PHARAOH'S TREASURE: The Origin of Paper

PHARAOH'S TREASURE: The Origin of Paper

JOHN GAUDET    Book Number: 87005    Product format: Hardback

Throughout history, humans have always searched for new ways to share information. This innate compulsion led to the origin of writing on the rock walls of caves to engraving copper tablets. But it was with the advent of paper, specifically papyrus paper, that the ability to record and transmit information exploded. For the first time in human history there could be a continuously flowing exchange of ideas between people on the banks of the Nile throughout the Mediterranean and beyond. Historian Gaudet explores this pivotal transition to papyrus paper which would become the most commonly used information medium in the world for more than 4,000 years. Far from fragile, it is an essentially durable writing surface. Papyrus books and documents in ancient and medieval times had a useable life of hundreds of years, allowing items like the famous Nag Hammadi codices from the 3rd and 4th century to survive. The story of this material shows how it was prized by both scholars and kings. We touch on Greece and Roman bureaucracy where there was even a type of Roman packing paper. The new value of paper for fiction, text books, theatre and on to libraries and the vast trade in writing, ink and pens, the existence of the Great Library, and into the Byzantine world where bureaucracy reaches a peak and then to the Roman church. The very word paper derives from the Egyptian term pA pr aA (that of the Pharaoh) referring to the lucrative royal monopoly on the production of papyrus writing material. The use of the sealed scroll hieroglyph from the First Dynasty to Emery's discovery of blank papyrus rolls in the tomb of Hemaka show that the practice of writing on papyrus was established from at least 3000BC. Examples include the Wadi el-Jarf, the Wisdom of Ptahhotep (the oldest literary work on paper in the world), and the Story of the Shipwrecked Sailor (the oldest fantasy text ever written). We read of the not always ethical activities of 19th century collectors such as Prisse d'Avennes and Wallis Budge and their acquisitions, notably illustrated copies of the Book of the Dead. Paper played a huge part in everyday life from leases, wills and marriage contracts, to personal letters, diaries and horoscopes. Food for thought! 356pp, well illustrated plus colour plates and woodcuts.
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ISBN 9781681778532
Browse this category: History

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