Roman Wax Tablet

We have a large number of replica Roman wax tablets in our Classics Department Collection.

Paper was very expensive in the Roman world. Before the technique of making paper from pulp arrived from China into Europe, paper was made from papyrus reeds or parchment. Papyrus (from which the word paper is derived) was made by weaving reeds to form a sheet and then beating the sheet to create a flat surface.

The Romans used writing for things like making lists, leaving instructions and education, where wax tablets were used. These were made from pieces of wood tied together so that they could open and shut. Each piece of wood had a shallow recess that was filled with wax and formed the writing surface. A stylus was used to write on the wax surface. The stylus was usually made of iron but sometimes bronze or bone. One end was pointed for writing and the other end was flattened for erasing so that the wax could be used again.

A wax tablet was most commonly formed of two pieces of wood and was called a "diptych". Sometimes tablets were made of three pieces, called a "triptych", or more, called "polyptychon".