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Scribe in a scriptorium ( Miracles de Notre Dame , fol. 19; after 1456)

The scriptorium (lat. Scriptorium ) is the name given to the writing rooms that have been created since late antiquity and are mostly located in monasteries , in which sacred and sometimes profane texts are duplicated by hand. In scientific literature, scriptorium is also used as a synonym for writing school for the writers working there and to characterize the origin of their products: "Handwriting from the scriptorium of ..."

For the most part, the scriptorium was an integral part of a monastery , but there were also a few secular writing workshops, which were only opened in the 14th / 15th centuries. Their distribution increased in the 19th century as the demand for books increased. Above all in the early Middle Ages, monastery scripts worked almost exclusively for the needs of their own institutions or noble clients.

With the establishment of letterpress printing with movable type , the culture of scriptoria is almost completely replaced by typography .

Production steps

Self-portrait of the illuminator Rufillus (late 12th century)

Before the start of the production of a book, the client determined the execution and design of the book and in some cases also provided the sometimes very valuable consumables (e.g. gold, pigments, etc.).

The writing ground was cut to the size of a double page and the scriptor - usually a monk - began to line the writing ground and determined the line height and the line boundaries. The distribution of the text on the pages was calculated and the required number was determined. Then the scriptor began to actually write, but left out the splendid initial letters or only sketched them out. In the case of extensive assignments, several scribes worked in parallel on different sections of text or the corresponding passage was dictated aloud and written down by several scriptors or copyists , resulting in a large number of copies. In this duplication process, reading, listening and writing errors could lead to deviations in the handwriting. The scientific method of determining the original readings from the text variants is called text criticism .

When the main text was ready, the initial letters and other highlighting were added by the rubricator . The painting of borders and the further illumination of the page was then the task of the illustrators . The writer and rubricator were often one and the same person, while the combination writer and illustrator was much rarer. The majority of the illustrators were specialized craftsmen.

The finished manuscripts are unique , kept in the form of rolls (in late antiquity) or codices (since the 5th century) and kept in archives and libraries . The codices were made by the bookbinders . Usually 4 to 5 double pages were combined into one layer (Quaternio, Quinio) and the individual layers bound together to form a book block. The protective cover often consisted of thin wooden boards, which were covered with embossed leather (stripe lines, since the Gothic period often additional plate and / or roll stamps) or later also parchment and often provided with book clasps and fittings . Elaborately designed, especially liturgical books were given splendid bindings made of valuable materials ( silver , gilded copper , enamel , ivory , precious and semi-precious stones , silk , brocade ), which represent top works of goldsmithing .

On the art and agony of writing, an unknown eighth century scribe remarked in a Latin note: “O blessed reader! Wash your hands and pick up the book, gently turn the pages, put your fingers away from the letters! Because if you can't write, you think it's no effort. Oh, how annoying is writing! It makes the eyes tired, the loins weakens and at the same time it makes all limbs bad. Three fingers write, the whole body hurts. Therefore, just as the seaman longs to come to his ancestral port, so does the scribe on the last line. "

Writing material

It was written with the cut quills of bird feathers, especially goose quills, and various inks. Among the most common inks were

The writing material papyrus came with the conversion to the codex form in the 4th / 5th. Century largely out of use for books because it is unsuitable for the formation of layers and can only be used on one side, but remained in use for documents until the beginning of the 11th century. Late antiquity and medieval manuscripts were written on parchment , which was much more durable and could be written on several times. Towards the end of the 14th century, paper largely caught on.


  • Siegfried Both: The office in the medieval monastery . Michael Imhof, Petersberg 2007, ISBN 978-3-86568-216-1 .
  • Andrea Fleischer: Cistercian Abbot and Scriptorium. Salem under Eberhard I. von Rohrdorf (1191–1240) . Reichert, Wiesbaden 2004, ISBN 3-89500-315-8 ( Imagines medii aevi 19), (Partly also: Heidelberg, Univ., Diss., 2000).
  • Josef Kirmeier, Alois Schütz, Evamaria Brockhoff (eds.): The art of writing. Medieval illumination from the Seeon Abbey. Catalog for the exhibition at Seeon Abbey, June 28 to October 3, 1994 (= publications on Bavarian history and culture. No. 28). House of Bavarian History, Augsburg 1994, ISBN 3-927233-35-8 .
  • Stephanie Hauschild: Scriptorium. The medieval book workshop . Philipp von Zabern, Darmstadt 2013, ISBN 978-3-8053-4606-1 .
  • Katja Rother, Jan H. Sachers: The writing workshop. Writing and writing in the Middle Ages . G - & - S-Verlag, Zirndorf 2009, ISBN 978-3-925698-85-9 , ( DragonSys - Lebendiges Mittelalter 8).
  • Andreas Schenk: Calligraphy - The silent art of wielding a pen. The workbook for handwriting . 5th edition. AT-Verlag, Baden / Switzerland a. a. 1997, ISBN 3-85502-375-1 .
  • Viktor Thiel: Paper production and paper trade mainly in Germany from the earliest times to the beginning of the 19th century. A draft . In: Archivalische Zeitschrift 41, 3rd episode, 8, 1932, ISSN  0003-9497 , pp. 106–151 (PDF).
  • Vera Trost: Scriptorium. Book production in the Middle Ages . Belser, Stuttgart 1991, ISBN 3-7630-1212-5 .
  • Vera Trost: "If you can't write, you think it's not work ..." - On book production in the Middle Ages . In: Mamoùn Fansa (ed.): The sat speyghel. Sachsenspiegel - law - everyday life . Volume 1. Isensee-Verlag, Oldenburg 1995, ISBN 3-89598-240-7 ( Publications of the Oldenburg City Museum 21), ( Writings of the Oldenburg State Library 29).

See also

Web links

Commons : Scriptorium  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Scriptorium  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. See category: Liturgical book
  2. See cover research .
  3. MGH LL 3, p. 589: “O beatissime lector, laua manus tuas et sic librum adprehende, leniter folia turna, longe a littera digitos pone; quia qui nescit scribere putat hoc esse nullum laborem. O quam tristis est scriptura: oculos grauat renes frangit simul et omnia membra contristat. Tria digita [sic] scribunt, totus [sic] corpus laborat. Quia sicut nauta desiderat uenire ad proprium portum, ita et scriptor ad ultimum uersum. ”With this remark the scribe paraphrases the two hexameters that have been handed down several times from the Middle Ages :“ Scribere qui nescit nullum putat esse laborem. / Tres digiti scribunt totum corpusque laborat. "(" Whoever cannot write does not consider this work. Three fingers write and the whole body hurts. ") It is noticeable that the writer only in the quoted text, whose verse form he destroys, linguistic violations. Either it was before him in this form or he was quoting from memory.
  4. Information on writing implements and inks from the University of Bamberg
  5. Information on writing materials from the University of Bamberg