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Scribal complaints in medieval manuscripts

Scribal complaints in medieval manuscripts

From ChurchPop

As is well known, before the printing press, if you wanted to make a new book or get a copy for yourself, someone had to take the time to copy it all by hand.  Largely anonymous scribes, many of whom were monks, were charged with the laborious task of producing manuscripts.  However, they weren’t above occasionally leaving a little bit of themselves in their work by adding comments and even complaints in the margins.

ChurchPop shares some of the most amusing (and heartfelt) in their list: 15 Hilarious Complaints Medieval Scribes Left in the Margins.

These include pithy complaints such as;

“new parchment, bad ink; I say no more”

“that’s a hard page and weary work to read it”


And one that likely hits home to anyone charged with producing the parish newsletter or writing a sermon every week;

“writing is excessive drudgery, it crooks your back, it dims your sight, it twists your stomach and your sides


But also one that offers a profound, if bittersweet assessment of ones role in life;

“This is sad! O little book! A day will come in truth when someone over your page will say “The hand that wrote it is no more.”



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Marshall Scott

Shared some of these with physicians as a reflection on adjusting to a electronic medical record. They could relate.

Cynthia Katsarelis

Those are awesome! My medieval scholar spouse often comes across funny doodles, but so far, no cries for help or complaint!

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