THE GREEK PAPYRI
PAPYRA, throned upon the banks cfXile,
Spread ker smooth leaf, and tcaz-ed her sihsr style.
—The storied pyramid^ the laureled bust,
The tropbied arch bad crumbled into dust;
The sacred symbol, and the epic song.
(Unknown the character, forgot the tongue^
With each unconquer*d chief or sainted maid,
Sunk undistinguished in oblivions shade.
Sad o'er the scattered ruins Genius sigb'd,
And infant Arts but learned to lisp and died.
'Till to astonish*d realms PAPYRA taught
To paint in mystic colours Sound and Thought,
With Wisdom's voice to print the page sublime,
dnd mark in adamant the steps of Time.
ERASMUS DARWIN, Tie L&ves of the Plants (1789).
IN the year 1778 a commercial traveller in Egypt was offered
by the feilahin some forty or fifty rolls of papyrus; one of them
he bought as a curiosity for a small sum and left the rest to be
burnt by the natives, whose noses were tickled (so the story goes)
by the aroma of burning papyrus. The survivor found its way
into the hands of an Italian and was by him presented to Cardinal
Stefano Borgia. The hopes cherished by many savants, Winckel-
mann among them, that here was one of the lost treasures of
Greek literature were soon disappointed. The roll was found to
contain nothing more than a list of peasants who had performed
in the village of Ptolemais Hormou in the Faiyum their quota
of compulsory labour on the neighbouring canals and dykes, and,
as the age of social history was still far in the future, it is no
matter for surprise that the roll and the circumstances of its
discovery were soon forgotten. And yet the incident is signifi-
cant, for the Charta Borgiana was the first papyrus to reach
Europe since the trade in what had been the primary writing