Scribe
Overview
 
A scribe is a person who writes books or documents by hand as a profession and helps the city keep track of its records. The profession, previously found in all literate cultures in some form, lost most of its importance and status with the advent of printing
Printing
Printing is a process for reproducing text and image, typically with ink on paper using a printing press. It is often carried out as a large-scale industrial process, and is an essential part of publishing and transaction printing....

. The work could involve copying books, including sacred texts, or secretarial and administrative duties such as taking of dictation and the keeping of business, judicial and historical records for kings
Monarch
A monarch is the person who heads a monarchy. This is a form of government in which a state or polity is ruled or controlled by an individual who typically inherits the throne by birth and occasionally rules for life or until abdication...

, nobility
Nobility
Nobility is a social class which possesses more acknowledged privileges or eminence than members of most other classes in a society, membership therein typically being hereditary. The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be...

, temple
Temple
A temple is a structure reserved for religious or spiritual activities, such as prayer and sacrifice, or analogous rites. A templum constituted a sacred precinct as defined by a priest, or augur. It has the same root as the word "template," a plan in preparation of the building that was marked out...

s and cities.
Encyclopedia
A scribe is a person who writes books or documents by hand as a profession and helps the city keep track of its records. The profession, previously found in all literate cultures in some form, lost most of its importance and status with the advent of printing
Printing
Printing is a process for reproducing text and image, typically with ink on paper using a printing press. It is often carried out as a large-scale industrial process, and is an essential part of publishing and transaction printing....

. The work could involve copying books, including sacred texts, or secretarial and administrative duties such as taking of dictation and the keeping of business, judicial and historical records for kings
Monarch
A monarch is the person who heads a monarchy. This is a form of government in which a state or polity is ruled or controlled by an individual who typically inherits the throne by birth and occasionally rules for life or until abdication...

, nobility
Nobility
Nobility is a social class which possesses more acknowledged privileges or eminence than members of most other classes in a society, membership therein typically being hereditary. The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be...

, temple
Temple
A temple is a structure reserved for religious or spiritual activities, such as prayer and sacrifice, or analogous rites. A templum constituted a sacred precinct as defined by a priest, or augur. It has the same root as the word "template," a plan in preparation of the building that was marked out...

s and cities. Later the profession developed into public servants, journalists, accountants, typists, and lawyers. In societies with low literacy rates, street corner letter-writers (and readers) may still be found providing a service.

Ancient Egypt

The Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

ian scribe, or sesh, was a person educated in the arts of writing (using both hieroglyphics and hieratic
Hieratic
Hieratic refers to a cursive writing system that was used in the provenance of the pharaohs in Egypt and Nubia that developed alongside the hieroglyphic system, to which it is intimately related...

 scripts, and from the second half of the first millennium BCE the demotic
Demotic (Egyptian)
Demotic refers to either the ancient Egyptian script derived from northern forms of hieratic used in the Delta, or the stage of the Egyptian language following Late Egyptian and preceding Coptic. The term was first used by the Greek historian Herodotus to distinguish it from hieratic and...

 script, used as shorthand and for commerce) and dena (arithmetics). Sons of scribes were brought up in the same scribal tradition, sent to school and, upon entering the civil service, inherited their fathers' positions.

M

Scribes

Mesopotamia

The Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

n scribe, or dubsar, received his education in the "tablet house," or é-dubba. As in Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

, he was generally male and belonged socially to an elite class. The youngest of the Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

n students typically received their first instruction from older students. The older students appear to have been bribed into proffering preferential treatment, such as to avoid punishing certain children. Apart from administration and accountancy, Mesopotamian scribes observed the sky and wrote literary works as well as the famous myth The Epic of Gilgamesh. They wrote on papyrus
Papyrus
Papyrus is a thick paper-like material produced from the pith of the papyrus plant, Cyperus papyrus, a wetland sedge that was once abundant in the Nile Delta of Egypt....

 paper as well as clay tablets. They also wrote and kept records. Scribe's writing tools were made of reeds
Phragmites
Phragmites, the Common reed, is a large perennial grass found in wetlands throughout temperate and tropical regions of the world. Phragmites australis is sometimes regarded as the sole species of the genus Phragmites, though some botanists divide Phragmites australis into three or four species...

 and were called a stylus
Stylus
A stylus is a writing utensil, or a small tool for some other form of marking or shaping, for example in pottery. The word is also used for a computer accessory . It usually refers to a narrow elongated staff, similar to a modern ballpoint pen. Many styli are heavily curved to be held more easily...

.

Babylonia
Babylonia
Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia , with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as a major power when Hammurabi Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as...

n scribes concentrated their schooling on learning how to write both Akkad
Akkad
The Akkadian Empire was an empire centered in the city of Akkad and its surrounding region in Mesopotamia....

ian and Sumer
Sumer
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

ian, in cuneiform
Cuneiform
Cuneiform can refer to:*Cuneiform script, an ancient writing system originating in Mesopotamia in the 4th millennium BC*Cuneiform , three bones in the human foot*Cuneiform Records, a music record label...

, for the purposes of accountancy
Accountancy
Accountancy is the process of communicating financial information about a business entity to users such as shareholders and managers. The communication is generally in the form of financial statements that show in money terms the economic resources under the control of management; the art lies in...

 and contract
Contract
A contract is an agreement entered into by two parties or more with the intention of creating a legal obligation, which may have elements in writing. Contracts can be made orally. The remedy for breach of contract can be "damages" or compensation of money. In equity, the remedy can be specific...

 dealings, in addition to interpersonal discourse and mathematical documentations.

The Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

n scribal profession was associated with the goddess Nisaba, who later would become replaced by the god Nabu
Nabu
Nabu is the Assyrian and Babylonian god of wisdom and writing, worshipped by Babylonians as the son of Marduk and his consort, Sarpanitum, and as the grandson of Ea. Nabu's consort was Tashmetum....

.

Egyptian and Mesopotamian functions

Besides the scribal profession for accountancy, and 'governmental politicking' , the scribal professions immediately branched-out into the socio-
Sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

cultural
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

 areas of literature. The first stories probably related to societal religious stories, and gods, but the beginning of literature genres were starting.

In ancient Egypt an example of this is the Dispute between a man and his Ba
Dispute between a man and his Ba
The Dispute between a man and his Ba is an ancient Egyptian text dating to the Middle Kingdom about a man deeply unhappy with his life. It is part of the so-called Wisdom literature and takes the form of a dialogue between a man and his ba. The beginning of the text is missing, there are a number...

. Some of these stories, the "wisdom literature
Wisdom literature
Wisdom literature is the genre of literature common in the Ancient Near East. This genre is characterized by sayings of wisdom intended to teach about divinity and about virtue...

s" may have just started as a 'short story
Short story
A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas and novels. Short story definitions based on length differ somewhat, even among professional writers, in part because...

', but since writing had only recently been invented, it was the first physical recordings of societal ideas, in some length and detail. In Mesopotamia, the Sumerians had one of the beginnings of this literature in the middle to late 3rd millennium BC, and besides their creation stories, and religious texts, there is a series of debate
Disputation
In the scholastic system of education of the Middle Ages, disputations offered a formalized method of debate designed to uncover and establish truths in theology and in sciences...

s. An example from the small list of Sumerian disputations
Sumerian disputations
The Sumerian disputation or Sumerian debate is a topical short story created in the middle to late 3rd millennium BC. Seven major debates are known, with specific titles.The list of the majority of the known debates is as follows :...

 is the debate between bird and fish
Debate between bird and fish
The Debate between bird and fish is a literature essay of the Sumerian language, on clay tablets from the mid to late 3rd millennium BC.Seven "debate" topics are known from the Sumerian literature, falling in the category of 'disputations'; some examples are: The Debate between Winter and Summer;...

. In the other Sumerian disputes, in the debate between Summer and Winter, summer wins. The other disputes are: cattle and grain, the tree and the reed, Silver and Copper, the pickax and the plough, and millstone and the gul-gul stone.

Ancient Israel

Scribes in Ancient Israel, as in most of the ancient world, were distinguished professionals who could exercise functions we would associate with lawyers, government ministers, judges, or even financiers. Some scribes copied documents, but this was not necessarily part of their job.

The Jewish scribes used the following process for creating copies of the Torah and eventually other books in the Tanakh
Tanakh
The Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...

.
  1. They could only use clean animal skins, both to write on, and even to bind manuscripts.
  2. Each column of writing could have no less than forty-eight, and no more than sixty lines.
  3. The ink must be black, and of a special recipe.
  4. They must say each word aloud while they were writing.
  5. They must wipe the pen and wash their entire bodies before writing the most Holy Name of God, YHVH every time they wrote it.
  6. There must be a review within thirty days, and if as many as three pages required corrections, the entire manuscript had to be redone.
  7. The letters, words, and paragraphs had to be counted, and the document became invalid if two letters touched each other. The middle paragraph, word and letter must correspond to those of the original document.
  8. The documents could be stored only in sacred places (synagogues, etc.).
  9. As no document containing God's Word could be destroyed, they were stored, or buried, in a genizah
    Genizah
    A genizah is the store-room or depository in a Jewish synagogue , usually specifically for worn-out Hebrew-language books and papers on religious topics that were stored there before they could receive a proper cemetery burial, it being forbidden to throw away writings...

    .

Sofer

A Sofer are among the few scribes that still ply their trade by hand. Renowned calligraphers, they produce the Hebrew Torah scrolls
Sefer Torah
A Sefer Torah of Torah” or “Torah scroll”) is a handwritten copy of the Torah or Pentateuch, the holiest book within Judaism. It must meet extremely strict standards of production. The Torah scroll is mainly used in the ritual of Torah reading during Jewish services...

 and other holy texts by hand to this day. They write on parchment
Parchment
Parchment is a thin material made from calfskin, sheepskin or goatskin, often split. Its most common use was as a material for writing on, for documents, notes, or the pages of a book, codex or manuscript. It is distinct from leather in that parchment is limed but not tanned; therefore, it is very...

.

Sofer accuracy

Until 1948, the oldest manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

 dated back to 895 A.D. In 1947, a shepherd boy discovered some scrolls inside a cave West of the Dead Sea
Dead Sea
The Dead Sea , also called the Salt Sea, is a salt lake bordering Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west. Its surface and shores are below sea level, the lowest elevation on the Earth's surface. The Dead Sea is deep, the deepest hypersaline lake in the world...

. These manuscripts dated between 100 B.C. and 100 A.D. Over the next decade, more scrolls were found in caves and the discovery became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls
Dead Sea scrolls
The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 texts from the Hebrew Bible and extra-biblical documents found between 1947 and 1956 on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, from which they derive their name...

. Every book in the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

 was represented in this discovery except Esther
Esther
Esther , born Hadassah, is the eponymous heroine of the Biblical Book of Esther.According to the Bible, she was a Jewish queen of the Persian king Ahasuerus...

. Numerous copies of each book were discovered, such as the 25 copies of Deuteronomy
Deuteronomy
The Book of Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Hebrew Bible, and of the Jewish Torah/Pentateuch...

 that were found.

While there are other items found among the Dead Sea Scrolls not currently in the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

, the texts on the whole testify to the accuracy of the scribes copying down through the ages, though many variations and errors occurred. The Dead Sea Scrolls are currently the best route of comparison to the accuracy and consistency of translation for the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

, due to their date of origin being the oldest out of any Biblical text
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 currently known.

See also

  • Copying
    Copying
    Copying is the duplication of information or an artifact based only on an instance of that information or artifact, and not using the process that originally generated it. With analog forms of information, copying is only possible to a limited degree of accuracy, which depends on the quality of the...

  • List of ancient Egyptian scribes
  • Scrivener
    Scrivener
    A scrivener was traditionally a person who could read and write. This usually indicated secretarial and administrative duties such as dictation and keeping business, judicial, and history records for kings, nobles, temples, and cities...

  • Scriptorium
    Scriptorium
    Scriptorium, literally "a place for writing", is commonly used to refer to a room in medieval European monasteries devoted to the copying of manuscripts by monastic scribes...

  • The Seated Scribe
    The Seated Scribe
    The sculpture of the Seated Scribe is one of the most important examples of ancient Egyptian art. It represents a figure of a seated scribe at work. The sculpture was discovered at Saqqara in 1850 and dated to the period of the 4th Dynasty, 2620–2500 BCE...

  • Transcription (linguistics)
    Transcription (linguistics)
    Transcription in the linguistic sense is the systematic representation of language in written form. The source can either be utterances or preexisting text in another writing system, although some linguists only consider the former as transcription.Transcription should not be confused with...

  • Transliteration
    Transliteration
    Transliteration is a subset of the science of hermeneutics. It is a form of translation, and is the practice of converting a text from one script into another...

  • Uncial
    Uncial
    Uncial is a majuscule script commonly used from the 3rd to 8th centuries AD by Latin and Greek scribes. Uncial letters are written in either Greek, Latin, or Gothic.-Development:...

  • Worshipful Company of Scriveners
    Worshipful Company of Scriveners
    The Worshipful Company of Scriveners of the City of London is one of the Livery Companies of the City of London. It is also known as the Mysterie of Writers of the Court Letter. The Company had been responsible for setting qualifications and regulations for scrivener notaries since its foundation...


Notable scribes

  • Ahmes
    Ahmes
    Ahmes was an ancient Egyptian scribe who lived during the Second Intermediate Period and the beginning of the Eighteenth Dynasty . He wrote the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus, a work of Ancient Egyptian mathematics that dates to approximately 1650 BC; he is the earliest contributor to mathematics...

  • Amat-Mamu
    Amat-Mamu
    Amat-Mamu, fl. ca. 1750 BC, Sippar in ancient Babylonia, was a scribe whose existence is known from the cuniform tablets on which she wrote.Amat-Mamu was a Naditu priestess and temple scribe in Sippar, in ancient Babylonia...

  • Baruch
    Baruch ben Neriah
    Baruch ben Neriah was the scribe, disciple, secretary, and devoted friend of the Biblical prophet Jeremiah. According to Josephus, he was a Jewish aristocrat, a son of Neriah and brother of Seraiah ben Neriah, chamberlain of King Zedekiah of Judah.Baruch wrote down the first and second editions of...

  • Dubhaltach MacFhirbhisigh
  • Máel Muire mac Céilechair
    Máel Muire mac Céilechair
    Máel Muire mac Céilechair was an Irish cleric of the monastery of Clonmacnoise, County Offaly, and one of the principal scribes of the manuscript Lebor na hUidre....

  • Sidney Rigdon
    Sidney Rigdon
    Sidney Rigdon was a leader during the early history of the Latter Day Saint movement.-Baptist background:...

  • Sin-liqe-unninni
    Sin-liqe-unninni
    Sîn-lēqi-unninni was an incantation/exorcist priest who lived in Mesopotamia in the period between 1300 BC and 1000 BC. He is the compiler of the best preserved version of the Epic of Gilgamesh. His name is listed in the text itself, which is unusual for works written in cuneiform...


External links

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