Roberta Mazza

Last week at the John Rylands Library we have restored and glazed a Byzantine contract, P Herm. Rees 25. The papyrus has lost the beginning but the bottom is almost complete and the subscriptions of both the parties and the witnesses are legible. These open interesting insight into questions of literacy and writing skills in late antique Egypt. As it is often the case, the witnesses have uncertain handwritings, which look very different from the more accomplished hand that composed the body of the contract, a deed concerning the property of a house. They are barely capable to write their signature and a few other words in big capital letters penned with trembling hands.

Were they almost illiterate? Or did they have eyes problems? Were they old aged and maybe longsighted? Having problems with my eyes, I imagine how miserable life must have been for people like me in…

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