Prior to the invention of the art of printing, books were made and written exclusively by hand (see book, the
medieval). The Middle Ages differ from antiquity (see book, the ancient) when bookmaking was a commercial enterprise, aimed at selling the published material. In the Middle Ages, during the period that extends to the 12th or 13th century, MSS were as a rule produced with no intention of selling them but primarily for the personal use of the producers, i.e., the monasteries. This was the golden age of the scriptoria. In subsequent centuries (from the 13th to the 16th) it was practically only the carthusians who continued, indeed almost more intensively than before, to occupy themselves with producing books for their own libraries as a work pleasing to God, whereas the brethren of the common life pursued bookmaking as a trade by which to support themselves. Neither the studios of the Carthusians nor those of the Brethren, however, can be classed with the earlier scriptoria; still less can the MS production of the stationarii, of the mendicant orders, or of the many private copying establishments that produced most of the books at the end of the Middle Ages, be linked with the monastic scriptorium.
The scriptorium (Du Cange s.v.) was the workroom in the monastery where books were written; it was early made a separate room and was often beside the library, which the scriptorium often needed. By metonymy, scriptorium came to designate the center of the artistic, calligraphic, literary, and scholarly activity of the monastery. The organization of the medieval scriptorium can be quite accurately deduced from numerous reports and from the MSS themselves. The plan of sankt gallen (820–830) presents a diagram that is not a mere idealization, but most probably corresponds to reality. The scriptorium is located under the library; it has six windows and seven writing tables set against the walls, at which the monks wrote sitting down. In the middle of the room is a large table, but it is not known how it was used.
An armarius often directed the scriptorium. He had charge of the writing materials, distributed them to the copyists under him (in convents to the nuns), gave them the required instructions, and organized the writing, art work, and collating. He was ultimately responsible for the general management of the scriptorium and was also in charge of the library. Often he was a great writer himself and not infrequently the head of the school, and engaged in scholarly work. By far the most important work in the scriptorium was copying. Independent literary or scholarly production occupied only a relatively small place in the early period of the scriptoria. Whether this latter activity went on in the cell of the scholar or poet in question or in the scriptorium itself must remain in most cases an open question.
Methods of Work. The copying of available texts, which were obtained by exchange with other monasteries or which came from the monastery's own library or were acquired in some other way, did not follow a unified and standardized plan; this at least can be established in the cases where a sufficiently large number of MSS originating from the same scriptorium is available. The possibility existed (and this can often be documented) that a single copyist would reproduce an entire codex. But more often, several copyists were engaged simultaneously in copying one original, which in this case was divided and distributed among them; another possibility was that several copyists successively worked on the original. A third method of procedure was for the main work to be done by a single copyist with others collaborating on a page now and then, i.e., substituting for the main copyist when he had to be absent for some reason or other. These variations in the work can be established quite exactly by means of paleography. On occasion all these methods are encountered simultaneously in the same scriptorium. Sometimes there is fairly detailed information on the method of distributing the work; occasionally the codex will even contain the names of the copyists, written in another hand, perhaps that of the armarius. From an exact paleographic analysis of the individual codices of a scriptorium, the number of copyists simultaneously working on a manuscript can be ascertained. In the same way the method of organizing the work can be discovered. At times detailed information on the original from which the copyists were working is available.
Development of Styles. It is a peculiarity of the scriptoria that in many monasteries obvious idiosyncrasies developed in the script, in abbreviations, in the punctuation and reference marks, and in ornamentation and cover decoration, so that it is possible to speak of specific schools of copyists and of their peculiar scripts. Such schools persisted for varying periods. Often a scriptorium came into being at the beginning of a monastic foundation so that its first copyists were monks who had come from the founding abbey, and their scripts reveal a relation to the MS production of the house from which they came. During the great period of monastic growth, scriptoria were the intellectual centers of the monasteries. In some cases they did not last more than one generation; in others they lasted many decades, even more than a century. The scriptorium revealed the intellectual capacity of its monastery. Of many scriptoria nothing more is known than the names. Many MSS cannot be assigned to any scriptorium for want of decisive local coloration. Even though a school of copyists had distinctive peculiarities of style, as mentioned above, and can in this way be distinguished from other schools, still, besides the "local" manuscripts, one may find manuscripts copied by monks from other houses who, though working in the scriptorium, were unfamiliar with its writing habits. Thus, on the one hand, the appearance of such MSS often shows a remarkable dependence upon other schools or scriptoria. On the other hand, one may also encounter the idiosyncrasies of a given scriptorium in some other scriptorium, so that it must be concluded that either a member of the former scriptorium or someone trained there was the copyist of the MS in question. This is also proof that connections with other places existed, except that here one can recognize an extension of a scriptorium's influence into other regions rather than the transfer of an individual monk. Paleography devotes itself to the investigation of this sort of problem; it contributes to the recognition and clarification of important relationships in intellectual history. Of course, there were many scriptoria that never developed such individualized scripts, but one is not therefore justified in denying them the status of scriptoria.
Stages in the Production of a Manuscript. The individual copyist had a threefold assignment. First, he produced the book-block using the parchment and certain tools given him. The manner of executing this work provides at once the necessary clues by which to ascertain whether the scriptorium was in its beginnings or at the height of its productive activity. The more artistically and carefully the book-block was executed in all its details, the clearer evidence there is that it was done in a model writing room. After completing this work, an important preliminary for the next phase, the scribe began the actual copying. The copyist was provided by the armarius with the necessary originals; copying from dictation was rare. A simple codex without richly elaborated initials or illuminations was most often produced by a single copyist (or, as mentioned above, by division of labor); this single copyist would then execute not only the text but also the rubrication. On the basis of much MS material it can be convincingly maintained that, at least in the age of the scriptoria, the red capital letters, decorations, and the like were usually executed by the copyist and not by the rubricator, even in the instances in which a blank space was left for the capitals but never filled in. The copyist either executed the rubrication simultaneously with the writing of the text, or he left space for the capitals, etc., and then inserted them after finishing the entire codex, or his part of the work, where it was done piecemeal. Capital letters might naturally be forgotten in this process. If there were entire sentences to be written in red, the copyist often wrote them in tiny minuscule in the margin; but even in such cases the rubrication is very often the copyist's rather than anyone else's. It was a favorite practice of the copyist to add a final wish after the completion of his work: his thanks to God on completing the work, a curse on any person daring to steal the book, a request to the reader to remember the copyist in his prayers, etc.
Identification of Copyists. Much less frequent in centuries before the 14th is the appearance of the copyist's name, the subscriptio or colophon; moreover it must be remembered that on occasion the copyist transcribed the colophon of the original, a fact that can lead to errors in interpretation and dating. The colophon of the original can be distinguished easily enough from that of the copy. A MS dated by the scribe is very rare in this period, in contrast to the 14th and 15th centuries when colophons, dating, and entries on place of origin are much more frequent. Pictures of the copyist are equally rare; dedications are more frequent, often in rhymed verse or blank verse; these are important for a relative dating of the codex if the personage named in the dedication can be identified.
Illumination. In the case of illuminated MSS, the sections or the entire codex were handed over, after completion of the calligraphic work, to the miniator, who now had the important assignment of executing the illuminated initials, the miniatures, the decorative work, the magnificent titles, incipit's and explicit's, etc. These were often sketched first on the parchment and then painted. Very seldom did the painters sign their names. Most illuminators are unknown to us. Only very rarely would the calligrapher decorate and illuminate the codex, as did the Engelberg master (c. 1200).
Corrections. The third stage of the copyist's work consisted in the collation and correction of the copy. This task was done frequently by the copyist himself, although older, experienced monks were often enlisted to execute this very responsible operation. Corrections made at this stage must be distinguished from the marks on many MSS made considerably later by scholars whose reactions while reading are expressed in corrections, changes in spelling and punctuation, and by marginal and interlinear notes. These notations prove that work and study still went on in the scriptorium for centuries. One of the most important goals of paleographic research is to investigate systematically the medieval scriptoria and to discover their historical environment, as was previously done for such traditional sources as annals, chronicles, profession and confraternity books, necrologies, deeds, etc. For the history of scriptoria, however, MSS that were certainly produced and used in a given scriptorium are the chief source and these must be studied paleographically. The distinguishing features of a scriptorium can be detected in many cases only by meticulous work, by comparison of a script in question with that of MSS positively identified, and by consulting medieval book catalogues; for only in rare cases is the copyist known by name and monastery, or by his individual handwriting.
Bibliography: b. bischoff, Die südostdeutschen Schreibschulen und Bibliotheken in der Karolingerzeit, v. 1 Die bayrischen Diözesen (Leipzig 1940; 2d ed. Wiesbaden 1960). b. bischoff and j. hofmann, Libri Sancti Kyliani: Die Würzburger Schreibschule und die Dombibliothek im 8. und 9. Jh. (Würzburg 1952). c. bonacini, Bibliografia delle arti scrittoriee della calligrafia (Florence 1953). a. bruckner, ed., Scriptoria medii aevi helvetica (Geneva 1935–); "Scriptorium," Historisch-biographisches Lexikon der Schweiz, ed. h. tÜrler et al., 7 v. and suppl. (Neuenburg 1921–34) suppl. 156ff. f. m. carey, "The Scriptorium of Reims during the Archbishopric of Hincmar (845–888)," in Classical and Mediaeval Studies in Honor of E. K. Rand, ed. l. w. jones (New York 1938). m. l. giuliano, Colturae attività calligrafica nel sec. XII a Verona (Padua 1933). i. hajnal, L'Enseignement de l'écriture aux universités médiévales (Budapest 1954; 2d ed. 1959). l. w. jones, The Script of Cologne, from Hildebald to Hermann (Cambridge, Mass.1932); "The Script of Tours in the 10th Century," Speculum. A Journal of Mediaeval Studies 14 (1939) 179–198; "The Art of Writing at Tours from 1000 to 1200 a.d.," ibid. 15 (1940) 286–298; "The Scriptorium at Corbie …," ibid. 22 (1947) 191–204, 375–394. Der Karolingische Klosterplan von St. Gallen (Schweiz). The Carolingian Plan of St. Gall Abbey (Switzerland). Facsimile-Wiedergabe in acht Farben, mit einer Monographie: Der St. Galler Klosterplan, von Hans Reinhardt (St. Gallen 1952). Die Kultur der Abtei Reichenau, 2 v. (Munich 1925). v. lazzarini, Scritti di paleografiae diplomatica (Venice 1938). É. lesne, Histoire de la propriété ecclésiastique en France, 6 v. (Lille 1910–43);v. 4 Les Livres, scriptoria et bibliothèques … (Lille 1938); v. 5 Les Écoles de la fin du VIIIe siècle à la fin du XIIe (Lille 1940). w. m. lindsay, "The Bobbio Scriptorium," Zentralblatt für Bibliothekswesen 26 (1909) 293–306; "Breton Scriptoria: Their Latin Abbreviation-Symbols," ibid. 29 (1912) 264–272; "The (Early) Lorsch Scriptorium," Palaeographia Latina, ed. w. m. lindsay, 6 pts. in 1 v. (Oxford 1922–29) 3:5–48. s. tafel, "The Lyons Scriptorium," ibid. 2:66–73; 4:40–70. w. m. lindsay and p. lehmann, "The (Early) Mayence Scriptorium," ibid. 4:15–39. k. loeffler, "Zur Frage einer Konstanzer Schreibschule in karolingischer Zeit," ibid. 5:5–27; "Die Sankt Galler Schreibschule in der 2. Hälfte des 8. Jhs.," ibid. 6:5–66; "Die St. Galler Schreibschule in der1. Hälfte des 9. Jhs.," Neue Heidelberger Jahrbücher (Heidelberg 1937) 28ff. j. loubier, "Die Herstellung der mittelalterlichen Bücher nach einer Miniatur des 12. Jhs.," Zeitschrift für Bücherfreunde 12 (1908/09) 409ff. e. a. lowe, The Beneventan Script (Oxford 1914). e. a. lowe, Codices latini antiquiores. A Palaeographical Guide to Latin Manuscripts prior to the Ninth Century (Oxford 1934–). h. martin, "Notes sur les écrivains au travail," Mélanges offerts à M. Émile Chatelain (Paris 1910) 535–544. h. nelis, L'Écriture et les scribes (Brussels 1918). g. ongaro, Colturae schola calligrafica veronese del sec. 10 (Venice 1925). g. praga, Lo "scriptorium" dell'abbazia benedettina di San Crisogomo in Zara (Rome 1930). j. prochno, Das Schreiberund Dedikationsbild in der deutschen Buchmalerei, v. 1.2 (Leipzig-Berlin 1929). e. k. rand, A Survey of the Manuscripts of Tours, 2 v. (Cambridge, Mass. 1929). e. k. rand and l. w. jones, The Earliest Book of Tours … (Cambridge, Mass. 1934). j. von schlosser, Die abendländische Klosteranlage des früheren Mittelalters (Vienna 1889). Scriptorium (Antwerp 1946–47). m. venturini, Vita ed attività dello scriptorium veronese nel secolo XI (Verona 1930). w. wattenbach, Das Schriftwesen im Mittelalter (3d ed. Leipzig 1896; 4th ed. repr. Graz 1958).
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