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Jean Miélot, a European author and scribe at work

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. 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, nobility, temples and cities. Later the profession developed into public servants, journalists, accountants, typists, and lawyers.


Ancient Egypt

Egyptian scribe with papyrus scroll

The Ancient Egyptian scribe, or sesh,[1] was a person educated in the arts of writing (using both hieroglyphics and hieratic scripts, and from the second half of the first millennium BCE also the demotic script) and dena (arithmatics).[2][3] He was generally male,[4] belonged socially to what we would refer to as a middle class elite, and was employed in the bureaucratic administration of the pharaonic state, of its army, and of the temples.[5] Sons of scribes were brought up in the same scribal tradition, sent to school and, upon entering the civil service, inherited their fathers' positions.[6]

Much of what is known about ancient Egypt is due to the activities of its scribes. Monumental buildings were erected under their supervision,[7] administrative and economic activities were documented by them, and tales from the mouths of Egypt's lower classes or from foreign lands survive thanks to scribes putting them in writing.[8]

The profession, first associated with the goddess Seshat, became restricted to males in the later dynasties.

Scribes were also considered part of the royal court and did not have to pay tax or join the military. The scribal profession had companion professions, the painters and artisans who decorated tombs, buildings, furniture, statuary, and other relics with pictures and hieroglyphic text.


An account of barley rations issued monthly to adults (30 or 40 pints) and children (20 pints) written in Cuneiform on clay tablet, written in year 4 of King Urukagina (circa 2350 BCE). From Ngirsu, Iraq. British Museum, London.

The Mesopotamian scribe, or dubsar,[9] received his or her early education in the "tablet house," or é-dubba.[10] As in Egypt, he was generally male[9] and belonged socially to an elite class.[9] The youngest of the Mesopotamian students typically received their first instruction from older students.[9] The older students appear to have been bribed into proffering preferential treatment, such as to avoid punishing certain children.[9] Excavations suggest that all the male children from the wealthier families of Mesopotamia were educated.[9]

Writing in early Mesopotamia seems to have grown out of the need to document economic transactions, and consisted often in lists which scribes knowledgeable in writing and arithmetics engraved in cuneiform letters into tablets of clay.[11] 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 paper[12] as well as clay tablets. They also wrote and kept records. Scribe's writing tools were made of reeds and were called a stylus.

Babylonian scribes concentrated their schooling on learning how to write both Akkadian and Sumerian, in cuneiform, for the purposes of accountancy and contract dealings, in addition to interpersonal discourse and mathematical documentations.[10]

The Mesopotamian scribal profession was associated with the goddess Nisaba, who later would become replaced by the god Nabu.[10]

Egyptian and Mesopotamian functions

Besides the scribal profession for accountancy, and 'governmental politicking' , the scribal professions immediately branched-out into the socio-cultural 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. Some of these stories, the "wisdom literatures" may have just started as a 'short story', 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 disputations. An example from the small list of Sumerian disputations is the debate between bird and fish.[13] In the other Sumerian disputes, in the 'dispute 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.[14]

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.[15]

In 586 B.C., Jerusalem was captured by the Babylonians. The Temple was looted and then destroyed by fire. The Jews were exiled.

About 70 years later, the Jewish captives returned to Jerusalem from Babylon. According to the Bible, Ezra recovered a copy of the Torah and read it aloud to the whole nation.

From then on, the Jewish scribes solidified the following process for creating copies of the Torah and eventually other books in the Old Testament.

  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 verbalize each word aloud while they were writing.
  5. They must wipe the pen and wash their entire bodies before writing the word "Jehovah," 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.

After Jerusalem was sacked by Rome in the First Century, the process was lost. While a Hebrew version of the Old Testament continued to exist, the language wasn't spoken by many. Greek and eventually Latin versions continued to be copied.


Scribe accuracy

Until 1948, the oldest manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible dated back to 895 A.D. In 1947, a shepherd boy discovered some scrolls inside a cave West of the Dead Sea. 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. Every book in the Hebrew Bible was represented in this discovery except Esther. Numerous copies of each book were discovered, such as the 25 copies of Deuteronomy that were found.

While there are other items found among the Dead Sea Scrolls not currently in the Hebrew Bible, the texts on the whole testify to the accuracy of the scribes copying down through the ages, though many variations and errors occurred.[16] The Dead Sea Scrolls are currently the best route of comparison to the accuracy and consistency of translation for the Hebrew Bible, due to their date of origin being the oldest out of any Biblical text currently known.


A Sofer (Hebrew: סופר סת”ם‎) are among the few scribes that still ply their trade by hand. Renowned calligraphers, they produce the Hebrew Torah scrolls and other holy texts by hand to this day. They write on parchment.

See also

Notable scribes



  1. ^ "Scribes", Life in Ancient Egypt, Carnegie Museum of Natural History: [1]. Retrieved 29 January 2009.
  2. ^ Michael Rice, Who's Who in Ancient Egypt, Routledge 2001, ISBN 0415154480, p.lvi
  3. ^ Peter Damerow, Abstraction and Representation: Essays on the Cultural Evolution of Thinking, Springer 1996, ISBN 0792338162, pp.188ff.
  4. ^ The female form exists, (Ermann & Grapow, Wörterbuch der ägyptischen Sprache, vol.3, 481.6-7) but is rarely used. e.g. Elisabeth Meier Tetlow, Women, Crime, and Punishment in Ancient Law and Society, Continuum International Publishing Group 2005, ISBN 0826416292, p.265
  5. ^ Kemp, op.cit., p.163
  6. ^ David McLain Carr, Writing on the Tablet of the Heart: Origins of Scripture and Literature, Oxford University Press 2005, ISBN 0195172973, p.66
  7. ^ Kemp, op.cit., p.180
  8. ^ Kemp, op.cit., p.296
  9. ^ a b c d e f C.B.F. Walker. "Cuneiform (Reading the Past)," 1987. London: The British Museum Press.
  10. ^ a b c "Scribes in ancient Mesopotamia," the British Museum, [2]. Retrieved 25 February 2009.
  11. ^ Martin, op.cit., p.88
  12. ^ Carr, op.cit., p.39
  13. ^ ETSCL translation: The Debate between Bird and Fish
  14. ^ ETSCL, "Debate poems"
  15. ^ Bruce Metzger and Michael Coogan, eds., The Oxford Companion to the Bible.
  16. ^ "A History of the Jews", Paul Johnson, p. 91, Phoenix, 1993 (org pub 1987), ISBN 1 85799 096X


  • Barry J. Kemp, Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization, Routledge 2006, ISBN 0415235499, pp. 166ff.
  • Henri-Jean Martin, The History and Power of Writing, University of Chicago Press 1995, ISBN 0226508366
  • David McLain Carr, Writing on the Tablet of the Heart: Origins of Scripture and Literature, Oxford University Press collyn anderson2005, ISBN 0195172973

External links

This article incorporates text from Easton's Bible Dictionary (1897), a publication now in the public domain.

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Origin and Meaning.


Body of teachers whose office was to interpret the Law to the people, their organization beginning with Ezra, who was their chief, and terminating with Simeon the Just. The original meaning of the Hebrew word "soferim" was "people who know how to write"; and therefore the royal officials who were occupied in recording in the archives the proceedings of each day were called scribes (comp. II Sam. viii. 17; II Kings xix. 2, passim); but as the art of writing was known only to the intelligent, the term "scribe" became synonymous with "wise man" (I Chron. xxvii. 32). Later, in the time of Ezra, the designation was applied to the body of teachers who, as stated above, interpreted the Law to the people. Ezra himself is styled "a ready scribe in the law of Moses" (Ezra vii. 6). Indeed, he might be correctly so called for two reasons, inasmuch as he could write or copy the Law and at the same time was an able interpreter of it. The Rabbis, however, deriving (image) from (image) (= "to count"), interpret the term "soferim" to mean those who count the letters of the Torah or those who classify its contents and recount the number of laws or objects belonging in each group; e.g., five classes of people that are exempt from the heave-offering, four chief causes of damages, thirty-nine chief works which are forbidden on the Sabbath, etc. (Yer. Sheḳ. v. 1; Ḥag. 15b; Ḳid. 30a; Sanh. 106b). While this may be only a haggadic interpretation of the term "soferim," it is evident that these scribes were the first teachers of the Torah and the founders of the oral law.

Range of Activity.

The activity of the scribes began with the cessation of that of the Prophets. In fact, after the Israelites who came back from Babylon had turned their hearts to God, there was greater need of men to instruct the people, and to assist them in obtaining a clear understanding of the Law. This body of teachers is identified by Zacharias Frankel ("Darke ha-Mishnah," p. 8) and Nachman Krochmal Moreh Nebuke ha-Zeman," ch. xi.) with the "men of the Great Synagogue" (comp. the expression συναγωγὴ γραμματέων in I Macc. vii. 12), of which Simeon the Just was the last member (comp. Ab. i. 2). If this identification is correct, the organization of the scribes lasted from the time of Ezra till the conquest of Palestine by Alexander the Great, a period of about 200 years. It must be said, however, that the term "soferim" was sometimes used, particularly in the post-Maccabean time, to designate teachers generally. Thus Moses and Aaron are styled the "soferim of Israel" (Targ. of pseudo-Jonathan to Num. xxi. 19; Targ. to Cant. i. 2). Besides, in certain passages it is quite evident that "soferim" refers to Talmudists of a later period, as, for instance, in Yer. Ber. i. 7 and R. H. 19a, where the expression "dibre soferim" (= "the words of the scribes") seems to refer to the school of Hillel. But as a general rule the term refers to the body of teachers the first of whom was Ezra and the last Simeon the Just. It seems that after Simeon the teachers were more generally styled "elders" ("zeḳenim"), and later "the wise ones" ("ḥakamim"; Shab. 64b; Suk. 46a), while "soferim" was sometimes used as an honorific appellation (Soṭah 15a). In still later times "soferim" became synonymous with "teachers of little children" (ib. 49a).

Although, as will be shown later, the activity of the scribes was manifold, yet their main object was to teach the Torah to the Jewish masses, and to the Jewish youth in particular. It was they who established schools, and they were particularly enjoined to increase the number of their pupils (Ab. i. 1). Their mode of teaching is indicated in Neh. viii. 8: "So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading." This passage is explained by the Rabbis as meaning that they first read the Hebrew text and then translated it into the vernacular, elucidating it still further by dividing it into passages ("pesuḳim"; Meg. 3a; Ned. 37b). Moreover, the scribes always connected with the text the laws which they deduced from the Biblical passages; that is, they read the passage, explained it, and then deduced the law contained in it; they did not in general formulate abstract halakot apart from the Biblical text. The halakot were the work of (1) the "Zugot" (duumvirates), who immediately followed the scribes, and (2) the Tannaim, who treated the law independently of the Biblical text. There are, however, some mishnayot which, from their style, seem to have emanated directly from the scribes (comp. Neg. ii. 5-7). The latter seem not to have departed from the literal interpretation of the text, although they adapted the laws to the requirements of the times, sometimes instituting by-laws ("seyagim"), this, according to Abot (l.c.), being one of the three main duties of their office (comp. R. H. 34a; Yeb. ii. 4; Sanh. xii. 3).

Used Square Hebrew Characters.

From the time of Ezra, however, the scribes occupied themselves also with plans for raising Judaism to a higher intellectual plane. They were, consequently, active in reviving the use of Hebrew, which had been to a great extent forgotten during the exile in Babylon, and in giving it a more graceful and suitable script. As to the latter, it is stated that the Torah had first been written in Hebrew characters; then, in the time of Ezra, in characters called "ketab ashshuri" (probably = "ketab suri" = Syrian or Aramean script; comp. Kohut, "Aruch Completum," s.v. (image) ), the present square type, the former script being left to the "Hedyoṭot," that is, the Cutheans or Samaritans (Sanh. 21b-22a). It is evident that the scribes, in making this change, wished to give the Torah a particularly sacred character in distinction to the Samaritan Pentateuch. The term "ketab ashshuri" is explained by one authority as meaning "the even writing" (Yer. Meg. i. 71b), as contrasted with the forms of the ancient Hebrew or Samaritan characters.

The scribes are still better known for their work in connection with the liturgy and in the field of Bible emendation; for, besides the many benedictions and prayers which are ascribed to them, they revised the Hebrew text of the Scriptures, their revisions being called "tiḳḳune soferim." The number of these scribal emendations is given as eighteen (in Mek., Beshallaḥ Shirah, 6, and in Tan., Yelammedenu Beshallaḥ, ed. Vienna, 1863, p. 82b), of which the following may be cited: "but Abraham stood yet before the Lord" (Gen. xviii. 22), substituted for the original text, "but the Lord stood yet before Abraham" (see Gen. R. xlix. 12); "and let me not see my wretchedness" (Num. xi. 15), an emendation of the original text, "and let me not see thy wretchedness"; "to your tents . . . unto their tents" (I Kings xii. 16), instead of "to your gods . . . unto their gods." Other traces of the scribes' revision of the text are dots above certain words the meaning of which seemed doubtful to them, the original marks being ascribed to Ezra (Ab. R. N., ed. Schechter, pp. 97-98; Num. R. iii. 13). For the "tiḳḳune soferim" see Masorah, and for the institutions ("taḳḳanot") established by the scribes, Synagogue, Great; Taḳḳanah.

Bibliography: Bacher, Ag. Tan. Index, s.v. Lehrer; J. Brüll, Mebo ha-Mishnah, pp. 7-9, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1876; Z. Frankel, Darke ha-Mishnah, pp. 3 et seq.; Grätz, Gesch. 1st ed., ii., part 2, p. 125; 4th ed., iii. 86 et seq.; Hamburger, R. B. T. ii., s.v. Sopherim; Jost, in Zeit. für Historische Theologie, 1850, pp. 351 et seq.; Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., ii. 313 et seq.; Weiss, Dor, i. 50 et seq.


The professional scribes, known also as "liblarin" ("liblar" = "libellarius"). There were two kinds of professional scribes: (a) one who was engaged in the transcription of the Pentateuch scroll, phylacteries, and mezuzot, and who was called "sofer STaM" (= (image) , the initials of "Sefer Torah," "Tefillin," and "Mezuzah"); (b) one who acted as notary public and court secretary.


The productions of the sofer being the principal religious paraphernalia, he was a necessity in a Jewish community. A learned man was prohibited from residing in a town in which there was no scribe (Sanh. 17b). The sofer was so indispensable that, according to R. Joshua b. Levi, the men of the Great Assembly observed twenty-four fast-days on which they prayed that the soferim might not become rich and therefore unwilling to write. A baraita confirms the statement that writers of the Torah scrolls, tefillin, and mezuzot, and those that deal or trade in them are not blessed with riches (Pes. 50b; Tosef., Bik. ii., end). Even to this day the vocation of the sofer is the worst paid of all Jewish professions.

Artistic Work.

The Talmud, quoting the passage "This is my God, and I will beautify Him" (Ex. xv. 2, Hebr.), says: "Serve Him in a beautiful manner . . . prepare a beautiful Sefer Torah, written in good ink with a fine pen by an expert sofer" (Shab. 133b). The ink must be indelible, and the parchment specially prepared; the lines, traced and squared so that the writing may be straight and uniform. The Talmud declares that the rule regarding lines must be observed, in the case of the mezuzah, which is written on one roll, but does not apply in the case of the tefillin-rolls. Both, however, may be copied from memory, the wording being familiar to the sofer (Meg. 18b). The tracing is done with a ruler and a style (comp. Giṭ. 6b; Tosef., Giṭ. s.v. (image) ).

There were artists among the soferim. The Alexandrian scribes especially were noted for their skill in illumination. They used to gild the names of God found in the Pentateuch; but the rabbis of Jerusalem prohibited reading from such scrolls and ordered them to be placed in the genizah (Masseket Soferim i; Shab. 103b).

The utmost care and attention were bestowed upon spelling, crowning certain letters (Taggin), dotting others, copying abnormalities, and upon the regulations as to spacing for parashiyyot and sections. Some soferim were careful to begin the columns of the Sefer Torah with a word commencing with a "waw," allowing an equal number of lines to every column. Such columns were known as "wawe ha'ammudim" or "waw-columns." The preparation of phylacteries and mezuzot required a similar exercise of watchfulness. R. Ishmael said to a sofer: "My son, be careful in thy work, as it is a heavenly work, lest thou err in omitting or adding one iota, and so cause the destruction of the whole world" ('Er. 13a). The sofer was required to copy the text from a model form made by an expert, and was not permitted to rely on his memory. "Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee" (Prov. iv. 25) is the advice given to a sofer. R. Ḥisda, finding R. Hananeel writing a Sefer Torah from memory, said to him: "Indeed thou art able to write the whole Torah by heart; but our sages have forbidden the writing of even one letter without an exemplar" (Meg. 18b).

"TiḲḲun Soferim."

The model from which the sofer copied the Pentateuch was called "tiḳḳun soferim" (which must not be confounded with tiḳḳune soferim = "changes in the text"). An ancient fine copy of a tiḳḳun soferim, written on vellum, and vocalized and accented, with "waw-columns" of sixty lines each, was found in the old synagogue of Cracow ("Ha-Maggid," xii. 6, Feb. 5, 1868). Among the printed model forms are: "Tiḳḳun Soferim," by Solomon de Oliveyra, Amsterdam, 1666; "'Ezrat ha-Sofer," with wawe ha-'ammnudim, edited by Judah Piza, ib. 1769; "'En ha-Sofer," with wawe ha-'ammudim, by W. Heidenheim, 10 parts, Rödelheim, 1818-1821. The modern "Tiḳḳun Soferim," without vowels or accents, was first published in Wilna, in 1874, with wawe ha-'ammudim in two half-columns of forty-two lines. This edition has been reprinted several times and is now the standard copy.

Moses Ḥagiz, in his "Mishnat Ḥakamim" (§§ 227-228, Wandsbeck, 1733), urges scrupulous carefulness as to the qualification of the sofer, and refers to Moses Zacuto, who complained of the malpractises of the soferim in their work. He refers also to Zacuto's letter enumerating ten rules for the guidance of the sofer and addressed to the rabbis of Cracow, who had requested the information. A copy of this letter is among the manuscripts of the Bodleian Library, Oxford. It contains cabalistic rules by Moses Zacuto for the writing of a Pentateuch roll according to Luria; but it is addressed to Isaac, rabbi of Posen, and includes Isaac's answer copied in the year 5438 = 1678 (Neubauer, "Cat. Bodl. Hebr. MSS." cols. 1871, 2, and 1890).


The ordinary Bible for study was usually vocalized, accented, and sometimes illuminated (see Bible Manuscripts). In most cases the sofer would only write upon the order of a patron; and he would append his signature at the end of his work as a guaranty of its correctness, with the date, place of production, and sometimes the name of his patron also, as an identification in case of loss. These colophons are interesting from an antiquarian and historical point of view. Probably the earliest is that of Moses ben Asher's Bible, which was ordered by Jabez b. Solomon and given to the Karaite congregation in Jerusalem, and of which Jacob Saphir saw the Prophets in the possession of the Karaite congregation at Cairo ("Eben Sappir," i. 14b, Lyck, 1868). It was written in Tiberias and dated in the year 827 from the destruction of the Second Temple (= 896 C. E.); the colophonic matter appearing at the end of the Minor Prophets. Some colophons are written in letters of gold with an illuminated border, giving the date according to the era of the Creation, the Seleucidan era, and that of the destruction of the Temple; a blessing for the patron follows; and the closing words are: "May salvation [or "the redeemer"] speedily come." In rare instances the scribe acknowledges the receipt of his compensation in full; in others he apologizes for any error or shortcoming and pleads for God's forgiveness.

Expertness in writing was highly developed during the existence of the Second Temple. Ben Ḳamẓar was able to manipulate four pens between his five fingers and to write a four-lettered word at one stroke. He was blamed for not teaching his art to others (Yoma 38b). The vocation of the sofer was a regular profession; and many Talmudists were known by the appellation "Safra." The scribe was recognized in the street by the pen behind his ear (Shab. i. 3; 11a).

Notary and Secretary.


The other kind of sofer was employed in the preparation of bills of divorce requiring special care. He acted also in the capacity of a public notary, and as a recording clerk in the court-house ("bet din"). There were two clerks: one recording the charge of the accuser; the other, the answer of the accused (Sanh. 17b). The sofer was, moreover, the public secretary. It is stated that the nasi Rabban Gamaliel in his official seat on the Temple site had before him Johanan the sofer, to whom he dictated three letters:


"To our brethren residing in upper and lower Galilee";


"To our brethren in the South"; and


"To our brethren in exile in Babylon and Media and other exilic countries of Israel. Peace with you shall ever increase. We inform you," etc. (Sanh. 11b).

In later times the scribe of the community (= "sofer haḳahal") was the recording; secretary of the Pinḳes, and acted as notary as far as legal documents were concerned. The community had the power to consider as valueless all contracts not written by the appointed sofer (Shulḥan 'Aruk, Ḥoshen Mishpaṭ, 61, 1).

The sofer's fee was not fixed, nor might he make any charge except for loss of time. It was advisable therefore to make a bargain with him before-hand (ib. Eben ha-'Ezer, 154, 4). The question by whom the sofer shall be paid is settled for almost every possible case. The underlying principle is that the one who is in duty bound to give the document, or who receives the most benefit from the transaction, shall pay the scribe; otherwise the parties share the expense. Those responsible for the sofer'sfee are enumerated thus:


The purchaser of property (Ḥoshen Mishpaṭ, 238, 1).


The borrower of money; but if the lender loses the note and desires a duplicate, he must pay for it. The lender pays for writing the receipt against a note; but when there is no note, and the borrower wishes to have a receipt, he must pay for it (ib. 39, 14; 54, 1).


The bridegroom, for the betrothal contract; but if the bride desires a duplicate, she must pay for it. The groom pays for the ketubah (Eben ha-'Ezer, 51, 1).


The husband, for a bill of divorce and the receipt for the dowry (ib. 110, 1; 120, 1).


Both parties, for writing arbitration papers (Ḥoshen Mishpaṭ, 13, 6).

The plaintiff and defendant share alike the cost of writing their pleas and briefs for submission to a higher court (ib. 13, 3; 14, 2). The person who is in contempt of court must pay the expense incurred in issuing the summons (ib. 11, 4).

See Bible Manuscripts; Geṭ; Ink; Manuscripts; Mezuzah; Paleography; Phylacteries; Scroll of the Law; Tagin.

Bibliography: Masseket Soferim. ed. Joel Müller, Leipsic, 1878; Sheba' Masseketot, Sefer Torah, ed. Raphael Kirchhelm, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1851; Ginze Miẓrayim, Sefer Torah (credited to Judah Barcelona), ed. E. N. Adler, Oxford, 1897; Vitry Maḥzor, pp. 686 et seq.; Aaron Mirels, Bet Aharon, Berlin, 1829; Samuel ha-Levi, Naḥalat Shibe'ah, No. 1, Amsterdam, 1667; Joseph Ganzfried, Ḳeset ha-Sofer, Ofen, 1835; Samson b. Eliezer, Baruk She-Amar, with appendix by Lipmann-Mülhausen, Shklov, 1804; Abraham b. Isaac of Narbonne, Sefer ha-Eshkol, ed. Abraham Auerbach, vol. ii., Halberstadt, 1868; Löw, Graphische Requisiten; C. D. Ginsburg, Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, pp. 241 et seq., London, 1897; Hartwig, Beihefte zum Centralblatt für Bibliothekswesens, 1897. No. 19; Ludwig Blau, Studien zum Althebräischen Buchwesen, i., Strasburg, 1902; Louis H. Levin, The Sopher, in Jewish Comment, 1903, xvii. 5.

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Simple English

A scribe is an ancient occupation. A scribe's job involved reading and writing, especially during the Renaissance. Being a scribe meant writing letters, and historical records for kings, nobility, and temples. Later, it changed into being clerks: public servants, journalists, accountants and lawyers. Today, there are no scribes, but there are still authors and writers.

Egyptian scribes

The Ancient Egyptian scribe was an important job. Ancient Egypt also had its painters and artisans who decorated tombs, buildings, furniture, statues, and other relics with pictures and hieroglyphics. In Ancient Egypt, only males could be scribes. This was so in many civilisations, because most official positions were exclusively male.


The scribes had to be able to write not only the hieroglyphs, but also the hieratic (priestly) script, and they had to know arithmetic. They used a type of paper called papyrus, made from reeds, and wrote with reed pens and ink.

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