The first phone directory was printed February 21, 1878, in New Haven, Connecticut, with fifty names of people and businesses, but no numbers. The people who made that list made history. It didn’t matter that their names were on a sheet of cardboard.
The cardboard directory listed anyone with telephones, and New Haven was the place where Alexander Graham Bell first demonstrated his invention two years previously. So it made sense that’s where the invention first caught on.
The first telephone exchange network was founded with twenty-one subscribers, which ballooned by the time the directory came out. No phone numbers were needed for the directory due to the switchboard invented to accommodate multiple call locations. Most people resisted the idea of dialing a number themselves well into the twentieth century, preferring to speak to the switchboard operator, who would direct their calls.
The first actual telephone “book” was published in November of 1878, and a copy was sold in 2008 for $170,500. The first phone books also included instructions for using the telephone since people were known to yell into the wrong part.
The phone book was cutting-edge technology 143 years ago. The familiar expression “I’m in the book” came after its introduction. But these days, the phone book has almost become extinct due to modern technology, much like rotary telephones and switchboard operators.
We have come a long way from those early days when phones were used primarily for business. We still occasionally find big, heavy volumes at our front doors, although not as often as in past years. And, if you’re like me, those volumes that still arrive find their way to the recycle bin.
Are you in the book?
In 2010, the Google Books team used a unique way to count the global number of unique print books last year and came up with 129,864,880 books. I’m pretty sure phone books aren’t included, but other directories likely are, and for which “I’m in the book” would be an honor to claim.
But there’s yet another book of names not included in the Google list which holds far more significance than the phone directory or volumes recounting outstanding achievements—and one for which “I’m in the book” has far greater significance: the Lamb’s book of life.
While baptizing in the Jordon River, John the Baptist identified the Lamb when he saw Jesus walking toward him, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Being listed in his book has eternal significance.
The Lamb’s book of life is referenced several times in Revelation, and the book of life is referred to throughout Scripture. According to Revelation 21:27, only those whose names are found in this book will enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus told his disciples not to rejoice in their authority over the power of evil, but to “rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). Paul talked about his fellow laborers “whose names are in the book of life” (Philippians 4:3).
Unlike the accomplishments listed beside names in the achievement volumes we might find on Google’s list of books, the Lamb’s book of life lists one accomplishment: the cross of Jesus. Those who receive Jesus’ sacrifice for sin and make him Lord of their lives can proudly proclaim, “I’m in the book.”
Then we can say with the Apostle Paul, “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).
Are you listed?
It’s one book that will never go out of print.