Definition of incunabulum in English from the Oxford Dictionary:
noun plural incunabula
• An early printed book, especially one printed before 1501.
Early 19th century: from Latin incunabula (neuter plural) ‘swaddling clothes, cradle’, from in- ‘into’ + cunae ‘cradle’.
What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”
Cosmos, Part 11: The Persistence of Memory (1980)
Carl Sagan, Cosmos
When we began the world was made
of hands and eyes – fingers and winks.
We wove a sense of what the light
revealed and the dark consumed by dancing
our extremities in plain sight, waving
our meaning, daubing our understanding
onto walls and growling out a soundtrack like
the wolves and bears.
Then words were licked into life by tongues
stirring in their bone and water beds.
Ululation into utterance, one day, one night
when sudden light or no light at all
twisted noise into a loop of syllables;
or something was born by breath in the heat
of loving after the fire had died; or something
out of grieving congregated in a mouth a drift
of stones that rattled into meaning and spat
sense that all could share and say again and again.
Then the scribes tugged our pictograms from walls
and with those tongues pushing out a bottom lip,
they penned them slowly, rush-lit night and day,
across the calfskin, line upon line. Golden ciphers,
language wrapped in arabesques, concealed in
foliate compartments, locked into floral curlicues
and stalked by fantastical beasts across the vellum.
All our words licked now by gall and gum, by
iron salts and lampblack, a cultivation so sublime
that each word lifted sits in the mouthlike a fig
plucked from the highest branch. Princes
and priests turn the juices on their tongues and tell
the kneeling penitents how good they taste.
O believe! Have faith! You only need to hear
our words beneath a vaulted ceiling and transaction,
intercession are assured. Your hollow syllables turned
into a fall of bells, all your raw vernacular stacked
like bricks inside the architecture of a hymn.