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Writing and Writing Materials

Ancient writing was done on (a) leaves, as of the olive and bay; (b) bark, as of the lime-tree (φιλύρα); (c) linen cloth; (d) clay and pottery; (e) walls; (f) metals, rarely gold or silver, often lead plates and bronze; (g) wood, either coated with wax or some kind of glaze or not; (h) papyrus; (i) skins, especially parchment or vellum (διφθέραι, membranae). (See the articles Codex; Epigraphy; Fictilé; Graffiti; Liber; Osci; Palaeography; Papyrus; Tabula.) Paper was not found in Europe until its use was learned from the Arabs in the eighth century A.D.

The pen used in writing upon papyrus was a split reed (calamus), the best being supplied by Egypt and Cnidus in Caria. The ink (atramentum

Wax Tablet and Stilus. (Perret,
Catacombes de Rome.

employed was a preparation resembling India ink, made of soot and gum, or of the juice of the cuttlefish. Both of these could be erased with a sponge (spongia), whereas ink made of oxide of iron and gallnuts, which appears to have been introduced later, and to have been the only kind capable of being used for parchment, left more or less clear traces behind, even if rubbed out with pumice-stone. Red ink was also used in very early times. The ink-bottle was called μελανδόχον,

Ancient Inkstands.

atramentarium, and was a small cylindrical jar, or two such jars, one for black and one for red ink. In ordinary life people used for letters, notices, and despatches, as also in schools, wooden tablets (tabellae) with a raised rim, within which was spread a thin layer of wax. On this the characters were scratched with the point of a metal or ivory instrument called a stilus; they could be effaced with the other end of the instrument, which was bent or flattened out like a paper-folder (see Stilus). Two or more such tablets could be fastened together in the form of a book. (See Diptychon.) See Thompson, Greek and Latin Palaeography, pp. 12-53 (New York, 1893); and the article Palaeography in this Dictionary.

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