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Isaiah 19:7

Isaiah 19:7

The paper reeds by the brooks, by the mouth of the brooks,
&c.] Not at the fountain or origin of the Nile and its streams, but by the sides thereof; on the banks of which grew a reed or rush, called by the Greeks "papyrus" and "biblus"; from whence come the words "paper" and "bible", or book, of which paper was anciently made; even as early as the times of Isaiah, and so, many hundreds of years before the times of Alexander the great, to which some fix the era of making it.

``According to Pliny F4, its root is of the thickness of a man's arm, and ten cubits long; from this arise a great number of triangular stalks, six or seven cubits high, each thick enough to be easily spanned. Its leaves are long, like those of the bulrush; its flowers stamineous, ranged in clusters at the extremities of the stalks; its roots woody and knotty, like those of rushes; and its taste and smell near akin to those of the cyprus.----The manner of making the Egyptian paper was this: they began with lopping off the two extremes of the "papyrus", viz. the head and root, as of no use in this manufacture; the remaining stem they slit lengthwise, into equal parts; and from each of these they stripped the thin scaly coats, or pellicles, whereof it was composed, with a point of a penknife (or needle, as some); the innermost of these pellicles were looked on as the best, and those nearest the rind or bark the worst; they were kept apart accordingly, and constituted different sorts of paper. As the pellicles were taken off, they extended them on a table; then two or more of them were laid over each other transversely, so as that their fibres made right angles; in this state they were glued together by the muddy waters of the Nilus. These being next pressed to get out the water, then dried, and lastly flatted and smoothed, by beating them with a mallet, constituted paper; which they sometimes polished further, by rubbing it with a hemisphere of glass, or the like. There were paper manufactures in divers cities of Egypt; but the greatest and most celebrated was that at Alexandria, where, according to Varro's account, paper was first made. The trade and consumption of this commodity were in reality incredible. Vopiscus relates, that the tyrant Firmus, who rebelled in Egypt, publicly declared he would maintain an army only, "papyro et glutine", with paper and glue F5.''
So that the withering and drying up of these paper reeds, here threatened, must be a great calamity upon the nation. And, besides paper, of this rush or reed were made sails, ropes, and other naval rigging, as also mats, blankets, clothes, and even ships were made of the stalk of the papyrus; and the Egyptian priests wore shoes made of it F6. It may be observed, that paper was made of the pellicles or little skins stripped off of the inside of the stem of the papyrus; which shows with what propriety the word F7 for paper reeds is here used, which comes from a root which signifies to strip or make bare, and from which also is derived a word which signifies a skin. And everything sown by the brooks shall wither, be driven away,
and be no [more];
all sorts of fruitful plants, and grain of every kind, hemp and flax, after mentioned, and which are opposed to reeds and rushes, which grew of themselves; and if these which were sown by the sides of brooks and rivers withered and came to nothing, then much more what was sown at a greater distance.
FOOTNOTES:

F4 Nat Hist. l. 13. c. 11.
F5 Chambers's Cyclopaedia, in the word "Paper".
F6 Herodot, Euterpe, sive l. 2. c. 37.
F7 (twre) "ad" (hre) "nudari, inde" (rwe) "pellis".
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