HANDBOOK OF GREEK & LATIN PALAEOGRAPHY by Sir E M Thompson. 3rd edition, published 1906. Kegan, Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co Ltd, London.

CHAPTER III. Materials used to receive writing—continued.

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We now have to examine the history of the more common writing-materials of the ancient world and of the middle ages, viz. papyrus, vellum, and paper.


Papyrus harvest. Egypt. Old Kingdom.

The papyrus plant, Cyperus Papyrus, which supplied the substance for the great writing material of the ancient world, was widely cultivated in the Delta of Egypt. From this part of the country it has now vanished, but it still grows in Nubia and Abyssinia. Theophrastus, Hist. Plant, iv. 10, states that it also grew in Syria, and Pliny adds that it was native to the Niger and Euphrates. Its Greek name πάπυρος, whence Latin papyrus, was derived from one of its ancient Egyptian names, P-apa. Herodotus, our most ancient authority for any details of the purposes for which the plant was employed, always calls it βύβλος, a word no doubt also taken from an Egyptian term. Theophrastus describes the plant as one which grows in the shallows In the height of six feet, with a triangular and tapering stem crowned with a tufted head; the root striking out at right angles to the stem and being of the thickness of a man's wrist. The tufted heads were used for garlands in the temples of the gods; of the wood of the root were made various utensils; and of the stem, the pith of which was also used as an article of food, a variety of articles, including writing material, were manufactured : caulking yarn, ships' rigging, light skiffs, shoes, etc. The cable with which Ulysses bound the doors of the hall when he slew the suitors was ὅπλον βύβλινον (Odyss. xxi. 390),

As a writing material papyrus was employed in Egypt from the earliest times. Papyrus rolls are represented on the sculptured walls of Egyptian temples; and rolls themselves exist of immense antiquity. The most ancient papyrus roll now extant is the Papyrus Prisse, at Paris, which contains the copy of a work composed in the reign of a king of the fifth dynasty and is itself of about the year 2500 B.C. or earlier. The dry atmosphere of Egypt has been specially favourable to the preservation of these fragile documents. Buried with the dead, they have lain in the tombs or swathed in the folds of the mummy-cloths for centuries, untouched by decay, and in many instances remain as fresh as on the day when they were written.

Among the Greeks the papyrus material manufactured for writing purposes was called χάρτης (Latin charta ) as well as by the names of the plant itself. Herodotus, v. 58, refers to the early use of papyrus rolls among the Ionian Greeks, to which they attached the name of διφθέραι, "skins," the writing material to which they had before been accustomed. Their neighbours, the Assyrians, were also acquainted with it. ← In the Assyrian wall-sculptures in the British Museum there are two scenes (Nos. 3 and 84) in which two couples of scribes are represented taking notes. In each case, one of the scribes is using a folding tablet (the hinges of one being distinctly represented), and the other a scroll. The scroll may be either papyrus or leather. They called it " the reed of Egypt." An inscription relating to the expenses of the rebuilding of the Ereclitheum at Athens in the year 407 B.C. shows that papyrus was used for the fair copy of the rough accounts, which were first inscribed on tablets. Two sheets, χάρται δύο, cost at the rate of a drachma and two obols each, or a little over a shilling of our money. ← See above, p. 19.

The period of its first importation into Italy is not known. The story of its introduction by Ptolemy, at the suggestion of Aristarchus, is of suspicious authenticity. ← See below, p. 36. We know, however, that papyrus was plentiful in Rome under the Empire. In fact, it was the common writing material among the Romans at that period, and became so indispensable that, on a temporary failure of I In) supply in the reign of Tiberius, there was danger of n popular tumult. ← Pliny, Nat. Hist. xiii. 13, " Sterilitatem sentit hoc quoque, fiictumque jam Tiberio principe inopia chartae, ut e senatu durentur arbitri dispensandae; alias in tnmultu vita erat." Pliny also, Nat. Hist. xiii. 11, refers In its high social value in the words: "papyri natura dicotur, cum chartae usu maxime humanitas vitas constet, certe memoria," and again he describes it as a thing "qua constat immortalitas hominum."

It is probable that papyrus was imported into Italy already manufactured; and it is doubtful whether any native plant grew in that country. Strabo says that it was found in Lake Trasimene and other lakes of Etruria ; but the accuracy of this statement has been disputed. Still, it is a fact that there was a manufacture of this writing material carried on in Rome, the charta Fanniana bring an instance; but it has been asserted that this industry was confined to the re-making of imported material. The more brittle condition of the Latin papyri, as compared with the Greek papyri, found at Herculaneum, has been ascribed to the detrimental effect of this re-manufacture.

At a later period the Syrian variety of the plant was grown in Sicily, where it was probably introduced during the Arab occupation. It was seen there by the Arab traveller, Ibn-Haukal, in the tenth century, in the neighbourhood of Palermo, where it throve in great luxuriance in the shallows of the Papireto, a stream to which it gave its name. Paper was made from this source for the use of the Sultan; but in the thirteenth century the plant began to fail, and it was finally extinguished by the drying up of the stream in 1591. It is still, however, to be seen growing in the neighbourhood of Syracuse, but was probably transplanted thither at a later time, for no mention of it in that place occurs earlier than 1674. Some attempts have been made in recent years to manufacture a writing material on the pattern of the ancient charta from this Sicilian plant.

The manufacture of the writing material, as practised in Egypt, is described by Pliny, Nat. Hist. xiii. 12. His description applies specially to the system of his own day ; but no doubt it was essentially the same that had been followed for centuries. His text is far from clear, and there are consequently many divergences of opinion on different points. The stem of the plant was cut longitudinally into thin strips (philyrae) ← Birt, Antikes Buchwesen, 229, prefers to apply the word schedae or schidae to the strips. But Pliny distinctly uses the word philyrae, although he elsewhere describes the inner bark of the lime tree by this name. Another name for the strips was inae. with a sharp cutting instrument described as a needle (acus). The old idea that the strips were peeled off the inner core of the stem is now abandoned, as it has been shown that the plant, like other reeds, contains a cellular pith within the rind, which was all used in the manufacture. The central strips were naturally the best, being the widest. The strips thus cut were laid vertically upon a board, side by side, to the required width, thus forming a layer, scheda, across which another layer of shorter strips was laid at right angles. Pliny applies to this proccss the phraseology of net or basket making. The two layers formed a "net," plagula, or "wicker," crates, which was thus "woven," texitur. In this process Nile water was used for moistening the whole. The special mention of this particular water has caused some to believe that there were some adhesive properties in it which acted as a paste or glue on the material; others, more reasonably, have thought that water, whether from the Nile or any other source, solved the glutinous matter in the strips and thus caused them to adhere. It seems, however, more probable that paste was actually used. ← Birt, 231, points out, in regard to Pliny's words, "turbidus liquor vim glutinis praebet," that "glutinis" is not a genitive but a dative, Pliny never using the word " gluten," but " glutinum." The sheets were finally pressed and dried in the sun. Rough or uneven places were rubbed down with ivory or a smooth shell. ← 7 Martial, xiv. 209:

Moisture lurking between the layers was to be detected by strokes of the mallet. Spots, stains, and spongy strips (taeniae) in which the ink would run, were defects which also had to be encountered. ← Pliny, Epist. viii. 15 : " quae (chartae) si scabrae bibulaeve sint," etc.

The sheets were joined together with paste to form a roll, scapus, but not more than twenty was the prescribed number. There are, however, rolls of more than twenty sheets, so that, if Pliny's reading vicinae is correct, the number was not constant in all times. The outside of the roll was naturally that part which was more exposed to risk of damage and to general wear and tear. The best sheets were therefore reserved for this position, those which lay nearer the centre or end of the roll not being necessarily so good. Moreover, the end of a roll was not wanted in case of a short text, and might be cut away. A protecting strip of papyrus was often pasted down the edge at the beginning or end of a roll, in order to give additional strength to the material and prevent it tearing. ← J Wilcken, in Hermes, xxiii. 4GG. the first sheet of a papyrus roll was called the πρωτόκολλον, a term which still survives in diplomacy ; the last sheet was called the έσχατοκόλλιον. A mong the Romans the protocol was marked with the name of the Comes largitionum, who had the control of the manufacture, and with the date and name of the place where it was made. the portion thus marked was in ordinary practice cut away; but this curtailment was forbidden in legal documents by the laws of Justinian. ← " Tabelliones non scribant instrumenta in aliis chartis quam in his quae protocolla habent, ut tamen protocollum tale sit, quod habeat nomen gloriosissimi comitis largitionum et tempus quo charta facta est.1'—Novell, xliv. 2. After their conquest of Egypt in the seventh century, The Arabs continued the manufacture and marked the protocol in Arabic. An instance of an Arab protocol thus marked is found in a bull of Pope John VIII. of 876, now in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.

With regard to the width of papyrus rolls, those which date from the earliest period of Egyptian history are narrow, of about six inches ; later they increase to nine, eleven, and even above fourteen inches. The width of the early Greek papyri of Homer and Hyperides in the British Museum runs from nine to ten inches. From Pliny we learn that there were various qualities of writing material made from papyrus and that they differed from one another in width. It has however been found that extant specimens do not tally with the figures that he gives; but an ingenious explanation has been lately proposed, ← Birt, 251 sqq. that he refers to the breadth of the individual sheets which together make up the length of the roll, not to the height of the sheets which forms its width. The best kind, formed from the broadest strips of the plant, was originally the charta hieratica, a name which was afterwards altered to Augusta out of flattery to the emperor Augustus. The charta Livia, or second quality, was named after his wife. The hieratica thus descended to the third rank. The Augusta and Livia were 13 digits, or about 9½ inches, wide; the hieratica 11 digits or 8 inches. The charta amphitheatrica, of 9 digits or 6½ inches, took its title from the principal place of its manufacture, the amphitheatre of Alexandria. The charta Fanniana was apparently a variety which was re-made at Rome, in the workshops of a certain Eannius, from the amphitheatrica, the width being increased by about an inch through pressure. The Saitica was a common variety, named after the city of Sais, being of about 8 digits or 5¾ inches. Finally, there were the Taeniotica—which was said to have taken its name from the place where it was made, a tongue of land (ταινία) near Alexandria—and the common packing-paper, charta emporetica, neither of which was more than 5 inches wide. Mention is made by Isidore, Etymol. vi. 10, of a quality of papyrus called Corneliana, which was first made under C. Cornelius Gallus when prefect of Egypt. But the name may have disappeared from the vocabulary when Gallus fell into disgrace. Ibid. 250. Another kind was manufactured in the reign of Claudius, and on that account was named Claudia. It was a made-up material, combining the Augusta and Livia, to provide a stout substance. Finally, there was a large-sized quality, of a cubit or nearly 18 inches in width, called macrocollon. Cicero made use of it (Epp. ad Attic, xiii. 25; xvi. 3).

Varro, repeated by Pliny, xiii. 11, makes the extraordinary statement that papyrus writing material was first made in Alexander's time. He may have been misled from having found no reference to its use in prae-Alexandrine authors; or he may have meant to say that its first free manufacture was only of that date, as it was previously a government monopoly.

The Isaiah Scroll from Qumran.

Papyrus continued to be the ordinary writing material in Egypt to a comparatively late period. ← The middle of the tenth century is the period when it has been calculated the manufacture of papyrus in Egypt ceased.— Karabacek, Das arabische Papier, in Mittheilungen aus der Sammlung der Papyrus Erzherzog Rainer, bd. ii.-iii. (1887), p.98. Greek documents of the early centuries of our era have been found in considerable numbers in the Fayoum and other districts. In Europe also, long after vellum had become the principal writing material, especially for literary purposes, papyrus continued in common use, particularly for ordinary documents, such as letters. St. Jerome, Ep. vii., mentions vellum as a material for letters, "if papyrus fails"; and St. Augustine, Ep. xv., apologizes for using vellum instead of papyrus. A fragmentary epistle of Constantine V. to Pepin le Bref, of 756, is preserved at Paris. A few fragments of Greek literary papyri of the early middle ages, containing Biblical matter and portions of Graeco-Latin glossaries, have also survived.

For purely Latin literature papyrus was also occasionally used in the early middle ages. Examples, made up in book form, sometimes with a few vellum leaves incorporated to give stability, are found in different libraries of Europe. They are: The Homilies of St. Avitus, of the 6th century, at Paris; Sermons and Epistles of St. Augustine, of the 6th or 7th century, at Paris and Genoa; works of Hilary, of the 6th century, at Vienna ; fragments of the Digests, of the 6th century, at Pommersfeld ; the Antiquities of Josephus, of the 7th century, at Milan ; an Isidore, of the 7th century, at St. Gall. At Munich, also, is the register of the Church of Ravenna, written on this material in the 10th century. Many papyrus documents in Latin, dating from the 5th to the 10th century, have survived from the archives of Ravenna; and there are extant fragments of two imperial rescripts written in Egypt, apparently in the 5th century, in a form of the Latin cursive alphabet which is otherwise unknown. In the papal chancery papyrus appears to have been used down to a late date in preference to vellum. A few papal bulls on this material have survived ; the earliest being one of Stephen III. of the year 757; the latest, one of Sergius IV. of 1011. Rapport de M. Delisle, in Bulletin du Coviité des Travaux hist, et scient., 1885, No. 2.
In France papyrus was in common use in the sixth century. ← Gregory of Tours, Hist. Franc: v. 5. Under the Merovingian kings it was used for official documents; several papyrus deeds of their period, dated from 625 to 692, being still preserved in the French archives.


The skins of animals are of such a durable nature that it is no matter for surprise to find that they have been appropriated as writing material by the ancient nations of the world. They were in use among the Egyptians as early as the time of Cheops, in the 4th dynasty, documents written on skins at that period being referred to or copied in papyri of later date. ← Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt., ed. Birch, ii. 182. Actual specimens of skin rolls from Egypt still exist. In the British Museum is a ritual on white leather (Salt, 256) which may be dated about the year 2000 B.C. The Jews followed the same custom, and to the present day continue it in their synagogue rolls. It may be presumed that their neighbours the Phoenicians also availed themselves of the same kind of writing material. The Persians inscribed their history upon skins. ← Diodorus, ii. 32 : " ἐκ τῶν βασιλικῶν διφθέρων, ἐν αἶς οἱ Πέρσαι τὰς παλαιὰς πράξεις εἷχον συντεταγμένας." The use of skins, διφθέραι, among the Ionian Greeks is referred to by Herodotus, v. 58, who mills that in his day many foreign nations also wrote on them.

Parchment and Vellum.

After what has been here stated regarding the early use of skins, the introduction of parchment, or vellum as it is now more generally termed, that is to say, skins prepared in such a way that they could be written upon on both sides, cannot properly be called an invention; it was rather an extension of, or improvement upon, an old practice. The common story, as told by Pliny, Nat. Hist. x iii. 11, on the authority of Varro, runs that Eumenes II. of Pergamum (B.C. 197—158), wishing to extend the library in his capital, was opposed by the jealousy of the Ptolemies, who forbade the export of papyrus, hoping thus to check the growth of a rival library. The Pergamene king, thus thwarted, was forced to fall back again upon skins; and thus came about the manufacture of vellum : " Mox aemulatione circa bibliothecas regum Ptolemaei et Eumenis, supprimente chartas Ptolemaeo, idem Varro membranas Pergami tradit repertas." ← St. Jerome, Ep. vii., also refers to the place of its origin : " Chartam defuisse non puto, AEgypto ministrante commercia. Et si alicubi Ptolemaeus maria clausisset, tamen rex Attalus membranas a Pergamo miserat, ut penuria chartae pellibus pensaretur. Unde et Pergamenarum nomen ad hunc usque diem, tradente sibi invicem posteritate, servatum est." Whatever may be the historical value of this tradition, at least it points to the fact that Pergamum was the chief centre of the vellum trade. The name διφθέραι, membranae, which had been applied to the earlier skins, was extended also to the new manufacture. The title membrana Pergamena is comparatively late, first occurring in the edict of Diocletian, A.D. 301, de pretiis rerum, vii. 38 ; next in the passage in St. Jerome's epistle, quoted in the footnote. The Latin name was also Graecized as μεμβράναι, being so used in 2 Tim. iv. 13 : " μάλιστα τὰς μεμβράνας." The word σωμάτιον, which afterwards designated a vellum MS. as opposed to a papyrus roll, had reference originally to the contents, such a MS. being capable of containing an entire work or corpus. ← Birt, Ant. Buchw., 41.

As to the early use of vellum among the Greeks and Romans, no evidence is to be obtained from the results of excavations. No specimens have been recovered at Herculaneum or Pompeii, and none of sufficiently early date in Egypt. There can, however, be little doubt that it was imported into Rome under the Republic. The general account of its introduction thither—evidently suggested by Varro's earlier story of the first use of it—is that Ptolemy, at the suggestion of Aristarchus the grammarian, having sent papyrus to Rome, Crates the grammarian, out of rivalry, induced Attalus of Pergamum to send vellum. ← Boissonade, Anecd. i. 420. References to the pages of certain municipal deeds seem to imply that the latter were inscribed in books, that is, in vellum MSS., not on papyrus rolls. ← Mommsen, Inscr. Neapol. 6828; Annali del Inst. (1858) xxx. 192; Marquardt, Privatleben der Homer, 796. When Cicero, Epp. ad Attic, xiii. 24, uses the word διφθέραι, he also seems to refer to vellum. The advantages of the vellum book over the papyrus roll are obvious: it was in the more convenient form of the codex; it could be re-written; and the leaves could receive writing on both sides. Martial enumerates, among his Apophoreta, vellum MSS. of Homer (xiv. 184), Virgil (186), Cicero (188), Livy (190),and Ovid (192). ← Pliny, Nat. Hist. vii. 21, mentions a curiosity: "In nuce inclusam Iliadem Homeri carmen in membrana scriptum tradit Cicero." Vellum tablets began to take the place of the tabulae ceratae, as appears in Martial, xiv. 7 : "Esse puta ceras, licet haec membrana vocetur : Delebis, quotiens scripta novaro voles." Quintilian, x. 3, 31, recommends the use iif vellum for drafts of their compositions by persons ol' weak sight: the ink on vellum was more easily read than the scratches of the stilus on wax. ← So also Martial, xiv. 5: "Languida ne tristes obscurent lamina cerae. Nigra tibi niveum littera pingat ebur." Horace refers to it in Sat. ii. 3 : " Sic raro scribis ut toto non quater anno Membranam poscas" ; and in other places.

From the dearth of classical specimens and from the scanty number of early mediaeval MSS. of secular authors which have come down to us, it seems that vellum was not a common writing material under the first Roman emperors. There are no records to show its relative value in comparison with papyrus. ← Birt, Ant. Buchwesen, has attempted to prove that vellum was a comparatively worthless commodity, used as a cheap material for rough drafts and common work. His conclusions, however, cannot be accepted. For example, few probably will ,agree with him that a copy of Homer's Batrachomyomachia on papyrus was a gift of equal value with the Iliad on vellum. But the latter had been so long the recognized material for literary use that the slow progress of vellum as its rival may be partly ascribed to natural conservatism. It was particularly the influence of the Christian Church that eventually carried vellum into the front rank of writing materials and in the end displaced papyrus. As papyrus had been the principal material for receiving the thoughts of the pagan world, vellum was to be the great medium for conveying to mankind the literature of the new religion.

The durability of vellum recommended it to an extent that fragile papyrus could in no way pretend to. When Constantine required copies of the Scriptures for his new churches, he ordered fifty MSS. on vellum, " πεντήκοντα σωμάτια ἐν διφθέραις," to be prepared. ← Eusebius, Vit. Constant., iv. 38. And St. Jerome, Ep. cxli., refers to the replacement of damaged volumes in the library of Pamphilus at Caesarea by MSS. on vellum: " Quam [bibliothecam] ex parte corruptam Acacius dehinc et Euzoius, ejusdem ecclesiae sacerdotes, in membranis instaurare conati sunt."

As to the character and appearance of vellum at different periods, it will be enough to state generally that in the most ancient MSS. a thin, delicate material may usually be looked for, firm and crisp, with a smooth and glossy surface. This is generally the character of vellum of the fifth and sixth centuries. Later than this period, as a rule, it does not appear to have been so carefully prepared; probably, as the demand increased, a greater amount of inferior material came into the market. 7 But the manufacture would naturally vary in different countries. In Ireland and England the early MSS. are generally ← Instances, in MSS. of the seventh and tenth centuries, of vellum which was too thin or badly prepared, and therefore left blank by the scribes, are noticed in Cat. of Anc. MSS. in the Brit. Museum, Pt. ii. 51 ; and in Delisle, Mélanges, p. 101. on stouter vellum than their contemporaries abroad. In Italy a highly polished surface seems at most periods to have been in favour; hence in this country and neighbouring districts, as the South of France, and again in Greece, the hard material resisted absorption, and it is often found that both ink and paint have flaked off in MSS. of the middle ages. In contrast to this are the instances of soft vellum, used in England and France and in northern Europe generally, from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century, for MSS. of the better class. In the fifteenth century the Italian vellum of the Renaissance is often of extreme whiteness and purity. Uterine vellum, taken from the unborn young, or the skins of new-born animals were used for special purposes. A good example of this very delicate material is found in Add. MS. 23,935, in the British Museum, a volume containing in as many as 579 leaves a corpus of liturgical church service books, written in France in the 18th and 14th centuries.

Vellum was also of great service in the ornamentation of books. Its smooth surfaces showed off colours in all their brilliancy. Martial's vellum MS. of Virgil (xiv. 186) is adorned with the portrait of the author: " Ipsius voltus prima tabella gerit." Isidore, Orig. vi. 11, 4, describing this material, uses the words: " Membrana autem aut Candida aut lutea aut purpurea sunt. Candida naturaliter existunt. Luteum membranum bicolor est, quod a confectore una tingitur parte, id est, crocatur. De quo Persius (iii. 10), ' Jam liber et positis bicolor mombrana capillis. ' " This quotation from Persius refers to the vellum wrapper which the Romans were in the habit of attaching to the papyrus roll : the φαινόλης, paenula, literally a travelling cloak. The vellum was well suited, from its superior strength, to resist constant handling. It was coloured of some brilliant hue, generally scarlet or purple, as in Lucian ← Περι τῶν ἐπὶ μισθῷ συνόντων, 41. : " παρφυρᾶ δἰ ἔκτοσθεν ἡ διφθέρα." Ovid finds a bright colour unsuited to his melancholy book, Trist. I. i. 5 : "Nec te perpureo velent vaccinia fuco." Martial's libellus, viii. 72, is " nondum murice cultus "; and again he has the passages, iii. 2 : " et te purpura delicata velet"; and x. 93: " carmina, purpurea sed modo suta toga," the toga being another expression for the wrapper. In Tibullus III. i. 9, the colour is orange: "Lutea sed niveum involvat membrana libellum." The strip of vellum, σίλλυβος (or σίττυβος ), titulus, index, which was attached to the papyrus roll and was inscribed with the tide of the work therein contained, was also coloured, as appears from the passages in Martial, iii. 2 : " Et cocco rubeat superbus index," and in Ovid, Trist. I. i. 7: "nec titulus minio nec cedro charta notetur."

We do not know how soon was introduced the extravagant practice of producing sumptuous volumes written in gold or silver upon purple-stained vellum. ← In the first edition of this book, an early reference to MSS. of this description was quoted from D'Achery, Spicileg. xii. 549, as existing in a letter of Theonas, bishop of Alexandria, who, writing to the imperial chamberlain Lucian, directs him how he may favourably dispose the emperor (Diocletian) towards the Christians, and advises him, in regard to the imperial library, to have the books ornamented "non tantum ad superstitios sumptus quantum ad utile ornamentum: itaque scribi in purpureis membranis et litteris aureis totos codices, nisi specialiter Princeps demandaverit, non effectet." It has, however, been pointed out (Deutsche Litteraturzeitung, 1893, col. 782) that this letter of Theonas has been proved to be a forgery. It was a MS. of this description which Julius Capitolinus, early in the fourth century, puts into the possession of the younger Maximin : " Cum grammatico daretur, quaedam parens sua libros Homericos omnes purpureos dedit,, aureis litteris scriptos." Against luxury of this nature St. Jerome directed his often-quoted words in his preface to the Book of Job: "Habeant qui volunt veteres libros vel in membranis purpureis auro argentoque descriptos vel uncialibus, ut vulgo aiunt, litteris, onera magis exarata quam codices ' '; and again in his Ep. xviii., to Eustochium: "Inficiuntur membranae colore purpureo, aurum liquescit in litteras, gemmis codices vestiuntur, et nudus ante fores earum [i.e. wealthy ladies] Christus emoritur."

The art of staining or dyeing vellum with purple or similar colour was practised chiefly in Constantinople, and also in Rome; but MSS. of this material, either entirely or in part, seem to have been produced in most of the civilized countries of Europe at least from the sixth century, if we may judge from surviving examples which, though not numerous, still exist in fair numbers. Of these the best known are :—Portion of the Book of Genesis, in Greek, in the Imperial Library at Vienna, written in silver letters and illustrated with a series of coloured drawings of the greatest interest for the history of the art of the period; of the 6th century. ← See a facsimile of one of the pages in Pal. Soc. i, pl. 178; and of one of the paintings in Labarte, Hist. des Arts industr. du Moyen Age (1864), album ii., pi. 77. A MS. of the Gospels, in Greek, in silver, leaves of which are in the British Museum, at Vienna, Rome, and in larger numbers at Patmos, whence the others were obtained; also of the 6th century. ← Edited by Tischendorf, Mori. Sacr. Ined.; see also Westwood, Palaeogr. Sacra Pict., "Purple Greek MSS." The Codex Rossanensis, lately discovered at Rossano in South Italy, which contains the Gospels in Greek, of the 6th century, written also in silver and having a series of drawings illustrative of the Life of Christ. ← Edited, with outline tracings of the drawings, by von Gebhardt iiml Harnack, Evangeliorum Codex Graecus purpureus Rossanensis, 1880. The Greek Psalter of Zurich, of the 7th century, in silver letters. ← Edited by Tischendorf, Mon. Sacr. Ined. Nova Coll. iv. The famous Codex Argenteus of Upsala, containing the Gothic Gospels of Ulfilas' Translation, of the 6th century. ← See an autotype in Pal. Soc. i., pl. 118. The Latin Evangeliarium of Vienna, originally from Naples, of the same period, in silver uncials; a single leaf of the MS. being in Trinity College, Dublin. ← Ed. Tischendorf, 1847. A facsimile of the Dublin leaf is in Par Palimpsest. Dublin, ed. Abbott, 1880. The Latin Psalter of St. Germain (who died A.D. 576) at Paris, also in silver uncials. ← Silvestre, Univ. Pulaeogr. (English ed.), pl. 110. The Metz Evangeliarium at Paris, of the same style and period. Of later date are the MSS. which were produced in the Carlovingian period, when a fresh impetus was given to this kind of ornamental luxury. Such are :—The Latin Gospels at Paris, said to have been written for Charlemagne by Godescalc in letters of gold. ← Westwood, Pal. Sacr. Pict., " Evangelistarium of Charlemagne." A similar MS. at Vienna. Denkschrifte der kais. Alcad. der Wissensch, xiii. 85. The Latin Gospels of the Hamilton collection of MSS. lately at Berlin, which appears to have once belonged to our king Henry VIII., is probably also of this period. ← See "Die Handschr. der Hamiltonschen Sammlung," by Prof. Wattenbach, in Neues Archiv. viii. 329. Prof. Wattenbach would identify this MS. with the famous purple codex " de auro purissimo in membranis depurpuratis coloratis " which Wilfrid, archbishop of York, caused to be made and presented to the monastery of Ripon in the latter half of the 7th century. And lastly may be mentioned the Latin Psalter in the Douce collection in the Bodleian Library, written in golden Caroline minuscules and ornamented with miniatures. ← Douce MS. 59. Other specimens of purple MSS. are cited in different palaeographical works and catalogues. ← See references in Wattenbach, Schriftw. 110-113.

The practice of inserting single leaves of purple-stained vellum for the ornamentation of MSS. was not uncommon in the eighth and ninth centuries. A beautiful example is seen in the fragmentary Latin Gospels from Canterbury (Brit. Mus., Royal MS. 1. E. vi.), a large folio volume, in which there still remain some leaves dyed of a rich deep rose colour and decorated with ornamental initials and paintings, the remnant of a larger number; of the latter part of the 8th century. Cat. of Ancient MSS. in the Br. Mus., Pt. ii. (1884) 20; Westwood, Pal. Sacr. Pict., and Facs. of Miniatures and Ornaments of A.-Saxon and Irish MSS. pll. 14, 15. But more generally, for such partial decoration, the surface of the vellum was coloured, sometimes on only one side of the leaf, or even on only a part of it, particularly in MSS. of French or German origin of the tenth and eleventh centuries. ← An instance of this superficial colouring occurs in a page of the Cotton MS. Vesp. A. viii., the foundation charter of New-minster, Winchester, A.D. 966. The Harley MS. 2821, written in Germany in the 11th century, contains many leaves of this kind. At the period of the Renaissance there was some attempt at reviving this style of book ornamentation, and single leaves of stained vellum are occasionally found in MSS. of the fifteenth century. Other colours, besides purple, were also employed ; and instances occur in MSS. of this late time of leaves painted black to receive gold or silver writing. Such examples are, however, to be considered merely as curiosities.

A still more sumptuous mode of decoration than even that by purple-staining seems to have been occasionally followed. This consisted in gilding the entire surface of the vellum. But the expense of such work must have been so great that we cannot suppose that more than a very few leaves would ever have been thus treated in any MS., however important. Fragments of two vellum leaves, thus gilt and adorned with painted designs, are preserved in the British Museum, Add. MS. 5111. They originally formed part of Greek tables of the Eusebian Canons, no doubt prefixed to a copy of the Gospels, of the 6th century. Cat. Anc. MSS. Pt. i. (1881) 21.


Paper, manufactured from fibrous substances, appears to have been known to the Chinese at a most remote period. Its introduction into Europe is due to the agency of the Arabs, who are said to have first learnt its use at Samarkand, which they captured A.D. 704. Its manufacture spread through their empire ; and it received one of its mediaeval titles, charta Damascena, from the fact of Damascus being one of the centres of paper commerce. A comparatively large number of early Arabic MSS. on paper still exist, dating fiom the ninth century ; the earliest is of the year 866. ← See facsimiles of several in the Oriental Series of the Palaeographical Society.

This oriental paper, becoming known in Europe at a time when the Egyptian papyrus, although not in actual common use, still was not yet forgotten, was called by the same names, charta and papyrus. It was also known in the middle ages as charta bombycina, gossypina, cuttunea, Damascena, and xylina, and in Greek as ξυλοχάρτιον or ξυλότευκτον. It has in recent times also been generally known as cotton-paper, that is, paper made from the wool of the cotton plant. It is usually stout, of a yellowish tinge, and with a glossy surface. This last quality seems to have gained for it one of its titles, charta serica. Imported through Greece into Europe, it is referred to by Theophilus, a writer of the twelfth century (Schedula diversarum artium, ← Ed. E. Hendrie, 1847, p. 28. i. 24) as Greek parchment, pergamena Graeca ; and he adds, " quae fit ex lana ligni." But it does not appear to have been used to any great extent even in Greece before the middle of the thirteenth century, if one may judge from the very few extant Greek MSS: on paper of that time.

Paper-making in Europe was first established by the Moors in Spain and by the Arabs in Sicily; and their paper was at first still the same oriental paper above described. In Spain it was called pergameno de panno, cloth parchment, a title which distinguished it from the pergameno de cuero, or vellum; and it is so described in the laws of Alphonso, of 1263. On the expulsion of the Moors, an inferior quality was produced by the less skilled Christians. From Sicily the manufacture passed over into Italy.

Here we must pause a moment to revert to the question of the material of which oriental paper was made. As already stated, its early European names point to the general idea that it was made of cotton. But recent investigations have thrown doubts on the accuracy of this view ; and a careful analysis of many early samples has proved that, although cotton was occasionally used, no paper that has been examined is entirely made of that substance, hemp or flax being the more usual material. ← O. M. Briquet, Recherches sur les Premiers Papiers du Xc au XIVc Siècle, in the Mémoires de la Soc. Nat. des Antiquaires de France, tome xlvi; and a review of the same by C. Paoli, Carta di Cotone e Carta di Lino, in the Archivio Storico Italiano, 1885, p. 230. Karabacek, Das arabische Papier, in Mittheilungen aus der Sammlung der Papyrus Erzherzog Rainer, bd. ii.-iii. 87. An ingenious solution of this difficulty has been recently offered, that the term χάρτυς βομβύκινος, charta bombycina, is nothing more than an erroneous reading of χάρτυς βομβύκινος, charta bambycina, that is, paper made in the Syrian town of Bambyce, βαμβύκη, the Arab Mambidsch. ← Karabacek, Neue Quellen. zur Papiergeschichte, in Mittheilungen (ut supr.) bd. iv. 117. The question of material is not, however, of any particular importance for our present purpose; and it is only the distinction which has been made between oriental paper and European paper, as being the one of cotton and the other of linen rag, that requires it to be noticed. A more satisfactory means of distinguishing the two kinds of paper is afforded by the employment of water-marks in European paper, a practice which was unknown to the oriental manufacturer.

Several examples survive of oriental paper, or paper made in the oriental fashion, used for European documents and MSS. The oldest recorded document was a deed of King Roger of Sicily of the year 1102, and others of other Sicilian kings of the 12th century are also mentioned. At Genoa there are extant letters of Greek emperors, of 1188-1202. The oldest known imperial deed is a charter of Frederic II. to the nuns of Goess, in Styria, of 1228. ← J. G. Schwandner, Charta Linca, 1788. The same emperor forbade, in 1231, the use of paper for public deeds. A Visigothic paper MS. of the 12th century, from Silos, near Burgos, is now in the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris (Nouv. Acq. Lat. 1296); ← Delisle, Mélanges, 109. a paper notarial register at Genoa dates from 1154 ; in the British Museum there is a paper MS. (Arundel 268), written in Italy, of the first half of the 13th century; and at Munich the autograph MS. of Albert de Beham, 1238-1255, is also on the same kind of paper. In several cities and towns of Italy there exist registers on paper dating baok to the thirteenth century. ← Cited by Professor Paoli, La Storia della Carta secondo gli ultimi studi, in Nuova Antologia, voL xviii. (1888), p. 297. Letters addressed from Castile to Edward I. of England,in 1279 and following years, are on the same material; and a register of the hustings court of Lyme Regis, now in the British Museum, which begins with entries of the year 1309, is on paper which was probably imported from Spain or Bordeaux, such as that employed for the Bordeaux customs register of the beginning of the reign of Edward II., now in the Record Office. ← See also Rogers, Hist. Agricult. and Prices, i, 644.

The earliest reference to the material of paper made in Europe appears to be that in the tract of Peter, abbot of Cluny (A.D. 1122-1150), "adversus Judaeos," cap. 5, in which among the various kinds of books he mentions those made ex rasuris veterum pannorum. ← "Quales quotidie in usu legendi habemus, ulique ex pellura arietum, hircorum, vel vitulorum, sive ex biblis vel juncis orientalium paludum, aut ex rasuris veterum pannorum, seu ex qualibet alia forte viliore materia compactos." There appears to have certainly been an extensive manufacture in Italy in the first half of the thirteenth century. There is evidence of a paper trade at Genoa as early as 1235. ← Briquet, Papiers et Filigranes des Archives de Génes, 1888, p. 36. But the place from which we have the earliest known watermark, on paper which was used in 1293, is Fabriano, in the marquisate of Ancona, where the industry was established certainly before the year 1276, and probably much earlier. The jurist Bartolo, in his treatise De insigniis et armis, mentions the excellent paper made there in the fourteenth century. Other centres of early manufacture were Colle, in Tuscany, Padua, where a factory was established at least as early as 1340, Treviso, Venice, Pignerol and Casella in Piedmont, Florence, Bologna, Parma, Milan, and other places. From the northern towns of Italy a trade was carried on with Germany, where also factories were rapidly founded in the fourteenth century. France borrowed the art of paper-making from Spain, whence it was introduced, it is said, as early as 1189, into the district of Hérault. The north of Europe, at first supplied from the south, gradually took up the manufacture. England drew her supplies, no doubt, at first from such trading ports as Bordeaux and Genoa ; but even in the fourteenth century it is not improbable that she had a rough home-manufacture of her own, although it is said that the first English mill was set up in Hertford not earlier than the sixteenth century.

Paper was in fairly general use throughout Europe in the second half of the fourteenth century; at that time it began to rival vellum as a material for books; in the course of the fifteenth century it gradually superseded it. MSS. of this later period are sometimes composed of both vellum and paper, a sheet of vellum forming the outer leaves of a quire, the rest being of paper : a revival of the old practice observed in certain papyrus books in which vellum leaves protected and gave strength to the leaves of papyrus.

Section of the Geneva Bible

A knowledge of the appearance of paper and of water-marks of different periods is of great assistance in assigning dates to undated paper MSS. In the fourteenth century European paper is usually stout, and was made in frames composed of thick wires which have left strongly defined impressions. In the next century the texture becomes finer. The earliest known water-mark, as already stated, is on paper used in the year 1293. At first the marks are simple, and being impressed from thick wires are well defined, In process of time they become finer and more elaborate, and, particularly in Italian paper, they are enclosed within circles. Their variety is almost endless : animals, heads, birds, fishes, flowers, fruits, domestic and warlike implements, letters, armorial bearings, and other devices are used; some being peculiar to a country or district, others apparently becoming favourites and lasting for comparatively long poriods, but constantly changing in details. For example, the glove, a common mark of the sixteenth century develops a number of small modifications in its progress; and of the pot or tankard, which runs through the latter part of the sixteenth century and the early part of the seventeenth century, there is an extraordinary number of different varieties. The names of makers were inserted as water-marks quite at the beginning of the fourteenth century; but this practice was very soon abandoned, and was not revived until after the middle of the sixteenth century. The insertion of the name of place of manufacture and of the date of manufacture is a modern usage.