Skip to main content

Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

See other formats

54                     Writing and Literature
quotations from the Cambridge Companion to Greek Studies
(p. 606):
'The vehicle by which Greek literature was preserved and trans-
mitted from the earliest times until perhaps the second or third century
after Christ was the papyrus roll. Alike in respect of form and of
material, this was an import from Egypt, where it had been in use from
a very remote time. A detailed account of the way in which the papyrus
was treated in the Egyptian paper-factories is given by Pliny (N.H.
xiii. 74 sqq.), but it is obscure in many points. Without going into the
minute details of the process, it may be said here that the material used
was the pith of the papyrus-reed (TTOLTTVPOS, jSi^Aos1, fitpXos, botanically
Cyperus papyrus) cut vertically into slices. In order to make a sheet of
paper, these slices were laid some vertically and others transversely,
pressed together, and dried in the sun: unevennesses were then smoothed
or pressed away, and the sheets glued together into a roll.'
Needless to say, this material basis was not without effect upon
the subject-matter inscribed thereon.
'It is at least clear that from a fairly early period authors were in-
fluenced by the size of the papyrus rolls ordinarily manufactured, and
divided their works into such portions as could conveniently be con-
tained in single rolls.... In Pliny's day the standard quantity of a roll
was twenty sheets.'
One ancient trade-route was probably through Byblus on the
Phoenician coast, though an oft-quoted statement from the
story of Wenamun (circa noo B.C.) that Smendes of Tanis sent
five hundred rolls of papyrus to the prince of Byblus is a
mistranslation. It is often confidently asserted that the actual
Greek words for 'papyrus-reed' (jSujSAo?) and for 'book' (jStjSAtov)
are derived from the name of the said Phoenician city, Gublu in
Babylonian, and Kupni in Egyptian. Perhaps a more plausible
view is that the Greek form of that place-name was in part due
to the assonance, and in part to the knowledge of the role
played by Byblus in the diffusion of papyrus. That this writing-
material was widely used at an early date throughout Palestine