The San Diego Public Library’s Special Collections contain many treasures that few know about; one such collection is the Babylonian clay tablets. The collection is part of the larger Wangenheim Collection that traces the history of book making and includes Egyptian papyrus, vellum manuscripts, lacquered palm leaf books from India, a bark codex, Chinese silk scrolls, and early handmade papers from Japan.
The Babylonian clay tablets collection contains 27 clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform characters, ca. 2300 BCE. Cuneiform script is one of the earliest known systems of writing emerging from Mesopotamia, now modern day Iraq. Tablets were made of various shapes – cone-shaped, drum-shaped, and flat, which are all represented in this collection.
Tablets were used for a variety of purposes from everyday communication to documenting business transactions and accounting. Most of the clay tablets in the collection have been translated and are included with their description.