A scrivener (or scribe
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...

) was traditionally a person who could read and write
Literacy has traditionally been described as the ability to read for knowledge, write coherently and think critically about printed material.Literacy represents the lifelong, intellectual process of gaining meaning from print...

. This usually indicated secretarial
A secretary, or administrative assistant, is a person whose work consists of supporting management, including executives, using a variety of project management, communication & organizational skills. These functions may be entirely carried out to assist one other employee or may be for the benefit...

 and administrative
Administration (government)
The term administration, as used in the context of government, differs according to jurisdiction.-United States:In United States usage, the term refers to the executive branch under a specific president , for example: the "Barack Obama administration." It can also mean an executive branch agency...

 duties such as dictation
Dictation can refer to:*Dictation , when one person speaks while another person transcribes what is spoken.*A dictation machine, a device used to record speech for transcription....

 and keeping business
A business is an organization engaged in the trade of goods, services, or both to consumers. Businesses are predominant in capitalist economies, where most of them are privately owned and administered to earn profit to increase the wealth of their owners. Businesses may also be not-for-profit...

, judicial, and history
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

 records for king
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...

s, nobles
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
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
A municipality is essentially an urban administrative division having corporate status and usually powers of self-government. It can also be used to mean the governing body of a municipality. A municipality is a general-purpose administrative subdivision, as opposed to a special-purpose district...

. Scriveners later developed into public servants, accountant
An accountant is a practitioner of accountancy or accounting , which is the measurement, disclosure or provision of assurance about financial information that helps managers, investors, tax authorities and others make decisions about allocating resources.The Big Four auditors are the largest...

s, lawyer
A lawyer, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is "a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person who is practicing law." Law is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political...

s and petition writers, etc.

Current role

Scriveners remain a common sight in countries where literacy rates remain low; they read letters for illiterate customers, as well as write letters or fill out forms for a fee. Many now use portable typewriters to prepare letters for their clients.


The word comes from Middle English scriveiner, an alteration of obsolete scrivein, from Anglo-French escrivein, ultimately from Vulgate Latin *scriban-, scriba, alteration of Latin scriba (as scribe).

In Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, the word is used to refer to legal professions such as judicial scrivener
Judicial scrivener
-Japan:In Japan, are authorized to represent their clients in real estate registrations, commercial registrations , preparation of court documents and filings with legal affairs bureaus...

s and administrative scrivener
Administrative scrivener
, also known as gyosei-shoshi lawyers , form a legal profession in Japan.The primary occupation of administrative scriveners is to prepare and draft not only filings to the national government, local governments or government agencies, but also other documents related to rights, liabilities and...


In the Irish language a "scríbhneoir" is a writer, or a person who writes. It has nearly exactly the same pronunciation as the English word "scrivener".

In ancient times, a scrivener was also called a calligraphus
A calligraphus was an ancient copyist or scrivener, who transcribed correctly and in its entirety what the notaries had taken down in notes, or minutes—duties similar to the modern work of engrossing....

 (pl. calligraphi).

In literature

A famous work of fiction featuring scriveners is the 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...

 "Bartleby, the Scrivener" by Herman Melville
Herman Melville
Herman Melville was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. He is best known for his novel Moby-Dick and the posthumous novella Billy Budd....

, first published in 1853.

Scrivener notaries

Scrivener notary
A notary is a lawyer or person with legal training who is licensed by the state to perform acts in legal affairs, in particular witnessing signatures on documents...

 tasks generally may include:
  • Authentication and drafting of legal documents for use overseas
  • Ballot
    A ballot is a device used to record choices made by voters. Each voter uses one ballot, and ballots are not shared. In the simplest elections, a ballot may be a simple scrap of paper on which each voter writes in the name of a candidate, but governmental elections use pre-printed to protect the...

    s (new issues); stock and bond redemption
  • Bills of exchange
  • Business start-up and corporate administration
  • Construction project tendering
  • Exchange control and foreign investment formalities
  • Inheritance
    Inheritance is the practice of passing on property, titles, debts, rights and obligations upon the death of an individual. It has long played an important role in human societies...

  • Legalization of documents
  • Purchase and sale of overseas real property
    Real property
    In English Common Law, real property, real estate, realty, or immovable property is any subset of land that has been legally defined and the improvements to it made by human efforts: any buildings, machinery, wells, dams, ponds, mines, canals, roads, various property rights, and so forth...

  • Shipping law
  • Trademark
    A trademark, trade mark, or trade-mark is a distinctive sign or indicator used by an individual, business organization, or other legal entity to identify that the products or services to consumers with which the trademark appears originate from a unique source, and to distinguish its products or...

    s and patent
    A patent is a form of intellectual property. It consists of a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or their assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for the public disclosure of an invention....

  • Translation
    Translation is the communication of the meaning of a source-language text by means of an equivalent target-language text. Whereas interpreting undoubtedly antedates writing, translation began only after the appearance of written literature; there exist partial translations of the Sumerian Epic of...

     or certification of translation
  • Wills
    Will (law)
    A will or testament is a legal declaration by which a person, the testator, names one or more persons to manage his/her estate and provides for the transfer of his/her property at death...

     and trust
    Trust may refer to:* Trust , reliance on another person or entity-Business and legal:* Trust law, an arrangement in which property is managed by one person or entity for the benefit of another...

  • Work
    Work permit
    Work permit is a generic term for a legal authorization which allows a person to take employment.It is most often used in reference to instances where a person is given permission to work in a country where one does not hold citizenship, but is also used in reference to minors, who in some...

     and residence permits
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