From a physical perspective, a book and the power of the intellect it offers is sometimes underestimated. This is clear from the outset of the play Doctor Faustus as Faustus is caught pondering in his study, elaborating on the various books in his possession. He finds that the knowledge provided in most of the books is useless. For example, he picks up a book on medicine and instead of appreciating it and the information it provides that would promote one’s well being, he relinquishes the importance of health, as there is no cure to mortality. Faustus doesn’t stop at health, as he continues to downplay the various other books in his possession. Faustus also rejects the study of law: “This study fits a mercenary drudge, Who aims at nothing but external trash; Too servile and illiberal for me” (1.1, 32-34). he finds that law is too low for him and if there is no reason for him to learn it, then the book is worthless as well. To top it all off, Faustus belittles the Bible, saying that there is no point in avoiding sin, because man is rewarded with death in the long run anyway. Faustus turns to his dark magic book and is intrigued by the things it promises, and when his friends Valdes and Cornelius arrive, they agree to teach him dark magic, while also agreeing with his dismissal of other literature that deals with religion, medicine, law, and philosophy.
From the outset of the play, Faustus engages with the various books present in his study, questioning the integrity of them. Faustus’s behavior--putting down and picking up book after book--shows that he feels he has no use for the books anymore, and it creates a feeling that books can only go so far and don’t hold all the answers. For example, after he first dismisses a book on logic by Aristotle, he picks up his book on medicine and instead of beholding what it can do, Faustus is more concerned with what it doesn’t promise. He states, “Couldst thou men to live eternally or being dead, raise them to life again” (1.1.22-23). Faustus inquires as to why should books be considered so important, as he reiterates that books, and the studies and knowledge associated with them still haven’t solved the issue of mortality. Also, from Faustus just looking at the books at face value, he may be interpreting them as just a bunch of words that at this point in his life, won’t be teaching him anything. Faustus proclaims that he has already mastered most of the material included in the books. Faustus’ claims about his books reflects the idea that books only are as valuable as the information that they present and that once that information is mastered or learned, then the book has no purpose anymore.
One characteristic of books that is reflected in the opening scene of Doctor Faustus is diversity. Faustus’s rant about how his literature means nothing to him anymore ends shortly before he discovers a book on dark magic, a topic that he finally takes an interest in after thumbing through various pages that mean nothing to him presently. If it weren’t for Faustus finding the book on dark magic, he wouldn't find himself in partnership with Mephistopheles. As gloomy as that relationship panned out, it still revealed to Faustus, a new branch of knowledge that he had never considered before. Even after dismissing every book that he came across, Faustus still managed to find something to pique his interest. Doctor Faustus exemplifies that books are adaptable and diverse, as it portrays the books to cover a wide range of topics, and that even when it feels you’ve learned it all, there is a book out there that contains knowledge that you’ve never encountered before.