Scribe's Tools

This first-century A.D. Roman pen and ink pot were excavated from the Tiber River. (The British Museum)

Seated Egyptian Scribe

Vase Painting Depicting Writing on Papyrus Roll

Personal Colophons

We can gain an insight into the life of a scribe by the comments (colophons) they sometimes wrote in the margins or at the end of a manuscript.

"He who does not know how to write supposes it to be no labor; but though only three fingers write, the whole body labors."

"Writing bows one's back, thrusts the ribs into one's stomach, and fosters a general debility of the body."

"As travellers rejoice to see their home country, so also is the end of a book to those who toil [in writing]."

"The end of the book; thanks be to God!"

"O reader, in spiritual love forgive me, and pardon the daring of him who wrote, and turn his errors into some mystic good."

"There is no scribe who will not pass away, but what his hands have written will remain forever."

"Whoever says, 'God bless the soul of the scribe', God will bless his soul."

"Mercy be to him who wrote, O Lord, wisdom to those who read, grace to those who hear, salvation to those who own. Amen."

"Write nothing with thy hand but that which thou wilt be pleased to see at the resurrection."

"It is cold today." "That is natural; it is winter." "The lamp gives a bad light." "It is time for us to begin to do some work." "Well, this vellum is certainly heavy!" "Well, I call this vellum thin!" "I feel quite dull today; I don't know what's wrong with me."

"Fool and knave, can't you leave the old reading alone and not alter it!"

"I adjure you who shall copy out this book, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by his glorious advent when he comes to judge the living and the dead, that you compare what you transcribe, and correct it carefully against this manuscript from which you copy; and also that you transcribe this adjuration and insert it in the copy."

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