Modern readers take for granted the codex form of books in use today. In ancient times, however, the familiar form was that of a scroll (Heb. megillâ; Gr. χαρτίον βιβλίου in the Bible, also κύλινδρος elsewhere, Lat. volumen ). Papyrus, leather, or parchment sheets were glued together to form a long strip. The usual dimensions were from nine to 11 inches high and 20 to 30 feet in length, although some scrolls were only five inches high, while others reached 15 inches. The length varied according to the work's length or the type of writing. Thus, a scroll of Romans would have been about 11½ feet long; scrolls of Luke and Acts, each 31 or 32 feet, necessitating the two "books" of Luke (Acts 1.1). The dead seascroll of Isaiah (Dsia) ran 35 feet. The books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles required three scrolls in the Hebrew originals; but when they were translated into Greek, their length was doubled, and two scrolls were needed for each book. This fact explains the books' modern division into 1 and 2 Samuel, etc. The Pentateuch was written on five scrolls, which were deposited in their containers (τε[symbol omitted]χος) when not in use, and thus came to be called the Pentateuch or "five-container" work.
At times several works were written on one scroll. Thus the 12 minor prophets constituted "The Twelve," one scroll (Sir 49.10). Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther were also usually included on one scroll. By the 6th century a.d. the latter books were known as "the scrolls" (hammegillôt ).
Normally scrolls were written on only one side, though there were examples of writing on both sides. The exceptional practice is attested to in the Bible (Ez 2.10; Rv 5.1). The text appeared usually in columns four to six inches wide, so that the reader could unroll the scroll to the length of three or four columns as he read (Jer 36.23). The columns were frequently close together with not much room allowed for marginal notes. The scribe cared little about correlating the columns with the glued seams, and as a result the writing often extended over the juncture point.
The scroll was normally read by holding its bulk in the left hand, unrolling it with the right, and reading the columns from right to left. At times, the scroll was attached to wooden rollers, but this was exceptional, and in use only with deluxe editions. The usual practice was to reinforce the beginning and end of the scroll with narrow strips of the writing material in use. In reading only a section of a work, as was required in the synagogue service, a person unrolled the scroll until he came to the desired section, read, and then rolled up the scroll again. An example of this practice is found in Lk 4.17, 20. The scrolls were stored in containers, which at times were simply pottery jars, as is evidenced at Qumran. Since the biblical books for the most part were written on separate scrolls, it is clear that little attention would have been paid to the order of various books in the Bible.
The scroll form was used all through the Old Testament period and during the first centuries of the New Testament. Though the codex, or book form, was known in the 1st Christian century, it was the 2d or 3d century before the scroll form fell into disuse.
See Also: book, the ancient; roll and codex.
Bibliography: Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, translated and adapted by l. hartman (New York, 1963) 2144–46. h. gerstinger, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) (1966) 2:748–749. l. koep, Reallexikon der Assyriologie, ed. e. ebeling and b. meissner (Berlin 1928–) 64–669.
[t. h. weber]
scroll / skrōl/ • n. 1. a roll of parchment or paper for writing or painting on. ∎ an ancient book or document on such a roll. ∎ an ornamental design or carving resembling a partly unrolled scroll of parchment, e.g., on the capital of a column, or at the end of a stringed instrument. ∎ Art & Heraldry a depiction of a narrow ribbon bearing a motto or inscription. 2. [usu. as adj.] the facility that moves a display on a VDT screen in order to view new material. • v. 1. [intr.] move displayed text or graphics in a particular direction on a computer screen in order to view different parts of them: she scrolled through her file. ∎ (of displayed text or graphics) move up, down, or across a computer screen. 2. [tr.] cause to move like paper rolling or unrolling: the wind scrolled back the uppermost layer of loose dust. DERIVATIVES: scroll·a·ble adj.
1. Ornament composed of curved lines like volutes, often of double flexure passing from one volute to another in series on a band or frieze, as in Vitruvian or wave-scroll, but sometimes used as a terminal feature, e.g. handrail of a stair balustrade.
2. Volute of a console, modillion, or capital (e.g. in the Composite, Corinthian, and Ionic Orders).
3. Type of Gothic moulding with a deep scroll-like indentation under a hood-like top occurring on hood-moulds, labels, and string-courses.
4. Torsade or spiral scroll.
a roll of parchment, hence, its contents; a list of names; a schedule.
Examples : scroll of actors, 1590; of pearly clouds 1862; of eternal counsels, 1649; of the fallen; of fame, 1820; of fate, 1891; of heaven, 1656; of honour; of mortal mystery, 1817; of sins, 1621; of smoke, 1886; of tragedies, 1903.