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Re: orion-list writing systems
Thanks, Rochelle, for your informative post.
At one point you write in your reply to Bob:
", a scribe who took it upon him or
herself to 'edit' texts wouldn't last too long."
That's precisely the point I wanted to emphasize. But if what you state is
correct------and I agree------it would seem important that, when one is speaking
of "scribes," one makes clear whether one means a "copyist" scribe or an
"editing" scribe. You clearly presuppose that distinction, but one often finds
the term used without differentiation---which tends to confuse.
All the best,
Rochelle I. Altman wrote:
> Hi, Al,
> You are 100% correct that it is just as important to distinguish
> between scribal activities as it is to differentiate between
> textual and literary criticism. What we classify as a "scribe"
> covers quite a range of activities... substantially more than
> the distinction between "copyist" and, say, "secretary." What
> scribes have in common is their basic training, something which
> by its very nature is common to all time periods (before the
> industrial revolution in the West) and all writing systems at
> any period - after that - much depends upon the capabilities
> of an individual.
> One thing consistently forgotten is that we are referring neither
> to a little mole of a clerk out of Dickens earning a shilling a
> week, nor are we talking about a "poor little monk" working away
> in some "cold and ill lit" scriptorium. We are talking about a
> cadre of highly trained *literate* people at a time when only the
> elite and the urbanites were literate. Employees, yes, menials, no.
> Scribes were always supervised; they controlled words.
> Perhaps all this may be made clearer by speaking in terms of modern
> Scribal Basic training included:
> Learn the symbol set (back at Sumer, roughly 720 graphs - today,
> 27 symbols in Hebrew, 52 in English - 26 lower case, 26 caps
> plus italics, bold, etc.)
> Learn the graphic representations of the symbol set as used by
> the training center - by the late antique period this could
> be 10 or more different scripts/fonts. (Today, usually 1
> graphic set is taught in the schools.)
> Learn the correct hierarchy of scripts and fonts for the training
> center. (Today, pick and choose from among computer fonts...
> but be careful to use a serifed font for anything one wants
> taken seriously.)
> Learn the punctuation system. (Much simplified today.)
> Learn how to prepare the surface(s) to be used for writing (clay has
> to be dug up, pebbles and grit removed, then the clay must be
> moistened to the correct consistency, formed into the correct
> size(s), etc. Leather or parchment must me properly treated, etc.
> Papyrus stripped out, etc. Today, paper is manufactured by machinery.)
> Learn how to make the writing instrument(s). (Today made by machinery.)
> Learn how to calculate formats and margins. (By the 9th century CE,
> we start seeing scribal handbooks containing guides; machinery
> for marking guidelines en masse begins to appear. Today, computers
> do the work for us.)
> Learn how to layout a tablet, scroll, leaf according to the correct
> format for the hierarchy of sizes and formats. (Today, we
> have specialists who do layout and paste-up.)
> Once the basics have been mastered, a scribe could go on to master
> advanced training - though some always remained copyists (apprentices
> learn by copying <G>). The following are only some modern thoroughly
> distinct equivalents of the jobs scribes held - and did.
> Data entry clerk (a copyist); proofreader; notary public; dictaphone
> typist; steno-typist (complete with a different symbol set); court
> reporter; secretary; tax collector; tax assessor; cashier, admini-
> strative assistant, certified public accountant, head clerk; confidential
> assistant to a Governor or Ruler; and so on.
> The more important the job, the less supervision; nevertheless, there
> was always somebody around to check on the scribe. While modern Notary
> Publics do not need to memorize the formulae, as ancient scribes did,
> they must keep records of transactions; we have just such records from
> Egypt on "notarial" transactions. Scribes very frequently were in a
> position of great power. The scribe, for example, to the Governor of
> Thebes received petitions - if someone wanted to see the Governor or
> bring something to his attention, they had to write to the scribe.
> None of the above jobs permit the scribe editorial initiative - and
> a scribe would have to have a compelling reason to risk life, position,
> and security by changing the auctorial words. (Think what happens when
> Baruch, an author, acts as a scribe for Jeremiah - and is accused of
> putting words in Jeremiah's mouth [which by the way, is meant quite
> Weren't there independents? Sure. Scribes opened "bookshops," but
> a literate public is necessary for a book-producer to earn a living.
> Such bookshops appear in urban centers such as Rome... and later
> disappear in the West until the 14th century CE. An advertisement for
> a team of inscription-scribe plus stonecutter-scribe shows up from
> Pompeii... and, of course, there are always calligraphers. Now the
> independents did not have direct supervision, instead they had to
> please the consumer. If the books were not what the customers ordered,
> the bookshop went out of business; if the inscriptions did not please -
> close up shop; if the calligraphed notice wasn't exactly what was
> ordered - find another way to put food on the table.
> So, while there are many distinctions among scribal occupations,
> there are certain things that we can say with great confidence,
> among these: scribes as a class of highly trained (and clothed,
> housed, and well fed) people did not edit texts.
> All the best,
> Dr. Rochelle I. Altman, co-coordinator IOUDAIOS-L firstname.lastname@example.org
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Near&Middle Eastern Civilizations
University of Toronto
Toronto M5S 1C1
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