Ink, paper, and writing implements

  • Ink. The Chinese invented 'Indian Ink', a mixture of soot from pine smoke and lamp oil mixed with the gelatin of donkey skin and musk. By the year 400, a stable form of ink consisted of iron salts, nutgalls, and gum. It became a formula for centuries.
  • Paper. Early Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, and Hebrews used papyrus and parchment papers around 2000BCE. Wood-fiber paper was invented in China in the year 105.
  • Writing implements. Romans created a reed-pen from the hollow tubular stems of marsh grasses.
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History of writing: Some of the first tools

Some of the first tools for writing were the hunting club and the sharpened stone. Cave dwellers scratched pictures onto the walls of cave dwellings. It represented daily events such as planting crops or hunting victories.

With time, systematised symbols were developed from their drawings that represented words and sentences but were quicker and easier to draw. The symbols became shared among groups.

  • Early merchants used clay tokens with pictographs to record the quantities of materials traded or shipped. These tokens date back to 8500 BCE. The pictographs evolved and became abstract figures representing sounds.
  • Around 400 BCE, the Greek alphabet was developed and replaced pictographs as a commonly used form of visual communication. They also wrote script from left to right. The Greeks used a writing stylus made of metal, bone or ivory to put marks on wax-coated tablets.
  • The quill pen was used for the longest period in history. It was taken from living bird feathers in the spring. A quill pen lasted for one week before it had to be replaced.
  • In 1436, Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. The ability to mass-produce writing revolutionised the way humans communicate.

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The First Writing System

Uruk was the world’s first large city and completely changed humanity’s ability to store, exchange and replicate information by creating the first writing system in 3200 BCE.

The invention of writing made the unreliable and fallible human memory obsolete and revolutionized how we process information. The earlier form of dictating information orally from generation to generation quickly became a thing of the past.

Centers of Progress: Uruk (Writing)

Written communication during the BCE Years

The Kish tablet is dated to 3500 B.C. and is considered by some experts to be the oldest form of known handwriting. It features proto-cuneiform signs - symbols that resemble a physical object. The Egyptian hieroglyphs are similar to this form of writing and date back to 3200 B.C.

Written language seems to have come about around 1200 B.C. in China and around 600 B.C. in the Americas.

How Communication Evolved From Pictures to Letters

Clay tablets and papyrus scrolls
  • Long before the use of paper, the Stimarians - people of Mesopotamia who lived around 3500-3000 B.C. - invented the Cuneiform writing system. It consisted of pictographs and phonograms that was etched on clay tablets. This method of writing was around for 2000 years.
  • Papyrus Scroll dates from around 2400 B.C. They were made from the stem of the Papyrus plant and were about 10 - 40 metres long. Ancient Egyptians used reeds or bird feathers to write on the scrolls.

Turning the Pages: Evolution of Books

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