The everyday writing tools for Romans consisted
of hinged tablets, filled with wax and written on with a stylus.
Ready-to-melt wax blocks supplied refill when the used wax was scrapped
out. (Verulamium Museum, St Albans, Hertforshire, UK.)
The Chinese rub an ink stick with water on an ink slab to make ink
when needed, and write with a brush. The slab with lacquer cover, shown
above, is from Former Han Dynasty. The brush with rabbit hair is from the
Warring-states period, preserved inside a bamboo tube.
Rolls of papyrus were kept in round boxes to protect them from
The left side shows excavated Qin laws written on bamboo strips,
interred in 227 BEC. (Shihuangdi, Hubei). The drawings on the right side illustrate how the strips are tied
together into a sheet and rolled up for storage.
Part of a
large public dedication to the emperor Diocletian and Maximian
(285-305) on a fragment of papyrus. It and some 50,000 papyrus scraps from Oxyrhynchus in Egypt provide valuable information for
historians, just as excavated Chinese bamboo strips
Left: Paper made with hemp in the Former Han Dynasty, excavated in
Shaanxi, is too coarse for writing. Right: In the Latter Han (25-220 CE),
inexpensive fine grade paper made of plant fiber became available. The
scraps shown are excavated in Wuwei, Gansu.