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Re: orion-list writing systems, details

Hi, Steve,

   >[snip] at some point, at some number of
   >scribes, doesn't it become a question to you as to how practical it
   >is or was to produce a text copy (meaning the main text, excluding
   >later corrections and glosses) if several people keep rotating in
   >to take dictation or to copy by sight?

4 scribes for a copy of a long document/book/scroll appears to have been
very common - with scribes doing stints in rotation. (I would guess that
more than four scribes became clumsy and disorienting... but I have
nobody to ask if this were in fact the case.) Still, 4 is common and they
would not interfere with each other on a copy as they usually worked in
stints... once past those first lines whose purpose was to make differences
look random <G>. Single scribe per long document is quite uncommon in a
scriptorium environment prior to the late 10th century CE. Privately
produced copies for personal use, of course, will have one scribe.
Bookshops dealing with the consumer usually were run by one scribe
who did everything.

The normal procedure for dictation appears to have been that a scribe
would prepare sufficient writing surfaces of the appropriate size(s) and
then prepare a minimum of 60 pens for a dictation session. A single scribe
taking dictation would just grab the next pen from the ink holder and keep
right on going. Caesar had 4 scribes and he would dictate 4 letters one
after another - one to each scribe - and continue around in rotation.
Bede had two scribes: each one wrote until he ran out of ink at which
point the next scribe would take over. There are records from a later
period that refer to dictation being taken by teams of scribes.

Apparently this type of scribe rotation worked just fine when the dictation
was from an experienced "speaker" (such as Caesar, Bede, or Aquinas) - on
the other hand, when scribes were taking down a performance, for instance,
one gets the impression of scribes bobbing about trying to get out the
way of the next scribe who was standing by, pen at ready. While there
seem to be quite a few dictated texts out there, I've run across only one
performance record... and it does leave one with amusing mental images.

Hope this makes things clearer,


Dr. Rochelle I. Altman, co-coordinator IOUDAIOS-L  risa@hol.gr

For private reply, e-mail to "Rochelle I. Altman" <risa@mail.hol.gr>
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