Papyrus Museum, Vienna

The Austrian National Library is a wondrous thing, it really is. Not only has it given us a  unique museum about globes, a space to get our heads around a language but also a place to ponder Papyrus. 

Papyrus may not be the most interesting of materials. Think about it, it’s just pressed leaves, which, if left like that, would be quite a dry subject. Papyrus is much more than that; it was a medium for communication. Like vellum, like paper, like this screen you’re reading this on now. Papyrus represents a direct link to the past, one that shows the relationship between writer and reader that hasn’t necessarily changed in millennia.

I have a soft spot for papyrus.

The Museum itself is also very traditional, just look at these cabinets!

A very traditional display cabinet from the papyrus museum in Vienna
A very traditional display cabinet from the papyrus museum in Vienna

I’m a sucker for an old school museum aesthetic.

Now, papyrus is a material most closely associated with Ancient Egypt. The two illustrations above are from Egyptian scrolls, but there were plenty of examples from comparatively modern times.

Well, more modern than Ancient Egypt…

"Pasiphae" in Ancient Greek
“Pasiphae” in Ancient Greek

This was the first bit of text on a papyrus in the museum that I could read without any help. It’s a name from mythology, Pasiphae. She was the queen on Crete and mother of the Minotaur. Her story is not the happiest.

Much of the museum’s explanatory text was in German, and my language skills aren’t quite up to that level -I usually scrape by in German by adding ‘bitte’ at the end of every sentence. I was, however, able to appreciate the museum and what it had. The texts and the scrolls have a certain beauty, even if you can’t understand the words.

Greek text

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