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Amanuensis (pronounced /əˌmænjuˈɛnsɪs/) is a Latin word adopted in various languages, including English, for certain persons performing a function by hand, either writing down the words of another or performing manual labour. The term is derived from a Latin expression which may be literally translated as "manual labourer".

Contents

Origin and secretarial uses

The word originated in ancient Rome, for a slave at his master's personal service 'within hand reach', performing any command; later it was specifically applied to an intimately trusted servant (often a freedman) acting as a personal secretary.

A similar semantic evolution occurred at the French royal court, where the secrétaire de la main du roi, originally a lowly clerk specializing in producing, at royal command, the Sovereign's signature on more documents than he cared to put his pen to, developed into the secrétaires d'état, the first permanent portfolio ministers, to which the British Secretaries of State would be the counterpart.

The term is often used interchangeably with secretary or scribe.

Academic uses

It is also used in a specific sense in some academic contexts, for instance when an injured or disabled person is helped by an amanuensis at a written examination. A notable case in classical music was that of Eric Fenby, who assisted the blind composer Frederick Delius in writing down the notes that Delius dictated.

In the Netherlands it refers to a (technically schooled) physics or chemistry laboratory assistant responsible for preparing and assisting with tests and maintaining the instruments. When employed as such in a school environment s/he will have the title of "TOA" ("technisch-onderwijsassistent", i.e. Technical Teaching Assistant).

In Norway, amanuensis is an academic rank of a lecturer without a doctorate, and this title is going out of use. Førsteamanuensis (Norwegian for "first amanuensis") is the equivalent of associate professor.

In Sweden, amanuens is used to denote roughly a teaching assistant at university who continues with his own scientific work, or a civil servant at archives or museums.[1]

The term is used to describe one who assists an organist during a performance, by drawing and retiring stops, and by turning pages.

Job titles

On the other hand, certain employers use the term for (generally unskilled) manual labourers at the bottom of the hierarchy, for example as factotum. During the nineteenth and early twentieth century, an amanuensis was the job title for male secretaries who were employed by the railroad or ship to be available for travelers who required services on route.

Notes

  1. ^ Nationalenkylopedin, online encyclopedia

References

Non-English language sources:

  • Bokmålsordboken (official Norwegian language dictionary)
  • Pauly-Wissowa (Encyclopaedia on classical antiquity, in German)
  • Larousse (General Encyclopaedia in French)

English language sources:

  • Aland, Kurt. “The Problem of Anonymity and Pseudonymity in Christian Literature of the First Two Centuries.” Journal of Theological Studies 12 (1961): 39-49.
  • Bahr, Gordon J. “Paul and Letter Writing in the First Century.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 28 (1966): 465-77. idem, “The Subscriptions in the Pauline Letters.” Journal of Biblical Literature 2 (1968): 27-41.
  • Bauckham, Richard J. “Pseudo-Apostolic Letters.” Journal of Biblical Literature 107 (1988): 469-94.
  • Carson, D.A. “Pseudonymity and Pseudepigraphy.” Dictionary of New Testament Background. Eds. Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2000. 857-64.
  • Cousar, Charles B. The Letters of Paul. Interpreting Biblical Texts. Nashville: Abingdon, 1996.
  • Deissmann, G. Adolf. Bible Studies. Trans. Alexander Grieve. 1901. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1988.
  • Doty, William G. Letters in Primitive Christianity. Guides to Biblical Scholarship. New Testament. Ed. Dan O. Via, Jr. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988.
  • Gamble, Harry Y. “Amanuensis.” Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol. 1. Ed. David Noel Freedman. New York: Doubleday, 1992.
  • Haines-Eitzen, Kim. “‘Girls Trained in Beautiful Writing’: Female Scribes in Roman Antiquity and Early Christianity.” Journal of Early Christian Studies 6.4 (1998): 629-46.
  • Longenecker, Richard N. “Ancient Amanuenses and the Pauline Epistles.” New Dimensions in New Testament Study. Eds. Richard N. Longenecker and Merrill C. Tenney. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974. 281-97. idem, “On the Form, Function, and Authority of the New Testament Letters.” Scripture and Truth. Eds. D.A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983. 101-14.
  • Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome. Paul the Letter-Writer: His World, His Options, His Skills. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 1995.
  • Richards, E. Randolph. The Secretary in the Letters of Paul. Tübingen: Mohr, 1991. idem, “The Codex and the Early Collection of Paul’s Letters.” Bulletin for Biblical Research 8 (1998): 151-66. idem, Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition, and Collection. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2004.
  • Robson, E. Iliff. “Composition and Dictation in New Testament Books.” Journal of Theological Studies 18 (1917): 288-301.
  • Stowers, Stanley K. Letter Writing in Greco-Roman Antiquity. Library of Early Christianity. Vol. 8. Ed. Wayne A. Meeks. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1989.
  • Wall, Robert W. “Introduction to Epistolary Literature.” New Interpreter’s Bible. Vol. 10. Ed. Leander E. Keck. Nashville: Abingdon, 2002. 369-91.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

AMANUENSIS (a Latin word, derived from the phrase servus a mane, slave of the hand, a secretary), one who writes, from dictation or otherwise, on behalf of another.


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