Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian's Wall at sunset

Monday, November 16, 2009

Wax Tablets and Writing Implements

My husband read through some of my recent posts this weekend and he noted that the last 4 all dealt with female things such as jewelry and make-up. I assured him that the post today would be interesting to both sexes!

In my second novel, Eleri's Tale, my character Eleri is learning to read and write Latin. She writes her translations out on wax tablets.

These were thin sheets of wood with a poured layer of wax. A stylus would be used to engrave your letters in the soft surface of the wax. The wax could be easily softened over a small flame when you needed a new page.

Above is a fresco from the tomb of a Roman lady. She is shown holding the aforementioned wax tablet and stylus.

Wax tablets have been around for thousands of years. Pictured below is a reproduction kit made for the reenactors of Roman and Celtic history like the organization called PENNSIC.
Below is a new wax tablet with a message inscribed in Latin.

The wax tablet below is similar to the Vindolanda wax tablets found in the 1980's in the Roman fort of Vindolanda on Hadrian's Wall in northern England. Most date from around 100 AD and they cover a wealth of information about life in the fort, from shopping lists and requests for warm socks to a birthday party invitation, sent from a lady in another fort to a lady at the Vindolanda fort.

If you would like to read more about wax tablets and the making of them, go to www.randyasplund.com for a very informative article.



  1. Stone tablets give way to wax tablets. What is the ancient world coming to? When I state that the deal is 'set in stone' I mean it! 'Set in wax'?!? That's sounds too Republican. The ancients knew they way to get things done. Correct me if I am wrong but...are not the Ten Commandments written in STONE? A little angel told me so.

  2. Bring back wood! Stones clutter up the countryside and stacked up on top of each other, as they increasingly are nowadays, spoil the view.

    It all went wrong with the arrival of those townies, and their rotten ways, who let them into this country?

    They're our woods and we like to hunt foxes in them and no, we don't need you coming here and chopping them down!

    I ask you, what have these Romans ever done for us?

  3. Pennsic isn't an organisation, it's an event of an organisation--the Society for Creative Anacronism.

  4. Thank you, Anonymous, for the correction.


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