From Roll to Codex

Around the ancient Mediterranean the prevailing form of book was the roll. Made of papyrus or parchment, it was unrolled either from side to side, with the text written in parallel columns (scroll), or from top to bottom, with the text in one column (rotulus).

In the third century codices came into use. Like a modern book, a codex consisted of separate pages that were bound together along one edge. By using both sides of the parchment or papyrus, more text could be transmitted on the same amount of writing material. The early Christian community in particular employed the new codex form for spreading the Christian message.

After Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century, the codex finally ousted the roll and became the favourite book form. Hebrew books, however, continued to be written on rolls until the ninth century, a phenomenon which may reflect an attempt by Jews to dissociate themselves from Christians and their writings.

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