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Date: Sun, 23 Jul 2000 22:12:54 -0700 (PDT)
Date: Thu, 18 May 2000 20:08:43 +0100
From: Jonathan S Farley
Dead medium: Runic Tally Sticks
Source(s): Diringer, David; The Book Before Printing; Dover Reprint 1982 Page, R I; Reading the past, Runes; University of California Press 1987 Elliott, R. W. V.; Runes; Manchester University Press; 1987

Runic Tally Sticks were sometimes plain, sometimes elaborately carved sticks of wood. On these sticks were engraved Runes. Generally, they are considered to be merchant's labels which were then tied or stuck to goods at market in order to identify the seller, and subsequently the purchaser of the item. Most historians dismiss these items at this point.

It is likely however, that some of these sticks were in fact a great deal more than merely merchant's labels. It is possible that some were simple messages or letters, and records of stored information covering anything from memorable events to tax receipts. The word "Rune" itself derives from the Anglo-Saxon "Runa" meaning 'mystery', or 'secret'.

The origin of the word book, is disputed, but is generally thought to derive from the Anglo-Saxon Root "bc", or literally beech tree. Most historians believe that sticks of beech were used to write upon with a pen or brush, some believe that the beech bark was stripped from the tree and used as a kind of paper. If the etymology of the word "Write" is examined however, the Anglo-Saxon source word "Writan" in its earliest use means 'to scratch' and only later on does it come to mean writing as with a pen. It is no surprise that the majority of these tally sticks are made of beech, and that the Runes or secrets were scratched or "Writan" upon them. These sticks may therefore be the etymological precursor of the present day book.