Page images

cut into slips, and smoothed, and they write upon them with sharp pointed bodkins. To make a book, several leaves are strung together. These leaves are called Ollas, and the missionaries have frequently used them for writing tracts upon. But this way of preparing tracts is very expensive, and the leaves are liable to break, so that they now use paper, and print the tracts. For this purpose, large quantities of paper are sent out every year, by the Religious Tract Society. The missionaries are very glad to receive this paper, but they wish to have a great deal more, as the grown people and children are very eager for the books they print.

The bark of trees has been used in all countries to write upon. The word book, in Latin, (liber,) is the name by which the inner bark of trees is called in that language. In Sumatra bark is still much used for books; and the North American Indians have made great use of it for their picture writing.

Linen was used in former times, particularly by the Egyptians; many of their linen books, and writings upon linen, remain to this day. They are frequently found with the mummies, or dead bodies of persons who died a long time ago, which have been preserved or embalmed in the same manner as the bodies of Jacob and Joseph. See Gen. 1. 2. 26.

Skins of animals were also used, and that long before people had found out how to make them into parchment. These leather and linen books were in the form of long rolls. It is probable that the book of the law, written by Moses, and given by him to the priests, Deut. xxxi. 24, &c. was of linen or leather; and that the book of the law, found by Hilkiah, 2 Chron. xxxiv. 14. was of this sort. It may have been the same book that was written by Moses. When Dr. Buchanan was in India, he found a very old copy of the law, written on a roll of leather about fifteen feet long. Many such rolls exist, some of them more than a hundred feet in length. Perhaps you will wonder how they could read in such a book or roll, which was the general form of books in ancient times. I will try to describe it. The rolls were

several feet long, but not very wide, generally about twelve or fourteen inches; the writing upon them was in pages, beginning at one end of the roll and so proceeding to the other. The ends of the rolls were often fastened upon sticks; the roll was opened at the beginning just enough to allow of a page or two being read. The ancient manuscripts were all written in capital letters, and without divisions of the words, so that the roll when first opened looked something like this:





John i. 1-5.

Of course there were more lines in a page, and more letters in a line than in this representation; see also the representation of an ancient manuscript, page 125. How it would puzzle my readers if their books were printed in this manner. It shows how improvements are introduced by degrees.

The part read was then rolled up, and more opened, so that the whole book could be read without the difficulty which there must have been if the lines had gone all along, from one end to the other, so as to require the whole roll to be opened at once. Sometimes both sides of the roll were written upon, Ezek. ii. 10.

The rolls, or books rolled up, are often mentioned or alluded to in the Bible, Ezra vi. 2. Isa. viii. 1. xxxiv. 4. Ezek. ii. 9. Rev. vi. 14. The scribes, or persons em. ployed in writing, were considered to be persons of some importance. From Ezek. ix. 3. 5. 11. it appears they wore their inkbottles, or inkhorns, at their girdles. The prophecy of Jeremiah, sent to Jehoiakim, was written by Baruch, with ink, in the roll of a book; and it is plain that this book was of some soft substance, as the king was able to cut it to pieces with a penknife, before he cast it into the fire, Jer. xxxvi. 23.

That is an awful instance of the way in which many despise the word of God, and refuse to listen to its pre

cepts and threatenings; often rejecting the promises of mercy, and the declarations of the love of God towards us, which are contained therein. It is indeed painful to think that some have even acted like Jehoiakim, and destroyed the word of God. The Romish priests often do so when they find Bibles or Testaments in the hands of people in Ireland; but it is very pleasant to find that there is an increasing desire to read the word of truth. There have been many instances of children refusing to give up their books, and rescuing them from the grasp of the priest. One very pleasing anecdote I must mention. A priest succeeded in tearing a Testament from the hand of a child; but the little Bible scholar had endeavored to hide the word of God in his heart, and exclaimed, “You may take away my Testament, sir; but you cannot take away the chapters I have learned by heart." In the days when popery prevailed in England, many persons learned the Psalms, and as many chapters as they could, for they knew that they would not be allowed to possess the word of God, when the papists had power to take it away. One of these excellent men had learned all the epistles.

My dear reader, if you have been taught to prize the word of God, and the truths it contains, pray earnestly, and implore the Most High that the bloody, perse. cuting religion of the church of Rome may never prevail in our land, as in former times, and as it now does in some countries. Read the accounts of the poor Lollards, and the martyrs in the days of queen Mary; and be thankful that you live in the present times. There were no Sunday schools in those days, no instruction for the young in the truths of the gospel, none of the beautiful hymns children now have to learn, no prayers which people in general could understand, but only prayers in Latin, and bowing down to images; and if parents attempted to teach their children any thing better they were punished. In the year 1519, six men and a woman were burned alive at Coventry, for teaching their children the Lord's Prayer and ten commandments in Eng. lish! Be thankful, children, for your privileges, and be diligent in improving them.

Parchment is made of the skins of goats, sheep, or calves, prepared with care. It was known to the Jews, and being a later invention, and more valuable than skins of leather, was used for writings of the greatest importance; thus the apostle Paul, when writing to Timothy, desires him to bring the books he had left at Troas, but especially the parchments, 2 Tim. iv. 13. The value and scarcity of parchment was so great before the invention of paper, that the writing was frequently effaced from rolls or books already written, and other works written instead. Some of the most ancient man anuscripts of the Bible now known, had been written over in this manner, but the first writing can still be made out, though not without difficulty. Another substance much used for writing upon, was a kind of paper made from the thin skin or film which covered a sort of bulrush that grows in Egypt, and is called papyrus or biblos. It is found in abundance on the banks of the Nile and other streams, Isa. xix. 7. Among these reeds, or bulrushes, Moses was placed when his parents dared not to keep him any longer. The daughter of the king found him there as is related, Exod. ii. 3. These bulrushes are also mentioned, Isa. xviii. 2. This paper was much used by the Romans and other nations. The manuscripts or books found in Herculaneum, the city which was buried under the ashes and lava from mount Vesuvius, in the year 79, and which remained unknown till about a hundred years ago, are all written on this sort of paper. They are rolls or long slips of different lengths, and about twelve inches wide; but from the heat of the lava, and the length of time they remained untouched, it is very difficult to unroll or open them.

Different sorts of paper have been made of bark of trees, cotton, silk, straw, and many other substances, but these as well as our paper, made of linen rags, were unknown to the ancient Jews. The paper mentioned, 2 John 12. was made of papyrus.

The ancients wrote upon many of these substances with ink. The first mention of this is in the writing of the prophecy of Jeremiah, by Baruch, which we read

was written" with ink in a book," or roll, Jer. xxxvi. 18. The prophet Ezekiel speaks of a writer's inkhorn; and the apostle John mentions writing with ink and pen, 3 John 13. Also the apostle Paul, 2 Cor. iii. 3. The pens were not of quills like ours, but of reeds, which are still used by eastern nations. See page 125. Persons could write quicker with them than with the iron pens, or bodkins, which engraved or scratched the writing, this is alluded to, Psa. xlv. 1.

There were pens in some inkhorns found in Herculaneum, but they were merely pointed sticks like skewers.

And now I have said all that occurs to me respecting books and writing. Printing was not discovered till about the year 1450; before that time books were but few in number, and cost much money. Yet, even in those times, Solomon could say, "Of making books there is no end," Ecc. xii. 12. How much more is this the case in our days, and how many vain, trifling, silly, and even wicked or profane books there are! My readers, beware of bad books. We read, 1 Cor. xv, 33. that “ evil communications corrupt good manners;" and, as the writer of the book of Ecclesiasticus has well observed, a man cannot touch pitch without being defiled. Be assured that you cannot read bad books without injury. Flee the temptation, and if a bad book comes into your possession, as soon as you are aware of its contents, commit it to the flames. Remember what is said of the heavenly Jerusa lem, "There shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination or maketh a lie, but they which are written in the Lamb's Book of Life."

« PreviousContinue »