art playground

In the 1st century most codices were made from a single quire (section/signature/gathering) of papyrus with a limp leather cover. A common attachment from the block to the cover was thong tackets made from leather and knotted on the inside of the fold. Leather wrapping bands were a common closure.

1st Century: Palm Leaf Books

Before 1st c – Palm leaf books developed in India – Religious sutras were copied onto palm leaves (cut into 2, lengthwise) with a metal stylus. The leaf was dried and rubbed with ink. Finished leaves and cover boards were threaded onto 2 long pieces of twine. Twine was wrapped around book when closed. Buddhist monks took idea through Persia, Afghanistan and Iran to China in first century BCE

1st Century: Calligraphy

From 1st c — Roman Rustic script is standard book hand of Empire (replacing Roman Square Capital)

1st Century

1st c (probable) – Earliest codex (estimate). Fragments exist from 1st and 2nd c, but earliest surviving codices date from 3rd c. The word “codex” is Latin (from “caudex”) for the trunk of a tree. (Coptic Christian Egypt)

Timelines are fascinating; they help you to compare what was going on in one place at the same time as what was going on in another, you can plot how a particular technology developed through time, or you can see how it moved around the world as more countries adopted it. As a lover of ancient and medieval history I use my timelines as learning tools and I refer to them frequently. Bits of them often end up in class handouts and instruction.

Beginning in 2007 I started keeping timelines on 4 topics and I add to them as I come across items of particular interest while I’m reading:

Bookbinding, Miniatures, Paper and Writing
Metal and Smithing
Gemstones and Glass

In an effort to spread my love of bookbinding, miniatures, paper and writing (calligraphy) I’m going to be posting my timeline entries onto my blog. I hope that you will start your own timeline and incorporate my entries if they are relevant to your timeline subjects.

On Paper: A Book Review

On Paper: The Everything of it’s Two-Thousand-year History
By Nicholas A. Basbanes

This book took me by surprise in several ways. When it arrived I was disappointed to see that it was written by a journalist. I had been expecting a scholarly history of paper written by, say, a hand paper maker; someone with an artistic love of the subject.

My fears were quickly allayed and I have to admit that I’m so glad Mr. Basbanes took up the topic! He used his journalism skills to seek out all kinds of information that I didn’t expect. Yes, there is the very well researched and written section on the history of paper, but there is so much more substance to this book. The author discusses the people involved in papermaking, the inventions of machines, the evolution and uses of paper. He covers the past, the present and the future of the subject and the techniques in making it.

I was satisfied with this book both as an artist who uses paper in bookbinding, and as a curious human who loves receiving the answers to questions I hadn’t thought to ask. My biggest surprise was that it made me cry. Yes, it’s a non-fiction book about paper that had me bawling through the final chapter. I don’t want to give it away, but let’s just say that this book brought home the 9/11 attacks and the human impact like nothing else that I had seen or read before.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys paper, history, or just a good read. You’ll come away with a greater appreciation of the subject and its affect on our culture.

Purchase the book from Amazon from this link:
On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History (Vintage)

Happy 4th!


Here are 2 hot publications for your Independence Day consideration.

The first is a great article from The Public Domain Review showing representations of fireworks from past centuries.

The next is a 1785 manuscript showing how to build fireworks. It can be read online or downloaded as a PDF.

Both were fun reads in anticipation of the displays of patriotism scheduled for the day.


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