Papyrus

An early paperlike material used in Egypt and Europe before the development of paper. Although papyrus is a paperlike surface, it is not true paper. (Paper is primarily described as being manufactured from the dissolved and processed fibers of plants. Papyrus could be used to make paper, however, but rarely is.) To form papyrus into a suitable writing surface, stalks of the papyrus plant ('Cyperus papyrus') are split lengthwise, wetted, laid side-by-side until the desired width was reached, other strips were placed crosswise on top of these, then hammered together. The surface of the "page" was then polished and smoothed with shells, ivory, or other hard surface until surface abberations were evened out. The word "paper" derives from the Greek word papyros. The Greek word for written sheets or rolls of papyrus was biblia, from biblos, denoting the inner fibers of the papyrus plant. (Biblia is the etymological root of many book-related terms today, such as "bibliography," "bibliophile," and foreign terms such as bibliotheque, the French term for "library." The word "Bible" has as part of its etymology the Greek phrase ta biblia, or "the rolls.") The use of papyrus as a writing medium developed in Egypt, where the papyrus plant grew in abundance. It is a testament to the efficacy of the process of papyrus-making that many ancient documents written on papyrus still survive to this day. The use of papyrus continued through the ages of Greece and Rome, until, as a result of a papyrus embargo on the part of Ptolemy VI of Egypt around 193 B.C., the use of parchment became widespread. The development of papermaking from cotton and linen rags (and, later, wood pulp) supplanted papyrus as the basis of the written medium.

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