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first is inscribed with a text relating to a grant of land about B.C.1400; the second is inscribed with a copy of a legal document, and the third with five lines of a song. In some cases the scribe used a wooden tablet, covered with a thin layer of white lime or plaster, as his writing material. A good example is B.M. 5629, which contains a copy written in hieratic of the Lament of KhakheperaSenbu, O
‚18-[e], a libationer of Heliopolis who
flourished under the XIIth dynasty. This tablet, like B.M. 21633, was intended for use in schools. The Copts also wrote drafts of texts, letters, extracts from the Bible, etc., on slices of white limestone and on pieces of broken pots; for specimens see Table-Case A in the Coptic Room in the British Museum. From the IIIrd century B.C. to about A.D. 400 ostraka were extensively used by Government officials and others, who wrote on them receipts for taxes, lists of workmen and materials, invoices, letters, etc., in Greek and demotic characters. From the VIIth century onwards the Copts wrote many of their legal documents on leather, and little by little copies of the Scriptures came to be written on small sheets of well-prepared skin which were bound up in books like folios of papyrus.
The palette of the Egyptian scribe, called gesta, 04
was a rectangular piece of wood, or ivory,
A groove, sloping at one end, was
or stone which varied in length from about 9 to 16 inches, and from 2 to 3 inches in width. At one end of it were two or more circular or oval hollows to hold ink; sometimes the circular hole was made in the form of the shen sign, Q, and the oval hollow in the form of a cartouche cut lengthwise in the palette to hold the writing reeds. These were kept in their place either by a wooden or stone cover which fitted into the groove, or by a fixed covering like a small tunnel at one end of the groove. Sometimes a sliding cover entirely covered the reeds, much in the same way as the top of the modern pen-box in the East protects the pens. Sometimes loyal scribes caused a cartouche containing the name of the reigning king to be cut on one end of the palette, or the figure of Thoth. Some palettes have as many as a dozen hollows, and these probably belonged to scribes who painted the Vignettes on papyri. The inscriptions on palettes are usually in hieroglyphs, but B.M. 5524, made of ivory, is inscribed in hieratic, B.M. 5517, made of wood, is also inscribed in hieratic, and B.M. 12753, also made of wood, is inscribed in demotic. The palettes found in tombs are of two classes: (1) those that had been actually used by the deceased persons during their lifetime in the exercise of their profession, and (2) those that were votive offerings. Examples of the latter class
are B.M. 52942 and B.M. 12778. The first of these is made of white alabaster and dates from the IVth or Vth dynasty; it has two circular hollows, which never had ink in them, and a groove with a sliding cover, also made of alabaster, length 11 It was made for a superintendent of the priests called Senni,
mm 44. The second
is made of green stone and is 16 inches long. The positions of the hollows for ink are marked by lightly incised lines, and pieces of reeds are plastered into the groove. At one end, cut in outline, is a scene representing the deceased standing before Osiris with both hands raised in adoration; behind Osiris stand a goddess (Maāt, or Isis?) and a dog-headed god, wearing the lunar horns and disk, , who is the representative of Thoth. The inscription, which is on both sides of the groove, reads: 1.
May Thoth, lord of the words of the gods, President of all the gods, grant exit from and entrance into Khert-Neter; let there not be repulse of soul to the Ka of the scribe of the . . . . . of the water of the temple of Menmaātrā (Seti I) in the House of Amen, Amenmes, speaker of the truth before Osiris, the lord of eternity. May Osiris, lord of Ta-Tchesert, give meat, and drink, and oxen, and geese, and linen garments, and incense, and bitumen oil, and every good and pure thing to the Ka of the . . . . . of the water in the House of Amen-Ra, the king of the gods, Amenmes, speaker of the truth before all the gods of Thebes." This palette was never used. The palette B.M. 5523, also made of green stone, is also probably to be regarded as a votive offering. It is a little less than 10 inches in length, and was made for the chief bowman, Meriti, , but was never used. The inscription reads
ப , "Hail, Ka of Osiris, Meriti, the truth-speaker," and is clearly the address of the kinsman or friend who dedicated the palette to the deceased. By the side of hollows for the ink is a figure of the god Osiris with a green face;
he is in the form of a mummy, but wears a red collar. On Plate 5 of the Papyrus of Ani we see a palette being carried in the hand of a member of the funeral procession, but whether it was the great scribe's own palette or the offering of a friend is not clear. Of the palettes that were actually used by scribes the following are typical examples. B.M. 12784 is a thin strip of wood about 11 inches in length, with two hollows for ink and a groove running the whole length of it; a part of the sliding cover, which protected the reeds, of which four still remain, is wanting. The inscription reads
"Beneficent god, Lord of the Two
Lands, Neb-peḥti-Ra," i.e., Amasis I, the first king of the XVIIIth dynasty, about B.C. 1600. The second example is made of wood, is 13 inches long, and has two circular and twelve oval hollows for ink or colours. At one end is a cartouche running the whole width of the palette containing the inscription
May live the beneficent god, the Lord of the Two Lands, Menkheperurā (Thothmes IV), beloved of Thoth, the Governor of Ḥeser." By the sides of the groove are the inscriptions :
the lord of the words of the gods, grant the knowledge of the writing which came forth from him, and penetration of the meaning of the words of the gods to the Ka of the Erpā, the great (?) Ḥa, at the head of the royal nobles (?), steward of the King's House, Rā-meri." 2. "May Àmen-Ra, Lord of the thrones of the Two Lands, the One God, living in (or by) Truth, grant the sweet wind that comes forth from his nostrils and great favours (or rewards, or praises) in the King's House to the Ka of the steward of the King's House, Ra-meri." Across the width of the palette is written
III ,"scribe of the steward of the governor Nuna," and these words seem to imply that Nuna had the palette made to commemorate Ra-meri. In connection with the palette reference must be made to Chapter XCIV of the Book of the Dead, which contains a prayer wherein the deceased asks for an ink-pot and a palette to offer to Osiris. The palette was supposed
to contain a portion of the spirit or essence of Thoth, and an offering of ink-pot and palette propitiated Osiris, who also took the form of a palette on occasions. In the Chapter the deceased addresses Osiris as the " Aged God," and it is important to note that a figure of Osiris is attached to B.M. 5523. As already said, the face of the god is green, which is the colour given to the face of Osiris when it is intended to represent him as the "Old God," or the God of olden time, or the "Ancient of days."
Here, for convenience sake, may be mentioned a couple of objects that seem to have formed part of the equipment of a scribe or artist; they were found in Upper Egypt and were acquired by the Trustees in 1906 (B.M. 43047, 43072). Each object consists of two parts: (1) a flat piece of wood of the shape here shown-in the case of the larger object it is 12 inches long-and (2) a parchment sheath 7 inches long, into which the wood slides. The front of the parchment sheath is raised and forms a flat projection with five holes, and attached to this, by leather thongs, is a circular cup with two raised bands, one at the top and one at the bottom. It is suggested that the five holes in the parchment case held reeds or pens, and that the cup attached to it was filled with water or varnish. The flat board may have been used for mixing colours upon, or it may have served merely as a rest for the wrist of the scribe or artist, always of course supposing that this instrument was used by a "writer" or painter. On the back of the parchment sheath is a design, stamped in black ink, consisting of annules, triangles, dots, flowering trees or plants, etc. The general appearance of this ornamentation suggests that the object is of Coptic origin, and that it is not the work of ancient Egyptians.
o, , pus, or
The ink-pot, pes, was usually made of glazed Egyptian porcelain, and varied in height from 11 inches to 3 inches. The ink, or liquid colour, was probably contained in a pad of vegetable fibre or linen, which served the purpose of the little piece of sponge that is seen in the modern pen-cases of Orientals.
The writing reed,ar, or perhaps A
Copt. Kay, was about 10 inches long, and the end used in writing was bruised and not cut; writing reeds were of various thicknesses. In late times a much thicker reed, which closely resembled that used by the Arabs and other Oriental peoples to-day, was employed, and when this was the case the end was cut like a quill or steel pen. The black ink that the Egyptians used is commonly supposed to have been made of lamp-black, mixed with water and a little gum. But such an ink could be easily washed off the papyrus or tablet, for there was nothing in it to make it "bite" into the papyrus, or skin, or wood on which it was used. The Syrians and Arabs used to boil shavings of the root of the artă,
tree in wine,
A portion of the hieratic text of the Story of the Eloquent Peasant Khu-en-Anpu.
Draft of a deed, written in the hieratic character on a slice of calcareous stone, concerning certain tombs which had been built on some land granted in the reign of Amenḥetep III. The draft is dated in the reign of Heremḥeb. XVIIIth dynasty. B.M. No. 5624.