roman iron stylus
roman bronze tweezers

22. Roman Iron Stylus

C. 1st - 4th Century A.D.

A Roman iron stylus in well-preserved condition. The sharpened end for scratching the characters on a wax tablet, and a flattened end to render the surface of the tablets smooth again for re-use.

This stylus would have been used for writing on wax tablets, tabulae ceratae, the most common writing medium in the Roman world. The tablets could be reused by warming and melting the wax and letting it set again.

Condition: Excellent. Complete and intact. Well-preserved iron.

Dimensions: Length: 12.6cm.

Provenance: Ex. private collection, UK; found at Godmanchester, England, by the local vicar and antiquarian in the 19th Century, thence by descent.


Roman Styli

A stylus (plural styli) is a writing implement used to scratch letters into the wax of a writing tablet. A writing tablet was usually made from wood or bone and had slightly recessed panels filled with wax. It is thought that Roman wax tablets were filled with clean wax using a spatula, often with a handle in the form of a bust of Minerva, these spatulas are found in writing sets in graves, and in pictures of writing equipment, e.g. from Pompeii.

Styli and tablets were used for short-term notes and ephemeral, erasable texts. More permanent writings were committed to books or rolls of parchment (sheepskin) or vellum (calfskin).

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