In this detailed overview of the history of the handmade book, Leila Avrin looks at the development of scripts and styles of illumination, the making of manuscripts, and the technological processes involved in paper making and book binding.
Readers will gain a greater understanding of ancient books and texts with
Reference librarians and educators will find this resource indispensable.
- More than 300 plates and illustrations
- Examples of the different forms of writing from ancient times to the introduction of the printing press
- Coverage of cultural and religious books
- Full bibliography
Preface to the book by the author
Writing this book required two idiosyncrasies in the character of the writer: chutzpah and courage of imperfection. "Courage of imperfection" (an expression coined by Rolla May) is evident in my willingness to expose myself to academic critics who will call attention to the lack of primary research.
I have written this book to gather the scattered information on writing and the handmade book into a continuous history, whose progress has been determined by the principles of tradition and change.
The aim of Scribes, Script and Books is to demonstrate just how these principles of tradition and change have determined the form of the Western book from ancient times to the age of printing. In viewing the book of each culture, I hope to examine the script found on its surface, the materials on which the book was written and how they were manufactured and assembled, the tools employed in writing the book, and briefly, the literature found in the book and its illustration, with a few examples of the culture's great books and documents. Where possible, we will glimpse at the scribes who wrote these books, and read the colophons they left to posterity.
I am aware as I write that for each generalization there is an exception, and for every "earliest known" there soon will be a new discovery to prove it obsolete. Imperfection is inherent in one's own work - how much more so in interpreting the work of others. I have "chutzpah" (a Hebrew ward popularized by the New York Times), because for each chapter here there could be and often are far more detailed books written an its single subject. And chutzpah because I am not an expert in 99 percent of the areas discussed in this book. I have depended on the research of others, whose names appear in the bibliography, and hope that the reader will find this synthesis of their original works coherent and useful.
Same technical details: Diacritical marks have been omitted here where scholars would have them on the assumption that they are meaningless to the general reader and that their precise assistance is not needed by specialists, who will recognize the word or name. Renderings of ancient and medieval names generally have followed the usage of encyclopedias with a few favorite modifications. In plate captions, dimensions have been included only for illuminated European manuscripts where such information may be useful for comparative study.
In addition to the scholars from whose original work I have drawn information, I would like to thank those experts, scholars, and crafts-persons who have answered my questions patiently for the past several years, and those who have read and improved individual chapters and directed me to additional sources (list omitted here). Any errors of transmission of their knowledge and skills are mine, not theirs.
Having exhausted the thesaurus entry for "gratitude," rather than thank a11 of the students who once sat in my History of Books course, I will instead beg their forgiveness for any misinformation I may have passed along to them in class. I trust those errors have been corrected here, and that I now have answered any questions that were left unanswered years ago. Knowledge is imperfect; there is more we do not know than we do know (and what is unknown is so much more interesting!). But there is always the hope that tomorrow we may know a little more.
1st edition 1991, Paperback, 360pp, over 300 illustrations, 21 x 28 cm