The Egyptian Scribe

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The scribe mixed on his palette the paints which he used. This palette
usually consisted of a piece of alabaster, wood, ivory, or slate, from 8
to 16 inches in length and from 2 to 3-1/2 inches in width; all four
corners were square. At one end of the palette a number of oval or
circular hollows were sunk to hold ink or paint. Down the middle was cut
a groove, square at one end and sloping at the other, in which the
writing reeds were placed. These were kept in position by a piece of
wood glued across the middle of the palette, or by a sliding cover,
which also served to protect the reeds from injury. On the sides of this
groove are often found inscriptions that give the name of the owner of
the palette, and that contain prayers to the gods for funerary
offerings, or invocations to Thoth, the inventor of the art of writing.
The black ink used by the scribes was made of lamp-black or of
finely-powdered charcoal mixed with water, to which a very small
quantity of gum was probably added. Red and yellow paint were made from
mineral earths or ochres, blue paint was made from lapis-lazuli powder,
green paint from sulphate of copper, and white paint from lime-white.
Sometimes the ink was placed in small wide-mouthed pots made of Egyptian
porcelain or alabaster. The scribe rubbed down his colours on a stone
slab with a small stone muller. The writing reed, which served as a pen,
was from 8 to 10 inches long, and from one-sixteenth to one-eighth of an
inch in diameter; the end used in writing was bruised and not cut. In
late times a very much thicker reed was used, and then the end was cut
like a quill or steel pen. Writing reeds of this kind were carried in
boxes of wood and metal specially made for the purpose. Many specimens
of all kinds of Egyptian writing materials are to be seen in the
Egyptian Rooms of the British Museum.