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BOOKFORGE [ATELIER!] The Egyptian Papyrus Scroll Demonstration

On Saturday, January 13th, 2024 Edward Patrick Kranz presented the first BOOKFORGE online demonstration about Egyptian Papyrus Scrolls. While the nearly three-hour-long discussion and demonstration was produced for those who signed up via the BOOKFORGE website and subsequently, those who follow the BOOKFORGE Patreon page, the embedded video shows some of the highlights from the video and the following text is notes from the session.

A conventional Egyptian roll/scroll was approximately 20 kollema in length.

Greek rolls/scrolls were typically 11 meters or 36’ in length.

The longest ancient Egyptian roll/scroll recorded is 40 meters or 36 feet long.


Basic scroll vocabulary

Most of the terms I was able to find for scrolls came from the Greek. As I research Egyptian scrolls more, I will be looking to find their counterparts in Egyptian. The challenge will be that the Ancient Egyptians spoke, Egyptian, which is a dead language.


Kollema – Single sheet or panel of papyrus.

Kollesis – The join or joint between kollema making up the roll/scroll.

Recto – The writing side of the papyrus with the strips in a horizontal orientation.

Verso – The back side of the papyrus with the strips in a vertical orientation. While typically left blank, it was not completely uncommon to find writing on the verso of the papyrus.

Titulus – Decorative or embellished color and design at the top and bottom of the kollema/scroll.

Protokallon – The blank kollema at the beginning of the scroll.

Umbilicus – A wooden rod or stick a scroll is rolled on.


Grades of Papyrus

Here is a list of each grade of papyrus, along with detailed information about their characteristics and uses, ordered from finest to most coarse:


Royal Augustan (Augustan) Papyrus:

Characteristics: Finest quality, large size (sheets of 13 digits or 10 inches wide).

Use: Initially reserved for religious books, especially sacred texts.


Hieratic Papyrus:

Characteristics: Similar to Augustan but tinted.

Use: Selected for sacred books, especially religious texts.


Amphitheatric Papyrus:

Characteristics: Originated from a skillful manufacturing process in Rome by Fannius. The manufacturing process included adding a third layer, making the papyrus finer.

Use: Initially considered a common sort but was elevated to first-rate quality by Fannius' process. The refined version was given Fannius' name. The unprocessed version retained its original name of "amphitheatric."

So, the Amphitheatric papyrus was subject to a specific manufacturing enhancement in Rome, making it finer and of higher quality. The refined version carried the name of Fannius, while the untreated version retained the original designation as "amphitheatric."


Libyan Papyrus:

Characteristics: High quality.

Use: Named in honor of the province of Libya.


Taeneotic Papyrus:

Characteristics: Named for the place in Alexandria where it was made, smaller breadth.

Use: Specific geographical association.


Saitic Papyrus:

Characteristics: Made in large quantities from cuttings of inferior quality.

Use: Used, but the quality is not as high.


Cornelian Papyrus:

Characteristics: First produced by Cornelius Gallus, prefect of Egypt.

Use: Not specified.


Commercial (Emporetica) Papyrus:

Characteristics: Quite useless for writing, narrow breadth.

Use: Instead of being used for writing, this type of papyrus was repurposed for wrapping up other paper or as a covering for various articles of merchandise. The name "emporitic" reflects its use in commerce.

Emporitic papyrus was not valued for writing due to its unsuitability but found utility in commercial activities, specifically as wrapping material for other paper and merchandise.


Bark of Papyrus:

Characteristics: Outer skin, similar to bulrush, used for making ropes.

Use: Mainly used for non-writing purposes, such as rope-making.


Byblos Papyrus:

Characteristics: The name "Byblos" is said to derive from the Phoenician city of Byblos.

Use: The term is used by Isidore in the context of referring to the inner bark of the papyrus plant when used for non-food products, such as cordage, basketry, or writing surfaces. It's associated with the use of the papyrus plant for purposes other than writing material.

In Isidore's account, "Byblos" is not explicitly mentioned as one of the main grades of papyrus for writing, but rather as a term related to the inner bark of the plant and its various applications. If there's anything specific you would like to know about Byblos papyrus or if you have additional questions, feel free to ask!


Demotic Papyrus:

Characteristics: Written in the Demotic script, which was a cursive script derived from northern forms of the ancient Egyptian hieratic script.

Use: Used for various types of documents, including legal texts, administrative documents, religious texts, and literary works during the later periods of ancient Egypt.

Demotic script and language were widely used in Egypt from around 650 BCE until the fourth century CE. Demotic papyri contain a wealth of information about different aspects of life in ancient Egypt during this period. They cover a range of subjects, including legal matters, religious texts, medical texts, and more.


These grades were evaluated based on factors like fineness, firmness, whiteness, smoothness, and breadth. The information provided reflects the distinctions made by Pliny the Elder and Isidore of Seville in their descriptions of various papyrus grades.


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