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Papyrus – Closer Up

Papyrus, the plant, is alive and well and grown all over the world. Any search for images on Google will produce a huge number of photographs.  We begin today by showing an old drawing that shows the plant from root to seed-bearing crown (but the seeds are very tiny). This is a tall plant, ranging from 5 to 16 feet in height. The inner portion of the tall stem, called the pith, was used in strips to form actual sheets of paper in an overlaid pattern. The ancient scrolls were initially sheets joined end to end, up to twenty glued together and then rolled up. Vertical strips were first laid down and joined (slightly over-lapped). The horizontal sheet was built on top of these and were then used as the preferred writing surface, the orientation of the strips providing a kind of ruling for the writing hand. This approach is rendered in a drawing here and in The Heracles Papyrus reproduced below. You can see that the writing follows the horizontal lines. To be sure, in efforts to conserve on this valuable commodity, the ancients also wrote on the back of these “pages” when they had to, but it was a lot more difficult to do.

The photograph (below) shows living papyrus. The plan is called Cyperus papyrus and is a variety of sedge. Cotton grass, for instance, is a sedge. In looking at images of papyrus growing, we discovered that there is a variety known as Dwarf Papyrus. We were inclined and therefore immediately fell in love with it. What a genius Dwarf Papyrus is—even in the choice of its excellent name. We end this closer look at papyrus, a product of nature that has lent its pith for human enlightenment, with a picture of the dwarf.

Picture credits: (1) The Drawing of the Plants: History of Egypt by S. Rappaport. This is a very old book, but we cannot locate its date. You may view it here. (2) The drawing of the weave: your artistically talented Editors; (3) The Heracles Papyrus: Wikipedia; (4) the photograph of Cyperus papyrus: Earlham College (Richmond, IN) website here; and (5) Dwarf Papyrus: Gardensoyvey.com, here.


One Response

  1. Cyperus papyrus is going to be the next addition to my container garden this coming summer.
    Thanks editors!

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