Page images

not only as being the most ancient code of laws ever promulgated, but as being the first specimen of writing that ever existed, which, although maintained by some, is certainly carrying the argument too far. The materials on which the Jews and other eastern nations wrote were various. The most ancient we read of, were the two tables of stone on which the Decalogue was written; and the two altars mentioned in Deut. xxvii. 8., that were erected for a similar purpose, unless we account the book of Job of an ancienter date. For in Job xix. 23, 24, we have three ways of writing mentioned, viz. writing in a book, engraving on lead, and engraving on a rock. It would appear, that engraving on rock especially, was the way in which the ancients chose to preserve inscriptions. For the Prefetto of Egypt mentions a place not far from the mountains of Faran in the wilderness of Sinai, where, for the distance of three miles, they met with ancient unknown characters, cut here and there on the hard marble rock, at the distance of 12 or 14 feet from the ground, with the greatest industry. Maillet mentions something of the same kind in the plain of Mummies in Egypt, (Lett. 7.) Maundrell gives an account of figures and inscriptions like these abovementioned, which are graven on polished parts of the natural rock, and at some height above the road, which he found near the river Lycus (p. 37.) And Mr. Macdonald Kinneir, when speaking of Babylon, says, that he observed several kinds of bricks that appear to have been in use among the Babylonians, some of which were burnt by the fire for facing, and others dried in the sun for the heart of the building. Of the former he distinguished four kinds, but the most common were about a foot square, and three inches thick, with a distich of the characters so common at Persepolis, and similar in appearance to the barb of an arrow. The author of the present work saw one of these bricks, exactly answering the above description, which had been brought from Babylon by one of the suite of General Sir John Malcolm.

It is generally thought that engraving on brass and lead, and on a rock or tablet of stone, was the form in which the public laws were written; but that rolls of linen, first painted and then written upon, was the common form of books. Two things corroborate this opinion. 1st. That tablets of stone or plates of metal could not have been cut with a knife and thrown into the fire, as Jeremiah's roll was by Jehoiakim. And 2dly, The linen bandages which surround the mummies are commonly filled with hieroglyphical characters. Prideaux informs us, that the Egyptian papyrus (from whence our English word paper is derived) was not known till the building of Alexandria, by Alexander the Great, and consequently later than the times of the prophets; and that parchment (pergamena, from Pergamus in Asia Minor, where it was first used,) was of later date than the papyrus. The leaves and inner bark of trees (called Bußhos and Liber) were indeed sometimes used instead of paper; as were the thin plates of wood (tabellæ) either plain or covered with wax, but both the Jews and other nations resorted at length to the linen or parchment, as being most convenient ; for paper, like that in present use, is only a modern invention. The Jewish manner of writing was suited to their materials. For when stone, lead, brass, wood, wax, or papyrus, were used, they wrote with a bodkin or style of Iron; and hence it is that every man's writings or com

Geograph. Memoir of the Persian Empire, A. D. 1810, p. 279. > Ch. xxxvi. 23. € Prideaux Connect. A.A.C. 332.

# Is. XXI. 8

[ocr errors]

positions are called different styles ;“ But when they wrote on linen or parchment, they used a reed (calamus) formed into a pen, and some colouring substance equivalent to ink; like Isaiah when he wrote his prophecy in ch. viii. 1. In Ezekiel ix. 2, 3, 11. we read of six persons with scribes' or writers' ink-horns at their sides or girdles, which, though not conformable to our customs, is yet agreeable to those of the East. Thus Dr. Shaw informs us, that among the Moors in Barbary, “ the Hojas, that is, the writers or secretaries, suspend their ink-horns in their girdles, a custom as old as the prophet Ezekiel :” and adds in a note, that “the part of these ink-horns (if an instrument of brass may be so called) which passes betwixt the girdle and the tunic, and holds their pens, is long and flat; but the vessel for the ink, which rests upon the girdle, is square, with a lid to clasp over it.” And Hanway in like manner says of the Persians, that their writers carry their ink and pens about them in a case, which they put under their sash,” which Sir John Malcolm tells us is about ten or twelve inches in length, and three or four round, beautifully painted, and is also worn by ministers in Persia as an ensign of office.

The ancient form of a book was commonly that of a roll, and hence the frequent mention of rolls in Scripture. For it is well known that the books found in Herculaneum are in the form of rolls, and that the ancient Jewish books did not, like ours, consist of distinct leaves bound together, but were, as the copies of the Pentateuch used in the Jewish synagogues still are, long rolls of parchment, with the writing distinguished into columns. So that what are called leaves in Jer. xxxvi. 23, seem rather to have been the columns into which the

[ocr errors]


· Prideaux Connect, A.A.C. 332. b Trav. p. 227.
< Vol. i. p. 332. d History of Persia, vol. i. ch. 10.

breadth of the roll was divided, as many of the eastern rolls are at this day. Accordingly, Josephus, when describing the introduction of the Seventy-two translators of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, to Ptolomy Philadelphus, says, “ But as the old men came in with the presents which the high-priest had given them to bring to the king, and with the membranes or skins upon which they had these laws written in golden letters, he put questions to them concerning these books. And when they had taken off the covers wherein they were wrapt up, they showed him the membranes. So the king stood admiring the thinness of these membranes, and the exactness of the joinings, which could not be perceived, so exactly were they connected one with another; and this he did for a considerable time." The author of the present work has seen a roll, on which was written the Veda, or sacred book of the Hindoos, in the Sanscrit language. It was of silk paper, nine feet ten inches long, and four and three-eighth inches wide. The writing was in two columns, beautifully executed, with ten paintings at top, five and five; and along the columns, at different but unequal distances, were other three and twenty paintings, which were understood to be either incarnations of their deity, or expressive of some parts of their mythology. The edging on the sides and foot were also elegantly designed. In general, the ancient rolls were only written on one of the sides, but the roll mentioned in Ezekiel ii. 10, was written within and without, to show the abundance of the matter contained in it. These latter rolls were called by the Greeks οπισθογραφα βιβλια, books written on the back or outer side; and from them by the Romans, Libri opistographi,' or as Juvenald calls them, Scripti in tergo.

· Antiq. xii. 2. b Lucian Vit. Auct. 9.

· Plin. Epist. jii. 5. Sat. i. lin. 6.

And of this kind was the book or roll mentioned in Rev. v. 1., which was written within, and on the back, and sealed with seven seals. It is easy to see that rolls of linen, silk or parchment were liable to the injuries of time, both as to their texture and writing : they seem therefore to have been preserved in chests of wood, or some other durable material. Jeremiah's roll is indeed said to have been preserved in an earthen pitcher, but Michaelis rather thinks it the name of a place, and that the original word Aemetha means Ecbatana, the capital of Media. With respect to deeds of no great length, but of great importance, they seem to have been engraved on sheets of lead rolled up. For Pliny informs us, that “writing on lead (plumbeis voluminibus, rolls of lead) was of high antiquity, and came after writing on the bark and leaves of trees, and was used in recording public transactions.” Josephus frequently speaks of decrees of states being written on brass.

Besides books in the form of rolls, we also read in Scripture of letters being sent from one person to another. These were, in general, in the form of rolls also, and resembling probably those in the East at this day. Thus Neibuhre tells us that “the Arabs roll up their letters, and then flatten them to the breadth of an inch, and paste up the end of them, instead of sealing them." And Hanway' tells us, that “the Persians make


their letters in the form of a roll, about six inches long, and that a bit of paper is fastened round it with gum, and sealed with an impression of ink, which resembles our printers’ ink, but not so thick.”—When letters were written to inferiors, they were often sent open, or in the form of an unsealed roll : but when addressed to equals



Chap. xxxii, 14. Supplem. ad. Lex. Heb. p. 60. Nat. Hist. xiii. 11. d Joseph Antiq. xv. 6. e Arab. p. 90. f Travels, vol. i. p. 317.

« PreviousContinue »