Apothecary: scrolls and letters

I know this is definitely pushing the bounds of what kind of literature an 18th century apothecary would have owned, but I decided to make some scrolls anyway, and claim my character inherited a few, ancient medical texts from a wealthy relative. Plausible…right?

I used rice paper, which looks much more natural than bleached A4 printer paper, and is also lighter. As you can see from 1 below, it has wide margins which are perfect for making the pages for my scrolls.

A piece of wood to guide the cutting is handy, because its height does not allow the knife to slip as it often does for me when I use a ruler. I folded the rice paper in half making sure the corners aligned, then cut and glued the strips together, forming one stronger strip of the same length. I repeated this step once more, but this time left the end of the new strip unglued so that I could sandwich the end of the first strip between the unstuck ends of the second, to get one long strip as seen in 3. You could add more to get a longer scroll, but I decided this was long enough this time.

scrolls_the page

Next I made the scroll ends, using a length of kebab skewer and of toothpick. For my first scroll, I embellished the ends by rounding their edges with a nail file. Then I used a craft knife to score two lines at both ends of each bit of wood, roughly a quarter of a centimetre appart. using my craft knife I chipped away the surface layer between the two lines, making an indentation at either end, as seen in 2 and 3 below. For my second scroll, I learnt from my first experience, and didn’t bother rounding the edges first, instead just making the indentations at either end of each piece of wood, to achieve what can be seen below in 4. I think the flat ends are neater.

scrolls_the ends

I used PVA to glue the ends to the page, propping the scroll open while they dried. I applied glue to edge of the paper then rolled the wooden end, making full two rotations.


To make letters I again used rice paper glued double, so that any writing does not leak through to the other side. Below is how I folded and sealed it. fold it to the centre from the top and the bottom. Then fold it from the left over the centre and fold it from the right to overlap. You can secure it by tucking in the bottom (left fold) between the two layers of the top (right fold).

folding a letter

To seal, I used sealing wax and the flat end of a kebab skewer (honestly, they are so handy) to make the seal mark. I tried candle wax, trust me, it is not worth the mess, and does not stick the paper properly.

DSC_0179 (2)

I also made a few message scrolls to add a bit of variety to the set. I used waxed linen to tie them. My thread is brown, so I painted one strip red, not too thickly, or it would have cracked when it dried.


Here is my full collection of books, scrolls and letters to date:

Untitled drawing





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