If you are a serious student of New Testament Greek then you will find James Hope Moulton and George Milligan’s extensive research on the Greek Papyri of interest.
Few archaeological discoveries in recent years have awakened more widespread interest than the countless papyrus documents recovered from the sands of Egypt, and as it is from them that our principal non-literary illustrations of the Vocabulary of the Greek Testament have been drawn, it may be well to describe briefly by way of Introduction what these papyri are, and what is the nature of their value for the New Testament student.
Papyrus as Writing Material. – In itself, the word papyrus is the name of a reed-plant (Cyperus papyrus, L.) which at one time grew in great profusion in the river Nile, and gave its name to the writing material or “paper” of antiquity formed from it. The pith (Bublos) of the stem of the papyrus plant was cut into long thin strips, which were laid down on a flat table and soaked with Nile water. A second layer was then placed crosswise on the top of the first, and the two layers were pressed together to form a single web or sheet. After being dried in the sun, and scraped with a shell or bone to remove any roughness, a material not unlike our own brown paper was produced.
The size of the papyrus sheets varied considerably, but for non-literary documents a common size was from nine to eleven inches in height, and from five to five and a half inches in breadth. When more space than that afforded by a single sheet was required, a number of sheets were joined together to form a roll, which could easily be extended or shortened as desired. Thus, to take the case of the New Testament autographs, which were almost certainly written on separate papyrus rolls, a short Epistle, like the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, would be a roll of about fifteen inches in length with the contents arranged in some five columns, while St. Paul’s longest Epistle, the Epistle to the Romans, would run to about eleven feet and a half. The shortest of the Gospels, St. Mark’s, would occupy about nineteen feet; the longest, St. Luke’s, about thirty-one or thirty-two feet. And the Apocalypse of St. John has been estimated at fifteen feet. Taking the other books on the same scale, Sir F. G. Kenyon, to whom the foregoing figures are also due, has calculated that if the whole New Testament was written out in order on a single roll, the roll would extend to more than two hundred feet in length, obviously an utterly unworkable size. This alone makes it clear that not until the papyrus stage in their history was past, and use was made of both sides of parchment or vellum leaves, was it possible to include all the books of the New Testament in a single volume.
The side of the papyrus on which the fibres ran horizontally, or the recto, as it came to be technically known, was from its greater smoothness, generally preferred for writing, while the back, or the verso, was reserved for the address, at any rate in the case of letters. But when space failed, the verso could also be utilized, as shown in a long magical papyrus in the British Museum, in which nineteen columns are written on the recto, and the remaining thirteen on the verso….Page vii