Latin: rotulus. A manuscript written on a length of papyrus, parchment, or vellum, assembled from sheets (kollemata) pasted edge-to-edge with the overlapped sheet to the left to prevent the pen from catching on the join (kollesis). The oldest surviving examples are from ancient Egypt on papyrus. Writing was usually on the inside surface only--the side with the fibers running horizontally--with details of author, title, and production given in the colophon, incipit, and explicit. The reader unrolled the manuscript from left to right, exposing about four columns of text at a time. A sheet of reverse fiber direction, called the protokollon, began the roll, and a long wooden rod (the umbilicus) was sometimes attached to the opposite end to facilitate rerolling. In Antiquity, rolls were stored horizontally on a shelf or vertically in a box or cylindrical receptacle called a capsa, often with the title of the work written on a small label called a syllabus attached to one edge.
As a format, the roll had the advantage of not requiring binding to keep the text in order, but the fact that it had to be rewound by the reader made specific reference to a portion of text cumbersome, and it could become tangled if dropped. The roll was superseded by the codex in about the 3rd century A.D. but continued to be used during the Middle Ages for specialized purposes (genealogies, chronicles, Exchequer Rolls, etc.), read from top to bottom (see the Edward IV Roll courtesy of Leaves of Gold). Synonymous with volumen. Compare with scroll. See also: opisthograph.
Also refers to a list of names, especially the members of an organization, assembly, or official body, used to "call the roll" in a roll-call vote or to record attendance (see this example, courtesy of the Delaware Public Archives).
Also, a continuous length of motion picture film wound on a reel or core for projection, transport, or storage, usually with strips of leader attached to the head and tail to facilitate threading the projector (see this example). Film can be wound head out or tail out.