Contains the Book of the Dead The existence of the Book of the Dead was known as early as the Middle Ages, well before its contents could be understood. Since it was found in tombs, it was evidently a document of a religious nature, and this led to the widespread but mistaken belief that the Book of the Dead was the equivalent of a Bible or Qur’an. Research work on the Book of the Dead has always posed technical difficulties thanks to the need to copy very long hieroglyphic texts. Initially, these were copied out by hand, with the assistance either of tracing paper or a camera lucida. In the mid-19th century, hieroglyphic fonts became available and made lithographic reproduction of manuscripts more feasible. In the present day, hieroglyphics can be rendered in desktop publishing software and this, combined with digital print technology, means that the costs of publishing a Book of the Dead may be considerably reduced. However, a very large amount of the source material in museums around the world remains unpublished.

producing a book of the dead was produced to order by scribes. They were commissioned by people in preparation for their own funerals, or by the relatives of someone recently deceased. They were expensive items; one source gives the price of a Book of the Dead scroll as one deben of silver, perhaps half the annual pay of a laborer. Papyrus itself was evidently costly, as there are many instances of its re-use in everyday documents, creating palimpsests. In one case, a Book of the Dead was written on second-hand papyrus. The dimensions of a Book of the Dead could vary widely; the longest is 40 m long while some are as short as 1 m. They are composed of sheets of papyrus joined together, the individual papyri varying in width from 15 cm to 45 cm. The scribes working on Book of the Dead papyri took more care over their work than those working on more mundane texts; care was taken to frame the text within margins, and to avoid writing on the joints between sheets. The words peret em heru, or coming forth by day sometimes appear on the reverse of the outer margin, perhaps acting as a label.The text of the Dead was written in both black and red ink, regardless of whether it was in hieroglyphic or hieratic script. Most of the text was in black, with red ink used for the titles of spells, opening and closing sections of spells, the instructions to perform spells correctly in rituals, and also for the names of dangerous creatures such as the demon Apep. The black ink used was based on carbon, and the red ink on ochre, in both cases mixed with water.