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A tall water reed native to North Africa from which the ancient Egyptians made a type of material used as a writing and painting surface throughout antiquity. Although the word paper is derived from papyrus, papyrus is, technically speaking, not a paper since it is made from the whole leaf of the plant, not from pulped and processed fibers. Also refers to manuscripts written on such paper, mainly in the form of scrolls. Unfortunately papyrus is brittle and does not survive well under damp conditions, so very few documents survive from the magnificent libraries of ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

See also: parchment and vellum.

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