Ancient Writing Materials: Paper


The invention of paper is traditionally attributed to the Chinese in the early part of the 2nd century AD. From China, paper travelled west in the 8th century to the Arabs, who then spread the use of paper through their conquests into Europe.

Paper was often bound together like modern books. Below are two examples of ancient paper from the Michigan collection. Pay particular attention to the edges where the paper is torn or damaged. The Coptic text on the right is a single sheet, while the Hebrew text on the left contains several leaves. If you look carefully along the left side, you can see the edges of the individual sheets of paper.

Hebrew manuscript
written on paper
full image: front

Coptic manuscript
written on paper
full image: front

Since paper was not widely used in the west until the 8th or 9th century, there are not many examples of paper from Roman Egypt.




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Last modified: 03/11/2014