Papermaking The Story of
an account of paper-making from its earliest
known record down to the present time by
J.W. Butler Paper Company 1901
Articles Early Used for Purposes Now Supplied by Paper Part 3
We get a glimpse of another side :of that ancient life in a tablet
of Nile clay, preserved in the British Museum, which is one of the
earliest specimens of writing now in existence. It is a proposal of
marriage, and was written about 1530 B. c., more than thirty-four
hundred years ago, by a Pharaoh asking the hand of a daughter
of the Babylonian king. Forty years later, in 1491 B. c., the Ten
Commandments were graven on tablets of stone.
Another form of tablet, a somewhat singular variation it may
seem, was in use among the Assyrians at a very early date. This
was a prism, having either six or eight sides, and made of
exceedingly fine terra-cotta. Such prisms were frequently
deposited by the Assyrian kings at the corners of temples, after
having been inscribed with accounts of the notable events in
their lives, interspersed with numerous invocations. Apparently
the custom was similar to that followed at the present day, and
the ancient Assyrian tablets no doubt served the same purpose
as the records, newspapers, and documents that are now
deposited in the corner-stones of public or other important
buildings. The prisms used as tablets varied in length from a foot and a half to three feet, and were covered very
closely with small writing. That the writers' endeavor was to make the most of the space at their disposal is
suggested by the fact that upon a prism found in the ruins of the ancient city of Ashur the inscriptions are so crowded
that there are thirty lines in the space of six inches, or five lines to the inch. The prism recites the valiant deeds of
TiglathPileser who reigned from 1120 to 1100 B. c., and undertook campaigns against forty-two other nations and
their kings. He was a monarch whose very name inspired terror among the surrounding peoples, and his reign was
filled with stirring events and brilliant achievements. Small wonder that it was necessary to crowd the inscriptions
upon the prism! Rawlinson's "Ancient Monarchies," in an account of the writings that have come down to us from the
earliest days of the world's recorded history, has this to say: "The clay tablets are both numerous and curious. They
are of various sizes, ranging from nine inches long by six and a half wide to an inch and a half long by an inch wide, or
even less. Sometimes they are entirely covered by writings, while at others they exhibit on a portion of their surface
impressions of seals, mythological emblems, and the like. Some thousands have been recovered. Many are historical,
and still more are mythological." Their use in writing and drawing was almost universal, and we read that the prophet
Ezekiel, when dwelling with "them of the captivity at Telabib, that dwelt by the river of Chebar," was commanded,
"Take thee a tile and lay it before thee, and portray upon it the city, even Jerusalem." (Ezekiel iv. I.)
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