Papyrus was expensive enough in ancient Egypt that it was often recycled and reused. Many papyri are written on both sides, and old papyrus were sometimes recycled as mummy cartonnage.
The preparation of Papyrus
Papyrus was generally manufactured and sold as rolls which would measure 20-40 cm in height (top to bottom), and could be up to 30 meters in length (left to right). The rolls could be used for long texts, such as literary works, or could be cut into sheets for shorter uses, like private letters.
When a roll was used for a long work, the text was written horizontally along the roll and divided into columns. A reader would scroll along, keeping a segment of the roll flat in front of him to read, while keeping the ends on his left and right rolled up for convenienceContrary to what you might think, ancient papyrus was quite sturdy and very flexible. The fact that texts that are thousands of years old are still around today is a testament to its durability! Nevertheless, when papyri are taken out of the desert, the new climate can be detrimental to their preservation.