REED PENS


Reed pens were the most common writing implement during Miriam’s time. For centuries, they’d been made by cutting and shaping the hollow stem of a single reed or an eight-inch length of bamboo. Scribes would then soak one end in water so it could be cut easily into a point. Then they would square off the tip of the point and cut a slit to run up some length from it. Ink stored in the hollow would then distribute onto the writing surface, usually papyrus, when the scribe put pressure on the nib.

When Miriam’s tutor takes her to the Great Library, she tells us what she sees:

I gasped when I entered the vaulted reading room, the Library’s largest and airiest hall. The beams of sunlight streaming through its arched clerestory windows were exploding into countless beads of light….The readers were scattered among the tables. Several sat back brooding over their cache of scrolls while their curling sheets of papyrus, bottle of carbon black ink, and tray of sharpened reed pens lay idly about.

I have a hard enough time writing stories with a computer and printer! I cannot image how mystery writers of the past fashioned their masterpieces without the bells and whistles I have. But they did. If you want to read one of those masterpieces of mystery and atmosphere, reach for Arthur Conan Doyle’s "Hound of the Baskervilles." After that, pick up The Deadliest Lie, selected by Wiki Ezvid as “one of the nine most riveting mysteries set in the distant past.” For the book trailer, just click here.

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