Paul Chrystal
Fonthill, £20
ISBN 978-1781556580
Review Paul Booth

Almost a third of this book comprises a review of pre-Roman record keeping, before moving to the title period under headings such as ‘Archives and libraries in the Roman world’ and ‘Epigraphy’. The latter discusses, among other things, inscriptions on stone, writing tablets, and monuments, such as Trajan’s Column, as examples of forms of visual communication. Five appendices are preceded by a final brief chapter on the Theodosian and Justinianic Codes.

While containing many snippets of interesting information, much of the text reads like lecture notes, with editing to match. There is no framework setting out the rationale for the selection of particular texts, or how they contribute to the wider understanding of the theme. Documents are presented uncritically – a good example being the short treatment of Diocletian’s Edict on Maximum Prices – and the mechanics and social aspects of document production, dissemination, or consumption are not considered. The selection of illustrations is as random as that of documents, and the illustrated ‘Roman writing styli’ are in fact two views of an iron awl from the Bloomberg site.

This review appeared in CA 340.

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