Introductions to the Ancient History
Codex Technology - Historical Resource Collation
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and perception and inference
together with their fallacies
are useful for self-understanding"
-- Dignaga (India, about 550AD)
Codex Technology - Historical Resource Collation
The Codex and Canon Consciousness - by Robert A. Kraft
The first matter to note is the Christian preference for the codex over the roll, a phenomenon evident already in our earliest identifiably Christian manuscripts. This preference is all the more striking in comparison to the wider general preference for the roll-format in the second and third centuries CE, particularly for “literary” texts, that is, writings of literary, philosophical, or religious significance. Outside of Christian circles, this wider preference for the roll only began to shift to a preponderance of codex manuscripts in the fourth century CE and later.
We may use some data helpfully compiled in the Leuven Database of Ancient Books (LDAB) to illustrate this.5 Taking into account the catalogued “literary” manuscripts dated from the third century BCE through the eighth century CE, identifiably Christian rolls amount to 2.7% of the total number of rolls (3,033), whereas Christian codices amount to 73% of all the total number of codices (3,188). Codices (of all provenances) amount to about 5% of second-century manuscripts and about 15% of third-century manuscripts.
But when we turn to manuscripts of Christian provenance, the codex is clearly the favourite book-form. For example, in the Leuven database overall, at least 91.6% of copies of New Testament writings are identified as codex form, and only 1.1% are rolls (and of the latter, it seems likely that all, or nearly all, are actually opisthographs, re-used rolls, the copies likely prepared for personal study).6 Among all second and third-century NT manuscripts (our earliest), the percentage of codices is at least as high.
By contrast, of all manuscripts of Homer (third century BCE through seventh century CE), 62.8% are rolls, and only 18.5% identified as codices. For manuscripts of Euripides (third century BCE through eighth century CE), 65.9% are rolls and 17.9% are codices.7 If we were to confine our attention to copies of these texts dated no later than the third century CD, the preponderance of rolls over codices would be even greater.
All the data support the commonly-accepted conclusion held among scholars acquainted with ancient book-production that the roll was overwhelmingly the preferred format for any text considered of literary, philosophical, or religious significance, the codex generally reserved for “documentary” texts (e.g., account-books, notebooks).
.... Christian Bible as codex
WIKI - Codex History (Aug 2010)
Reproduced Roman-style wax tablet, from which the codex evolvedThe Romans used precursors made of reusable wax-covered tablets of wood for taking notes and other informal writings; while codices of parchment or papyrus appear to have been widely used as personal notebooks, for instance in recording copies of letters sent (Cicero Fam. 9.26.1). The pages of such notebooks were commonly washed or scraped for re-use; and consequently writings on codex were considered informal and impermanent.
The first recorded Roman use of the codex for publishing and distributing literary works dates from the late first century AD, when Martial experimented with the format. At that time the scroll was the dominant medium for literary works and would remain dominant for secular works until the fourth century. Julius Caesar, travelling in Gaul, found it useful to fold his scrolls concertina-style for quicker reference, as the Chinese also later did.
Early-Christian Gnostic text from a codex discovered in Nag Hammadi (Egypt) in 1945As far back as the early 2nd century, there is evidence that the codex—usually of papyrus—was the preferred format among Christians: in the library of the Villa of the Papyri, Herculaneum (buried in AD 79), all the texts (Greek literature) are scrolls; in the Nag Hammadi "library", secreted about AD 390, all the texts (Gnostic Christian) are codices. The earliest surviving fragments from codices come from Egypt and are variously dated (always tentatively) towards the end of the 1st century or in the first half of the 2nd. This group includes the Rylands Library Papyrus P52, containing part of St John's Gospel, and perhaps dating from between 125 and 160.
Early medieval bookcase containing about ten codices depicted in the Codex Amiatinus (ca. 700)In Western culture the codex gradually replaced the scroll. From the fourth century, when the codex gained wide acceptance, to the Carolingian Renaissance in the eighth century, many works that were not converted from scroll to codex were lost to posterity. The codex was an improvement over the scroll in several ways. It could be opened flat at any page, allowing easier reading; the pages could be written on both recto and verso; and the codex, protected within its durable covers, was more compact and easier to transport.
The codex became popular for illustrated secular texts only in the late third or early fourth century. Previously, the papyrus roll was most often used.31 We can thus date the production of codex-calendars, like the illustrated Codex-Calendar of 354, to, at the earliest, the late third century. Consequently, the designer of the Codex-Calendar of 354 may well have had to work out certain problems of design without the aid of codex prototypes. Nor can we assume that there were illustrated calendars in papyrus rolls to serve as a guide; none are extant, and their importance, if any, has yet to be shown.32 The likelihood that a codex-calendar was a fourth-century innovation receives further support from the illustrations found in the Codex-Calendar of 354. Not only are these the earliest known full-page illustrations for a codex in Western art, but the extensive number of motifs pictorializing each month also coincides with fourth-century artistic trends in other media.
The novelty of an illustrated codex-calendar in the fourth century must remain a hypothesis, but analysis of the formal aspects of the Codex-Calendar of 354 does indicate the transference of certain characteristics of inscribed Roman wall calendars to the codex medium. The 1966 discovery of the wall calendar from S. Maria Maggiore in Rome is significant in this regard. This calendar, dated to the late second or early third century, indicates the vitality of inscribed Roman wall calendar traditions well past the Julio-Claudian period, when (or so scholars believed) they were last attested.33 The traditions for inscribing Roman calendars on walls provide a fruitful and underappreciated source of inspiration for the design and illustration of the Calendar of 354.
Although the Codex-Calendar of 354 is the only fourth-century calendar we have, its unique survival and the silence in our sources concerning codex-calendars in general are surely accidental. Four illustrated consular annals dated to the late fourth and early fifth centuries are relevant as comparanda; so too are the illustrated World Chronicles, one of which even contains a calendar, or at least illustrations of the months of the year.34 Such illustrated chronographic works and calendars in codices were no doubt numerous; unfortunately, we do not know how numerous or when they became so.