A rotulus is a type of roll, in which a long narrow strip of writing material (perhaps parchment), written on one side, is wound about its wooden staff. The document is unwound vertically, so that writing parallel to the staff could be read. This is opposed to the other type of roll, the scroll, which bears multiple columns of text, with the lines of writing perpendicular to the staff. If made of papyrus, the writing is parallel to the strips of papyrus on the recto.
Rotuli persisted for:
- Certain legal records in Europe (from which is still derived the title of the judicial functionary known as the "Master of the Rolls"), also in the Byzantine Empire.
- Liturgical manuscripts, such as those used for the chanting of the Exultet;
- And particularly for mortuary rolls, the documents employed in sending round the names of the deceased belonging to monasteries and other associations which were banded together to pray mutually for each other's dead.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Rotuli". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton. The entry cites:
- Léopold Victor Delisle, Rouleaux des morts du IX au XV siecle (Paris, 1866);
- ____, in Bibl. de l'ecole des Chartes, series II, vol. III; Sur l'usage de prier pour les morts;
- Thurston, A Mediaeval Mortuary-card in The Month (London, Dec., 1896);
- Nichols in Mem. Archaeolog. Institute (Norwich, 1847);
- Molinier, Obituaires français au moyen-âge (Paris, 1886);
- Ebner, Gebetsverbruderungen (Freiburg, 1891);
- Wattenbach, Schriftwesen im Mittelalter (3rd ed., Leipzig), 150-74.