» Ancient writing materials
» The roll
» The codex
» Codex formats
» Scrolls outside Egypt
» Manuscript production
» Parchment and paper
» Format and funcyion The Bible
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During the Graeco-Roman period, manuscripts were generally produced by professional scribes who oversaw workshops or by slaves who worked in the homes of the wealthy. In other cases they were copied by the readers themselves or were produced by librarii employed at public libraries.
Throughout the Middle Ages manuscripts were produced by monastic workshops (scriptoria) or individuals—laypeople, monks or clergymen—who generally copied books for patrons.
In the late 14th century and particularly in the 15th century this work was done by lay artisans at their workshops and by scribes, sometimes itinerant, who—in growing numbers—worked in cities to meet the pressing demand for books among new and broader readerships.
Forms of serial production have also been documented. One of them, known as the pecia system, involved the simultaneous copying of separate sections (referred to as pecie, ‘pieces’) of a university text (no. 31). However, cases such as the so-called “Danti del Cento” are purely sporadic occurrences: according to tradition, in the 1340s the Florentine scribe Francesco di ser Nardo da Barberino produced 100 copies of the Divine Comedy in order to marry off his daughters (no. 32).
The invention of the printing press and the spread of printed books in the 15th century did not immediately lead to the demise of the manuscript book, which continued to circulate for some time alongside printed editions (there are even manuscripts that are copies of printed books). Autograph and manuscript copies of texts have been preserved alongside printed works in private libraries through the modern era (no. 37).
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