Roll and Codex
ROLL AND CODEX
Two distinct types of book format used in antiquity and during the Middle Ages.
Roll. The ancient papyrus roll (Gr. τόμος, τε[symbol omitted]χος Lat. volumen; also βύβλος, βίβλος prior to the appearance of the codex) or the epistolary and documentary roll (Gr. κύλινδρος, κυλιστός; medieval rotulus ) has been known in some detail from the 3d century b.c. It is uncertain whether the stability it enjoyed as an institution was an Alexandrian tradition. Records were written along the length or width of the roll without columnization; in the older Ptolemaic, Byzantine, Coptic, and early Western medieval period the charta transversa (script parallel to the width) was popular. Books were written along the roll's length, which varied greatly, though a manageable size was favored. Pliny assumed rolls up to 20 sheets (about 5 meters) to be normal, but there were shorter and longer ones, often up to 10 meters in length. Birt's conjecture of "great rolls" for the older classical authors (e.g., Herodotus in one roll) is rejected today. The literary division, called the book, was not developed under the influence of the roll. Such divisions of larger works by the author was a Hellenistic practice.
The basic unit in the production of the book was not the individual sheet (Gr. σελίς, Lat. pagina ), but rather the complete roll, onto which any desired number of additional sheets could be pasted. The roll was inscribed preferably on the inner side (recto ), where the papyrus fibers run vertically to the sutures (Gr. κόλλημα), i.e., mostly horizontal for the copyist and so render unnecessary any ruling on the sheet. In earlier times, an obliquely cut rush or an unslit reed was used for writing; from the 3d century b.c. reeds were split and sharpened (Gr. κάλαμος Lat. calamus, canna ), and a deep black India ink (Gr. μέλαν) was used. Ink was made of a mixture of gums, lampblack, and water and was washable. The text was arranged in columns, whose width (in harmony with the height of the roll) was determined by considerations of legibility; it amounted often to about 7.5 to 9 centimeters, the limit of length being that of the epic hexameter, which, like the iambic trimeter, filled the line. The columns of any given roll were of equal width; in the later lyric verse the lines were indented and adapted according to length. The length of the column depended on the height of the roll and was uniform throughout; it ran from less than 20 to as many as 70 lines (generally 20 to 30 lines). Between the individual columns was a blank space or intercolumniation (not identical with the suture), in which later marginal notes, commentaries, and glosses were often written.
The roll was not given a title, but was cited by its opening words, the incipit; from the 3d century b.c. it often carried a portrait of the author. The exact title came at the end of the work, on the blank tailpiece of the roll, the ἄγραφον. Only incomplete remnants of illustrated book rolls have been preserved. Originally (6th to 4th century b.c.) book rolls were stored in chests; the content of the roll was noted in the ἐπίγραμμα, a vertical external inscription written on a protective sheet of papyrus that reinforced the roll, or on a parchment strip, the πρωτόκολλον, pasted onto the first sheet of the roll. When the rolls were later (examples from Athens, 415 b.c.) kept in cupboards or bookcases, the upper edge of the rolls, which were arranged in a flat position, extended outward toward the viewer; a parchment streamer (σίλλυβος, σίττυβος, Lat. index, titulus ) was attached, which hung down over the edge and gave the title of the work. This brought the ἄγραφον to the inside of the roll between the outer left edge and the beginning of the text. The original boxlike container (Gr. κιβώτιον, Lat. capsa ) gradually assumed, in virtue of the use of the tituli, the shape of an elongated cylindrical receptacle into which the rolls were inserted. The rolls of any one work were numbered and were thus recorded in ancient library catalogues; from the time of the Alexandrians notations were added concerning origin, former owners, author, etc.
The roll was held in both hands by the reader and was read by unrolling it parallel to the length from the left, rolling it up again to the right, and usually rerolling it. Deluxe rolls appear to have been unrolled with the aid of a rolling rod (Gr. ὀμφαλός, Lat. umbilicus ) that was usually placed loose inside the roll. The roll was held together by a band or cord (lora ).
Unlike Egypt, the Near East preferred to use leather, which in Egypt was as old as papyrus but was rapidly supplanted. There is evidence of the use of leather rolls down to the Byzantine period. Rolls preferably of parchment were used in the Middle Ages. They are well exemplified by the south Italian Exsultet rolls, the English Pipe rolls, the Metz juridical rolls—trial records consisting of many individual pieces of parchment sewn together into rolls—necrology rolls, etc.; all comparable to the official documentary rolls (Gr. τόμος συγκολλ ήσιμος) and land registers of antiquity. Medieval rolls differed, however, in various ways from those of antiquity, especially in being unrolled parallel to the width (with the exception of the Torah scrolls).
Codex. The terms codex and caudex (tree trunk, piece of wood) were used by the Romans to designate by metonymy anything made out of several wooden boards, especially the writing tablet (δέλτος, δελτίον, δελτίδιον, Lat. tabula, tabella; waxed tablet, tabula cerata; tablet whitewashed with lime, tabula cerussata ). The tablet had already been brought to the Greeks via the Phoenicians as early as the time of Homer and was early in general daily use in Rome. There the tabulae —since the time of Cato the Censor (d. 149 b.c.) synonymous with codex—were used also for official certificates and texts of laws, and it was customary to bind several tablets together into a notebook (codex, codicillus, pugillaris, pugillare, pugillus ). In the stricter sense, codex accepti et recepti meant a debt register or cash book, and codex rationum, a levy book. By the 1st century b.c. at the latest, wood was replaced in notebooks by the thinner, finer, more pliable parchment (membrana ) that was more suitable for longer texts, so that membranae and codex were practically synonymous with parchment notebook, as opposed to the Greek διφθέραι, Lat. volumina in membrana (parchment roll). The first reliable evidence of the publication of a literary work in codex format is found in a reference by Martial (Epigr. 14.184–192; 84–85 a.d.), who recommends the pocket-size parchment copybook (pugillares membranei ) to the Romans for traveling. The earliest example of the use of codex as a book is in Commodian (Carmen apologeticum 11; 2d half of the 3d century a.d.). The early Christians were especially instrumental in developing the notebook into the codex book. The first disciples of Christ may well have noted down the words of the Lord just as the Jews inscribed their rabbinical writings on small tablets or leather leaves. In Rome during the 1st century they became acquainted with the pugillares membranei, i.e., the parchment notebook. In the further development of the parchment notebook into the codex, the Gospel of St. Mark, written in Rome and very probably inscribed in codex format, and the Acta s. Petri, were decisive contributing factors, because of their authority, to the use of the codex format for later Biblical MSS. Further evidence for this view is attested by the Biblical MSS of the first 3 centuries of the Christian era, which almost exclusively use parchment and the codex format, and by the Coptic MSS from the mid-3d century. The genesis of the book in codex format in the West and the original use of parchment and not papyrus is evidenced by the Latin expressions, codex and membranae, which have no Greek equivalents, even in the 4th century σωμάτιον (body, corpus ), πυκτίον (tabula ), and κ[symbol omitted]διξ; by the predominance of parchment over papyrus in the oldest Biblical MSS found mostly in Egypt; and finally, by the technical perfection of even the earliest parchment codices in comparison with the bungling execution of the most recent papyrus codices. The codex format remained limited almost exclusively to the Bible in the first 3 centuries, whereas the Christian authors of the 2d and 3d centuries followed the Hellenistic-Roman custom in preferring the roll format for their works. Toward the end of the 3d and the beginning of the 4th century, the triumph of the codex over the roll was assured. A contributing influence was the publication in codex format of the great codes of laws having authoritative force, for example, the Codex Gregorianus and the Codex Hermogenianus. The decisive factor may have been the fact that, with the triumph of Christianity under Emperor constantine i, the canon of the Bible, handed down in codex format, became the leading sacred book of the new society, the codex being virtually identified with the Libri sancti. This, and not the fact that the parchment codex was more durable and convenient to read, explains its ultimate supplanting of papyrus and roll. The codex replaced the customary book of the pagan world and became the accepted format of the Christian West. The result was an immense program of transcribing the writings of antiquity from roll to codex. This work accompanied the decline of ancient culture and preserved for the Christian world and for posterity the intellectual treasure of the pagan past.
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