The Importance of Papryus in the Sixth Century

In the sixth century, Cassiodorus wrote this wonderful description of the impact of writing on papyrus on the thought process:

“Before [papyrus was discovered] the sayings of the wise, the thoughts of the ancients were in danger. For how could the writer have been able to write quickly, when, the hardness of the bark resisting him he would scarcely have been able to be ready? The excitement of the mind submits to the unfitting hindrances; when the words are harassed, the mental powers are compelled to grow lukewarm … This was fit only for the beginnings of the world. Then papyrus was discovered, and therewith was eloquence made possible … So smooth and so continuous, the snowy entrails of a green herb, which keeps the sweet harvest of the mind, and resorts it to the reader whenever he chooses to consult it; which is the faithful witness to all human action.”

-Elspeth Whitney, “Paradise Restored: The Mechanical Arts from Antiquity through the Thirteenth Century”, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 80, Part 1, (1990): 67.

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