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Papyrus

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  • Richard Hubbard
    I m in need of some fact-checking: Somewhere along the line, I seem to recall reading that when scribes were preparing writing material for use, they
    Message 1 of 6 , Feb 8, 2010
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      I’m in need of some fact-checking:

       

      Somewhere along the line, I seem to recall reading that when scribes were preparing writing material for use, they conventionally made very fine scribe-lines with some kind of hard instrument to define the boundaries of the writing area, and maybe the lines themselves. What I don’t recall is whether that practice included papyrus writing material or whether it was something more commonly used on vellum. Any help?

       

      Also, I seem also to recall reading that when scribes worked with papyrus, they frequently used the horizontal fibers as built-in line guides. How about this?

       

      Again dredging up information from the past, I think I once read that scribes in the Ancient Mediterranean region worked either kneeling or standing and that tables/and desks were not used. Presumably, if they were writing while standing or kneeling, they used some kind of hard surface to support the papyrus while they wrote (a clip-board if you will). What was the method of work? Is there a technical name for the “clipboards” they used (if they used them at all).

       

      For everyone’s general edification, I found a marvelous color slide show of the papyrus making process on the University of Michigan web site. It’s pretty neat. See it here:

       

      http://www.lib.umich.edu/papyrus_making/lg_intro.html

       

      Best Regards,

       

      Rick Hubbard

    • Jack Kilmon
      From: Richard Hubbard Sent: Monday, February 08, 2010 7:37 AM To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com Subject: [GTh] Papyrus I m in need of some fact-checking: Somewhere
      Message 2 of 6 , Feb 8, 2010
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        Sent: Monday, February 08, 2010 7:37 AM
        Subject: [GTh] Papyrus

        I’m in need of some fact-checking:

         

        Somewhere along the line, I seem to recall reading that when scribes were preparing writing material for use, they conventionally made very fine scribe-lines with some kind of hard instrument to define the boundaries of the writing area, and maybe the lines themselves. What I don’t recall is whether that practice included papyrus writing material or whether it was something more commonly used on vellum. Any help?

         

        Also, I seem also to recall reading that when scribes worked with papyrus, they frequently used the horizontal fibers as built-in line guides. How about this?

        As a modern "scribe" that reproduces ancient manuscripts on skin, parchment, vellum and papyrus using calumnites reeds and either lampblack or iron gall ink, I do have some experience in this. If you examine well known papyrus manuscripts and codices that are online, such as the Gospel of Thomas, Oxyrhynchus papyri and New Testament manuscripts like P75, P66 and P46, you will see that the line of writing was determined strictly by the skill of the scribe. All of these examples display the slight deviations from "plumb" that are normal and may even be related to subconscious levels of emphasis.  Parchment and vellum, as you know, was scored lightly with an awl-like instrument and a straight rule.  Line integrity for either substrate was also determined by the "class" of the text as well as the skill of the scribe.  What I call "grocery list" style such as correspondences (a good example is the Bar Kochba letters) are written simply by eye and are about as accurately lined as the note you put on the door for the delivery man.

         

        Again dredging up information from the past, I think I once read that scribes in the Ancient Mediterranean region worked either kneeling or standing and that tables/and desks were not used. Presumably, if they were writing while standing or kneeling, they used some kind of hard surface to support the papyrus while they wrote (a clip-board if you will). What was the method of work? Is there a technical name for the “clipboards” they used (if they used them at all).

        Thinking that my own experience in writing texts on papyrus and vellum in Egyptian, Hebrew, Greek and Latin is not much different than the ancient scribes that produced those texts from different areas of the Mediterranean, I will give my opinion.  I do not believe the scribal praxis and tool kit for each of these language cultures were consistent.  The most important element for the scribe is comfort.  For important manuscripts, chancery, liturgical, the scribe's hand cannot be wavering from postural discomfort.  In Egypt, the scribe carried a wooden palette that contained his Juneus reeds and had wells for his red and black ink cakes composed of either lamp black or ochre with beeswax, gum and gelatin. .  His "desk" consisted of either a fired clay or wooden lap board and he sat with legs folded and rested the board in his lap.  We scribes that are older, however, will testify this position is difficult and requires the nimbleness and lack of arthritic interference of youth.  Yes, it is hard to believe some scribes did not use tables and work tables in scriptoria.  Writing a manuscript even today, as in antiquity, is a lengthy, tedious and tiring enterprise.  Scribes often used exemplars from which to copy or a lector read from an exemplary text, often to several scribes.

         

        Jack Kilmon

        For everyone’s general edification, I found a marvelous color slide show of the papyrus making process on the University of Michigan web site. It’s pretty neat. See it here:

         

        http://www.lib.umich.edu/papyrus_making/lg_intro.html

         

        Best Regards,

         

        Rick Hubbard



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      • Bob Schacht
        ... What is the current status of understanding about the Qumran scriptorum ? Bob Schacht Northern Arizona University
        Message 3 of 6 , Feb 8, 2010
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          At 06:37 AM 2/8/2010, Richard Hubbard wrote:
          ... I think I once read that scribes in the Ancient Mediterranean region worked either kneeling or standing and that tables/and desks were not used.

          What is the current status of understanding about the Qumran "scriptorum"?

          Bob Schacht
          Northern Arizona University

        • Jack Kilmon
          From: Bob Schacht Sent: Monday, February 08, 2010 12:58 PM To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com Subject: Re: [GTh] Papyrus At 06:37 AM 2/8/2010, Richard Hubbard wrote:
          Message 4 of 6 , Feb 8, 2010
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            Sent: Monday, February 08, 2010 12:58 PM
            Subject: Re: [GTh] Papyrus

            At 06:37 AM 2/8/2010, Richard Hubbard wrote:
            ... I think I once read that scribes in the Ancient Mediterranean region worked either kneeling or standing and that tables/and desks were not used.

            What is the current status of understanding about the Qumran "scriptorum"?

            Bob Schacht
            Northern Arizona University



            The "scriptorium" at Qumran was identified, I think by DeVaux, on the basis of the low plastered benches or tables that apparently fell through from an upper level and the desire to identify Qumran as a "monastery."  I, for one, do not think they were for writing upon.  One test that has never been done, as far as I know is on the plaster surface of those tables.  I believe, as I have stated over the last two decades, that the residents of K. Qumran processed balsam for a living and ties in with Hirschfeld's work.  I once discussed this with Joe Zias and even looked for funding for a project to micro-analyze the plaster on the tables to look either for inks bled through from scribal work or for plant fibers, resins, DNA or biologicals imbedded in the porous plaster. 
             
            If micro Raman spectroscopy, XRF, LIBS or other methods of light spectroscopy identifies balsam, you have placed the Essenes at  Qumran.  If the plaster shows ink bleeds, you have placed the scrolls at  Qumran.  In my opinion, as I told Joe,  It is scientific negligence not to have analyzed the table plaster tops.  They have the equipment at Tel Aviv University for sure...I've seen it.  I would also bet the same for HU.  It just expensive work.
             
            Jack Kilmon
          • Rick Hubbard
            Jack wrote: ... Mediterranean I must have not read this carefully enough the first time through, otherwise I surely have commented at the time it was
            Message 5 of 6 , Feb 9, 2010
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              Jack wrote:

              <snip>

              ||Thinking that my own experience in writing texts on papyrus and vellum in
              ||Egyptian, Hebrew, Greek and Latin is not much different than the ancient
              ||scribes that produced those texts from different areas of the
              Mediterranean

              I must have not read this carefully enough the first time through, otherwise
              I surely have commented at the time it was posted.

              If I understand this correctly you actually duplicate the writing process of
              ancient scribes, is that correct?

              If so, maybe you describe the way you do it. Do you work on a flat surface
              (e.g., desk or table) or do you use a lapboard? When you are writing on
              papyrus, do you mark the borders and lines of the writing surface or do find
              it possible to write straight lines without the benefit of guidelines??
              About how long can you write at a single session before developing some sort
              of fatigue or maybe "writer's cramp"? As you tire (if you do at all), have
              you ever been conscious of you writing beginning to change in some
              consistent fashion?

              Sorry for the "third degree" but it's not too often one runs across a modern
              day scribe.

              Rick Hubbard
            • Jack Kilmon
              ... From: Rick Hubbard Sent: Tuesday, February 09, 2010 7:42 PM To: Subject: RE: [GTh] Papyrus ... As
              Message 6 of 6 , Feb 10, 2010
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                --------------------------------------------------
                From: "Rick Hubbard" <rhubbard@...>
                Sent: Tuesday, February 09, 2010 7:42 PM
                To: <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
                Subject: RE: [GTh] Papyrus

                > Jack wrote:
                >
                > <snip>
                >
                > ||Thinking that my own experience in writing texts on papyrus and vellum
                > in
                > ||Egyptian, Hebrew, Greek and Latin is not much different than the ancient
                > ||scribes that produced those texts from different areas of the
                > Mediterranean
                >
                > I must have not read this carefully enough the first time through,
                > otherwise
                > I surely have commented at the time it was posted.
                >
                > If I understand this correctly you actually duplicate the writing process
                > of
                > ancient scribes, is that correct?

                As much as possible, Rick. I don't make my own papyrus but the ancient
                scribes didn't either. I do, on occasion make my own skin substrate on
                three levels of quality. I harvest, dry and cut my own Phragmites communis
                reeds, or bamboo if doing Chinese, and make my own carbon black or iron gall
                ink. I use traditional ink cakes for Chinese.

                >
                > If so, maybe you describe the way you do it. Do you work on a flat surface
                > (e.g., desk or table) or do you use a lapboard?

                I tried it on a lap board, Rick, if for no better reason than to familiarize
                myself with the challenges of the ancient Egyptian scribe (I am certain this
                was not the practice of Hebrew soferym). I found it almost impossible to
                maintain a steady surface or line but I could take "notes" in Hieratic and
                so I examined papyri of Hieratic from Pharaonic Egypt and noticed that the
                lines were just "eye straight" and sometimes worse. An example is the Prisse
                Papyrus, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Prisse_papyrus.svg. In my
                opinion, the sculptures of sitting scribes with reeds or brushes in hand are
                strictly court "chancery" style for dictation in cursive. I am positive
                exacting work such as "Scrolls of the Dead" using hieroglyphs like the
                Papyrus of Ani with the artwork was not done sitting down cross legged but
                on a chair at a table. In Ancient Israel I am convinced no soferym wrote
                sitting cross legged on the floor. Examination of any of the important
                works among the DSS like the Isaiah Scroll reveal parchment that has been
                cut to exact size, laid flat and ruled and written so that each letter hangs
                perfectly from the rule. That cannot be accomplished on a lap board. For
                simple correspondences and contracts written by scribes for hire among the
                populace, such as the scribal work done for Shymeon Ben Kosiba in Wadi caves
                and in cursive, I am sure some form of portable surface was involved.

                I work, sitting comfortably, on a flat table because I have found that in
                any type of calligraphy comfort is essential and I am positive that was true
                for the ancient scribe.



                > When you are writing on
                > papyrus, do you mark the borders and lines of the writing surface or do
                > find
                > it possible to write straight lines without the benefit of guidelines??

                In the beginning I marked borders and made rules with pencil that I could
                erase after the text was scribed without effecting my script but after a
                while, when I decided I wanted to be more authentic, I realized that there
                were no erasers in the ancient world other than a sharp blade. Again I
                examined papyri from around the Middle East (The Romans liked wooden slats)
                with a particular interest in the important works by the best scribes, P46,
                P66, P75, Thomas, Egerton and so on, and all of the lines were "eye
                straight." Actually doing it sometimes gives you insights not necessarily
                obvious to many papyrologists. The papyrus making process involves laying
                out thinly cut and soaked strips of papyrus pith on a smooth wooden board
                and the strips slightly overlapped first vertically and another layer
                horizontally. Another flattened board is placed on top and heavy weights
                were put on top to press them together to expel the liquid and allow the
                natural gum of the plant to glue the strips together as it dried. I may
                take a crack at making some this summer since a friend grows papyrus. I
                purchase my papyrus sheets from a firm in the Fayum. This process seems to
                result in the first few strips being relatively horizontal and subsequent
                strips, as you go down the sheet, to waver. I use the first strip as my
                rule and go eye straight from there. I wind up with a document that
                resembles the lines of the papyri I mentioned.



                > About how long can you write at a single session before developing some
                > sort
                > of fatigue or maybe "writer's cramp"? As you tire (if you do at all), have
                > you ever been conscious of you writing beginning to change in some
                > consistent fashion?

                I find I can write for about an hour before taking a break to "regain my
                eye." I find I can make the same scribal errors as the ancient such as
                dittography, haplography and homeoteleuton at which times I wonder if the
                ancient scribes cussed also. Yes, if I try to push myself to finish a
                manuscript, I begin to make the aforementioned errors. What tires easiest
                or strains, are the eyes. even more so than the hands, which can cramp of
                course after a while. In that respect, I have something the ancient scribe
                did not, electric lighting and specialized lamps. The ancient scribes only
                had oil lamps. I admit going far enough in my quest to understand the
                ancient scribe as to use an Herodian lamp from my antiquities collection
                with olive oil and a wick. It did not produce enough light for me to write
                anything on a papyrus of which I could just about make out the outlines.
                Apparently all scribal work in the ancient world was done during the day.
                If the scribe was going to be working all day, he must have used a place in
                the east open to the morning light and moved to a place in the west for
                afternoon. He may even have worked on the rooftop on sunny days. As I
                recall, the archaeologists believed the scriptorium at K. Qumran was
                "upstairs." It makes better sense than on a first floor or a basement. My
                favorite place to work is upstairs by the window with the curtains and
                shades open for the natural light.

                >
                > Sorry for the "third degree" but it's not too often one runs across a
                > modern
                > day scribe.

                No problem at all. I hope I answered your questions sufficiently.

                Regards

                Jack Kilmon
                San Antonio, TX


                >
                > Rick Hubbard
                >
                >
                >
                > ------------------------------------
                >
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                > Interlinear translation: http://www.geocities.com/mwgrondin/x_transl.htm
                >
                > ------------------------------------
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                >
                >
                >



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