The tools of medieval scribes and artists rarely survive. A spectacular exception is this wooden writing box, one of three found in a buried hoard that included some sixty manuscripts. Once belonging to the library of the monastery of Archangel Michael in the Fayyum region of Egypt, the objects were buried in a cistern in the tenth century, most likely by monks fleeing from danger. The hoard was discovered by chance in 1910, resulting in an international sensation. Like the beautifully illuminated manuscripts that they helped create, the writing boxes are precious works of art, with bronze fittings and intricate carving throughout. The lid of this box slides out, revealing compartments for storing reed pens, inks, and pigments.
Writing box, Egypt, al-Hamuli, ca. 9th century. Purchased by Pierpont Morgan in 1911. Coptic Writing Box 1.