Today in the Middle Ages: May 11, 868

The earliest known printed book was created on May 11, 868 in China. The text was the Buddhist Diamond Sutra, a classic work of meditative Buddhism which stresses the importance of avoiding extremes of attachment.

The work was actually a scroll composed of seven sheets and printed using woodcut blocks. It included one woodcut illustration. Although it is the earliest printed example extant, its quality suggests that woodblock printing was already well developed in China by 868.

The scroll was discovered in 1900 in a cave in Kansu Province.