By 1500 bce priests had developed a cursory hieratic (from the Greek for “priestly”) script, a penstroke simplification of the hieroglyphic book hand, for use in religious writings. The earliest hieratic script differed from the hieroglyphs only in that the use of a rush pen, instead of a pointed brush, produced more abstract characters with a terse, angular quality. An even more abstract script called demotic (from the Greek word for “popular”) came into secular use for commercial and legal writing by the year 400 bce. The hieroglyph for scribe was a pictorial image of the very early brush holder, palette, and sack of ink. The characters accompanying the photograph of these artifacts show this evolution (Fig. 1–30). Hieratic and demotic scripts supplemented rather than supplanted hieroglyphs, which continued in use for religious and inscriptional purposes.


The first illustrated manuscripts

The Egyptians were the first people to produce illustrated manuscripts in which words and pictures were combined to communicate information. A preoccupation with death and a strong belief in the afterlife compelled the Egyptians to evolve a complex mythology about the journey into the afterlife. Through inventive myth and legend, the inexplicable was explained and faced. A final judgment would ultimately allow the deceased either to be admitted into the company of the gods or to suffer eternal damnation. The prayer of every Egyptian was to be cleansed of sin and found worthy at the final judgment. Scribes and artists were commissioned to prepare funerary papyri, called the Chapters of Coming Forth by Day. A nineteenth-century scholar named them the Book of the Dead, and this name is generally used today