Papyrus was one of the most important surfaces for writing used in the Greco-Roman world. This writing material was made from a swamp plant called Cyperus papyrus, which could be found in Egypt in the Delta on the banks of the Nile.
According to the detailed description provided by Pliny in his book on natural history, the underwater stem of this plant could reach the thickness of a human hand. It was sliced into longitudinal strips almost a meter or three feet long. These strips were then placed on top of each other in perpendicular directions. They were immersed in Nile water, then dried in the sun, polished, and finally the resulting sheet's edges were straightened so that the average sheet was 25 to 30 centimeters in length.
For long texts, several of these sheets were stuck together to make scrolls of 6 to 10 meters or 20 to 33 feet in length. These could even reach 40 meters or 131 feet or longer. This sheet was then scrolled around a staff of wood or ivory called "Omfalos" by the Greeks and "Umbilicus" by the Romans. The papyrus scroll itself was called "Tomos" or "Kylindros" in Greek and "Volumen" in Latin.
According to a fourth century AD geographer, papyrus was then only manufactured in Alexandria and its suburbs. Alexandria was the port to which ships from Mediterranean countries came to stock up on this precious material. In fact, Alexandria's flowering as an economic center was because it was a center for the papyrus trade.