Vignette 29

This vignette, though not existing in any one place as a painting at Pompeii, may nevertheless be considered antique, as it consists of a union of all the usual implements of writing collected from a great number of ancient paintings in the two ruined cities, and some from the chamber supposed to have been the library of the tragic poet of Pompeii. This idea arose from the impression that every painting was appropriate to the chamber in which it was found.

On the left is a circular wooden or metal case, with a lid, containing six books or volumes rolled up and labelled, each according to its contents, so as to be easily distinguished. Below this lies a stylus and a pentagonal inkstand, not unlike those now in common use. The ink was called atramentum and atramentum scriptorium, and the inkstand atramentarium, and even cornugraphium. In the centre lies a pen made of a reed, and thence called calamus.

Ink seems to have been made with charcoal, but sometimes also with sepia : «Sepia lympha». Persius, Sat. III. That author describes an idle boy, who excuses himself from writing because the sepia is too thick, and, on its being diluted with water, because it was then too pale. It seems to have been of such a nature, without a mordent, that a punica spongia, according to Martial, washed out the writing ; and some have conjectured that certain sorts of paper were covered with a species of whitewash to render this operation more easy, and make the paper serviceable a second tune. This would be more readily performed when the writing was upon ivory, or libri elephantini, mentioned also by Martial. This expunging of writing was so common, that a friend of Augustus asking him how his tragedy of Ajax was proceeding, was told by the emperor, who was tired of writing and had destroyed his work, that «ajacem suam in spongiam incubuisse». Suetonius, who relates this story, adds one of Caligula, which shows that the ink of the ancients was easily obliterated, for he says that the emperor forced those who had written any thing against him to lick it out with their tongues.

Next to the case of books, the vignette has the tabella or tabulae joined together as with hinges, and sometimes, perhaps always, covered with wax. Another sort is hung up above this, where the stylus serves as a pin to hang it up against the wall. A sort of thick book of tablets, open, lies to the right of the last. In the centre are seen single volumes in cases, one of which is open on the loft and the other shut. On the right are seen four volumes, lying in such a manner as to want no explanation, two of which have their titles, one attached to the papyrus itself, and the other from the umbilicus, or cylinder of Wood in its centre.

Tablets were sometimes made of fine wood polished, but those in common use were of box, and the wax, from frequent use, became discoloured and dirty.

«Vulgari buxo sordida cera fuit». PROPERTIUS.

Though many wrote in wax, «facillima delendi», as Quintilian says, paper was so common that pepper, frankincense, and other articles are mentioned as wrapped up in useless manuscripts, as they are now in a country shop.

With regard to a stylus, it was prohibited at certain periods, as a penknife is in modern Italy, on account of its affording a ready means of revenge to an angry possessor. It was called stylus or graphium. With a stylus Cassius struck Cesar. Suetonius says, also, that Caligula caused an obnoxious senator to be massacred with one ; and that, in the reign of Claudius, women and pueri pretextati had been searched for styles in their graphiariae thecae, or pencases. It seems that wax, tablets, codex, liber, folio, membrane, charta, and papyrus were not, in common conversation, clearly distinguished in the Augustan age,when writing became in frequent and ordinary use. We find the names of many sorts of paper corresponding with our foolscap, elephant, and other sizes, with their measures and the directions for their manufacture.

There was the hieratica or sacra, the augusta, the liviana, the amphitheatrica, the famia, the saitica, the regia, and the macrocolum, and common waste paper, or amphoretica.

The quantity must have been very much like what would be found in a great city of our own times ; and Pliny left one hundred and sixty volumes, opisthographos et minutissime scriptos, or written very minutely on both sides, to his nephew.

MSS. of papyrus were capable of resisting the attacks of time and worms longer than we might imagine. The papers of Tiberius and Caius Gracchus were kept by Pomponius Secundus, Vates, and were nearly 200 years old when seen by Pliny. The same author says he had often seen the monuments, or books of Cicero, Virgil, and Augustus. Galen, speaking of MSS. of Hippocrates, considers 300 years as a vast antiquity. St. Jerome mentions that, in 100 years, the libraries of Origen and Pamphilus, at Caesarea, were already nearly worn out and corrupted ; but the Bishop of St. David's assigns to the Alexandrine MS. in the British Museum an antiquity of 1300 or 1400 years. This, however, is probably one of those in Membranis.