poem written in ancient Mesopotamia.

The most famous version, on display at the British Museum, is from the 7th Century BCE, more than 2,500 years old.

But it was written with cuneiform script into clay tablets, not pieces of paper bound together.

So is it a book?

Or, take some of the writings from ancient Egypt.

There are poems and songs in praise of the pharoahs that are over three thousand years old.

But those were written on long scrolls of papyrus, also not traditional books.

And before there were books, or clay tablets, or scrolls, there were oral traditions.

Humans have been sharing stories and ideas aloud for even longer than they’ve been writing them down.

But none of this is to say there aren’t really old books.

The one that may be the oldest multipage bound book ever found is at the National Museum of History in Bulgaria.

It’s six pages long, it’s illustrated, and it’s made of 24 carat gold.

But its text is in ancient Etruscan, a language scholars haven’t been able to decipher.

So even if we know what the oldest book is, that doesn’t mean we can read it.

We’re getting close to what the website McSweeney’s once famously and profanely referred to as decorative gourd season.

Ithaca, New York is home to a tribute to the world of growing, eating, sharing and decorating gourds of all kinds.

It’s known as Gourdlandia.

What Is the Oldest Book in the World? (HowStuffWorks)

Ithaca is ‘gourd-geous’: Welcome to Gourdlandia, where the world’s most versatile vegetable is transformed into art (Roadtrippers)

Our Patreon backers are as wise as a classic book

Photo by Garry Knight via Flickr/Creative Commons