ROMAN LONDON WAX TABLET

MS 1835
MS Short Title ROMAN LONDON WAX WAS TABLET
Text DOCUMENT OR LETTER
Description MS in Latin on wood, Walbrook, London, early 2nd c., 1 tablet, 5x15 cm, 4-5 lines in old Roman cursive.
Context 6 further wooden wax tablets from Walbrook, London, excavated in 1934 and 1953, now at British Museum, and 1 found in 1986, dated 14 March 118, is in Museum of London
Provenance 1. Walbrook, London (2nd c.-1934); 2. Found in the City of London (1934); 3. Bernard Quaritch Ltd., London.
Commentary

A typical Roman wax writing tablet, used more than once, so the traces of lines are illegible, but single letters can be recognised (e.g. C and S). The 2 layers of writing can be seen on the wood where the metal stylus has penetrated the original wax covering.

British tablets are usually from the period 75-125 AD, but this may be an accident of survival, since wax tablets were used throughout the Roman period and for long afterwards. The Walbrook and Vindolanda tablets are the oldest group of written documents known from Britain. The Walbrook crossed the Roman city from north to south, joining the Thames at Vintry. Its banks were revetted with dumped material, including discarded writing tablets.

Roman wax tablets were usually made from silver fir (abies alba), not a wood native to Britain, but ideal for the purpose since it splits cleanly and evenly into boards ca. 10 mm thick.

The tablets were used for note-taking, for letters, and for legal documents. The ORC and LRC, together with half-uncial, form the basis for the later national scripts in Europe, and examples are not recorded in any other known private MS collections, apart from The Schøyen Collection MSS 1706/1-2, 1720/1-6, and 1835.

 
Exhibited Comité International de Palaéographie Latin (CIPL) at Senate House, University of London, 3 September 2008.
Place of origin London
Dates early 2c AD

Location