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The word comes from Old English "bōc" which (itself) comes from the Germanic root "*bōk-", cognate to beech. Similarly, in Slavic languages (for example, Russian, Bulgarian, Macedonian) "буква" (bukva—"letter") is cognate with "beech". In Russian and in Serbian and Macedonian, another Slavic languages, the words "букварь" (bukvar') and "буквар" (bukvar), respectively, refer specifically to a primary school textbook that helps young children master the techniques of reading and writing. It is thus conjectured that the earliest Indo-European writings may have been carved on beech wood. Similarly, the Latin word codex, meaning a book in the modern sense (bound and with separate leaves), originally meant "block of wood".

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