Bayswater's Find of the Week on the Used Book Floor Blog

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Earliest Wine

     Our find this week takes us back to 1991, 1971, and, finally, 3500 B.C. – all in one swoop!  How is this possible?  Behold, the power of a hidden treasure tucked into the pages of an old used book.

     It is not unusual for the book that contains our find to be just as interesting as the find, itself, and this week is no exception.  Our book is a first edition, limited printing of Hugh Johnson’s “The World Atlas of Wine,” published in 1971.  This book contains 272 pages of pictures, articles and maps that, together, create a comprehensive reference book for any wine enthusiast.  Beyond the printed pages, however, the book actually contains much more.  This gem was once so loved by its previous owner that it was filled with newspaper and magazine clippings from several different publications spanning decades, providing additional insight and new discoveries to enhance the topics in the book. 

     It was one of these newspaper clippings that caught our eye and helped to make this rare book part of our “find of the week” collection.  Tucked into pages 187-188 was an article from the New York Times entitled, “The Earliest Wine: Vintage 3500 B.C. and Robust” printed in April of 1991.  This article detailed the discovery of an earthen jar from Sumerian ruins in Iran containing rich-colored deposits that were high in tartaric acid - almost certainly the traces of ancient wine.  The jar, with its narrow mouth, tall neck, earthen stopper and rudimentary seal, was deemed to be ideal for storing liquids at the time. 

     Previous to this discovery, little research had been found to point to the earliest origin and first uses of wine.  With this find, however, the article now suggests that wine was consumed long before Noah planted his vineyard after the flood, or the “first toast was drunk to Dionysus on the shores of Homer’s dark-wine sea.”  In addition, other items such as a stone-bead necklace and a marble bowl were unearthed next to the jars.  These objects were deemed to be luxury items at the time, suggesting that even in 3500 B.C., wine may have been a high-end item, or status symbol, as it is often considered to be today. 

     A first-edition book, many old magazine and newspaper clippings, and the discovery of ancient jars that could contain the first evidence of wine – all previously hidden on one of the shelves of our used books!  To get in on the historic (and wine-filled) fun, “The World Atlas of Wine” can be yours for the price of $25.00.  You can catch up with our previous finds of the week from the used book floor at and on facebook. Better yet, stop by our store in Center Harbor and check out the used book floor for yourself!