Trible (tamtrible) wrote in little_details,

Physical geography and old writing surfaces

Sorry for posting so much lately, brain's been writey.
2 different questions, from 2 different stories set on 2 different worlds. Cut for length. First, I don't know how to search, second, search details are under the cut.

So. We've got an empire that takes up the entirety of a rather large continent--think Eurasia sized, maybe--perhaps a bit smaller. There are reasonably good roads everywhere Our Heroes need to go (at least for the tech level--medieval to renaissance-ish). Travel is all human- or animal-powered. There is magic, but it's not relevant to this situation (except that it might help with road maintenance).

We have a central location that is some species of scrubby woodland--details are flexible on this bit. Directly due north is a settlement in the middle of a wetlands/marsh area. Directly due west is a settlement in the middle of a rich, fertile plane. Directly due south is a settlement in the middle of (or possibly near the edge of) a good-sized desert. Directly due east is a settlement in the middle of a rather tall mountain range. None of these settlements needs to be in the exact center of the matching "area", but they need to be firmly and solidly *in* these areas, not at the edge (with the possible exception of the desert). All settlements should be roughly equidistant from the center, all settlements should be roughly 2-4 weeks travel from the center, maybe a bit more (travel times don't need to match, distance is more relevant, it's a magic thing). The settlements do not need to be particularly large (except the desert one, which is probably at least a small city), and there is no settlement of any kind in the center point.

Is this plausible? Is anything in particular *implied* by this arrangement (in terms of other geography) to those who know something about the subject? Do these areas need to be on a particular part of the continent or something? Any particular geography I need around them? I... don't need exact details if nothing leaps out, I just want to know if anything makes you go "No, no, it would have to be [thus] if you want [that]"

Second bit. Search terms were (papyrus OR paper) [or just papyrus, or just paper] (storage OR deterioration OR decay), [with or without] (age OR history OR historic OR past OR years) [to cut references to, say, modern paper storage products] (bits in brackets weren't search terms). I got lots of stuff on paper *as* storage, or modern storage of paper, but not terribly much on the condition of old paper or papyrus other than "It's brittle, generally".

Our heroine is reading a collection of various manuscripts, mostly ranging from 50 to around 500 years old. There may be a few things up to around 1000 years old, though I have no problem with them being in absurdly bad condition or being nth generation copies. Some of the manuscripts are on parchment or good rag paper, others are on cheaply made vegetable-fiber paper, or possibly something like a cross between papyrus and true paper--I was going to make vague reference to "reed paper" as the cheaper-quality paper, though that's flexible if it seems Vastly Unlikely.

Assume pretty much everything was stored under, basically, tech-and-climate-appropriate optimal storage conditions (tech is early European Renaissance or thereabouts, climate is kind of midrange--neither dry nor really wet, neither hot nor really cold). Also, most of what she's looking at is stuff that hasn't been handled much in the past century or so, or in some cases rather longer, and none of it has seen particularly *heavy* use.

I know the parchment is likely to be Just Fine (from my prior post if nothing else), maybe some issues with the ink or slight molding/eaten bits, but no real problem with physical integrity.
But paper tends to go brittle with age, and I'm not sure *how* brittle, *how* fast. Also, I don't know if my kind-of-papyrus is at all a workable idea, and/or if there's a natural-sounding, comprehensible, tech appropriate way to reference cheaply made vegetable-fiber paper of some sort (as opposed to rag paper, which is afaik generally higher quality)(and keeping in mind that this is *not* Earth history, exact European equivalents aren't necessary). And *would* thousand-year-old parchment still be legible/usable?

So, I guess what I'm asking is, at least for the older documents, what kind of actual bits of dead plant or animal would she likely be looking at?

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