About The Ruffly Edges

The right and left edges of the pages on this site have a ruffly edge. As people interested in the Biblical world, we’re setting the mood.

Paper as we know it didn’t exist in Biblical days. An expensive document was written on parchment; a thin layer of animal skin. Cheaper documents were made of papyrus; strips of a special plant stem, arranged in a horizontal, and then a vertical layer, and hammered into a solid sheet. The papyrus documents developed the distinctive ruffly edge, which we’re displaying here.

Unlike our site, Biblical documents lacked buttons and pull-down menus, though they did have a scroll bar, of sorts. In fact, the whole document was a scroll, that was unrolled, left to right. (Right to left, for Old Testament Hebrew, though the scripture scrolls would have preferred parchment…)

By the way, in 2 Tim. 4:13, Paul asks for his scrolls to be brought when Timothy visits, “especially the parchments.” These, as opposed to papyrus, would have been the more important documents, written on much more expensive media.

For both types, individual sheets got pasted together, into a full scroll. If you were going to write out a papyrus document, you’d likely go down to the marketplace to the papyrus merchant, and pick out a suitably-sized roll.

Since every scroll was handmade, you’d roll through, looking for imperfections, and probably pick out one that wasn’t too bumpy in texture. Ancient writing kits often included a flat pumice stone: a primitive kind of sandpaper, used to flatten out bumps in the sheet, but you might pay extra for a smooth texture to start out.

They had an upper limit to the size of the regular rolls. There were probably problems in handling a fragile scroll that was too bulky. Not-so-coincidentally, the Gospel of Luke (the longest book in the New Testament) just about matches that length.

The New Testament’s second longest book is the book of Acts: also authored by Luke. It’s nearly as long as his gospel, and suggests that Luke simply had lots and lots to say. (He is, after all, the only one who wrote a sequel to his gospel…)

We can only imagine the New Testament scribe who planned to make a copy of Luke’s gospel. He’d have purchased the longest scroll he could find, wrote small and tight, and prayed the whole time he’d run out of text before running out of papyrus.

I’ve never run out of space using Word or Notepad; how about you?