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Ancient writing

Ancient writing

Selection of ancient writing instruments

“The printed word embalms truth for posterity.”

(Alejo Carpentier)

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We present a collection of papyrus rolls, and reproductions of ancient volumes in latin  and wax tablets  from Ancient Rome.

Papyrus scrolls, wax tablets, boxes with pens and inks, document rolls and reproductions of ancient Latin volumes.

Papyrus scrolls remind us of writing in Egypt, thanks to this support the spread of writing was favoured. In Greece and Rome it was the most precious medium for writing, where copies were made for the distribution of copies. Being a highly prized material, only a few people had access to it.

The preservation of papyrus required special care. The scrolls were kept in wooden or clay containers to protect them from insects and were impregnated with oil, which gave them their characteristic yellowish colour.  As shown in one of the articles in this category “Vessel from the Qumran scrolls”.

In Greece and Rome, waxed tablets were the main medium for writing, both for public and private use.   Called in Greek: pinakis, deltion, pyktion or grammateion and in Latin: tabulae, tabellae, pugillares, cerae, they could contain any kind of writing, from declarations of war, poems, letters, private business documents to school exercises. On wax tablets the text was easily engraved with a metal stylus or other sharp object; and they were also easily erased: the styli usually had a blunt, spatula-shaped finish at the end opposite the point, with which the wax was scraped, flattened and smoothed, and then reused again; this was especially convenient in school. With the tablets, as the Roman world shows, diptychs, triptychs and even polyptychs could be formed, called caudices, from which we would later move on to the designation of books, in the sense that they universally have, when they appeared in the first centuries of the Christian era, that is to say, codices. These polyptychs, equipped with handles, were hung by means of taut wires and kept in tablinia or tabularia, i.e. Roman archives.

Inks and inkwells were used for writing, as well as products for fixing them. The use of inks dates back to as early as the third millennium BC.   The inks were mainly black, although early Chinese civilisation also used red inks. Red inks began to be used in the West in the Middle Ages. To obtain these tones, other products were used, such as purple, extracted from the glands of gastropod molluscs, cinnabar, carmine or coloured earths, such as synoptic earth, as well as gold and silver.