Write On!

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Write On!

“Write this down so you won’t forget it.” Has anyone ever told you that? Or have you said it to yourself? People have been writing important things down in lots of ways for thousands of years. Let’s take a look at how things have changed since ancient times.

Writing Tools

Today we have tons of cool pens and pencils to write with. But what did people use before those were invented? Through the years people have made writing tools out of charcoal, bones, reeds, metal, goose feathers, and other interesting things.

Writing on Skins

In Old Testament times, most people used scrolls for their writing. Scrolls were made from the skins of sheep, goats, or calves. This skin was called parchment. Making parchment was a smelly, nasty business. The skins had to be soaked, scraped, stretched on a frame, and scraped again. After the parchment was dry, people could sew several pieces together to make a scroll. Then they rolled the scroll around a wood stick, or spindle. Reading a scroll took two people—one to unwind it, and another to rewind it on a second spindle.

Try It Yourself!

You can make your own paper! It takes time, but it’s lots of fun. Check your library for books on papermaking, or visit this website for easy instructions: www.fi.edu/fellows/fellow1/apr99/paper/. You can also make your own feather pen—just follow the directions at this website: www.kidwizard.com/ThingsToMake/QuillPen.asp. (Don’t forget to ask your parents for help when using a blender or craft knife!)

The Gutenberg Bible

In the 1450s a man named Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. For the first time people could print multiple pages of a book, rather than copying each page by hand.

The first book Gutenberg printed was the Bible. We don’t know exactly how many copies he made, but some people guess there were about 145 copies on the best rag paper and 35 copies on fine parchment.

The invention of the printing press made it possible for people to read their very own copies of the Bible for the first time.

Writing on Rags

By the 14th century A.D., people started making paper from rags. To do this, they soaked rags in water, drained them, and pounded them into pulp. Then they put the pulp into tubs of water and dipped it out using wooden frames strung with wires. They let the pulp mixture dry on the frames until they could lift sheets of paper off and trim them to the right size. Later, people began making pulp from ground-up wood.

Writing on Plants

Papyrus plants grew near the water in ancient Egypt. Around 3000 B.C., people discovered they could use papyrus to make paper by cutting the stems into strips, layering them on top of each other, getting them wet, and beating them flat. Natural glue released from the reeds held the paper together. But the Egyptians weren’t the only people using plants for paper. In China a man named Ts’ai Lun mixed mulberry bark with bamboo fibers to make paper that’s closer to the paper we use today.

Fun Facts

Did you know that shaving cream, bike helmets, crayons, and toothpaste all started out in the process of making paper? These things include cellulose, oils, resins, and natural wood chemicals that are left over after paper is made!

More than 38 percent of the total fiber for paper comes from recovered products (recycling).

The word bookworm refers to a certain kind of larvae of the beetle family that likes to feed on pages of parchment. Now we say someone who loves to read is a “bookworm.”

The Greek word for papyrus strips is “biblos.” Our word “Bible” comes from this.

When people weren’t writing on paper, some of them wrote on clay tablets or pressed letters into sheets of wax.

A Command to Write

When God’s people left Egypt, God wanted them to remember how to live right. God told his people, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. . . . . Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deut. 6:4-6, 9). Use a special piece of paper or one that you have made and write on it a verse from the Bible that means a lot to you. Is it written on your heart too?

About the Author

Carol Reinsma is an author and editor for the Walk With Me church school curriculum published by Faith Alive Christian Resources. She attends Cragmor Christian Reformed Church, Colorado Springs, Colo.

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