The Extinction of the Scribe

Chuck Banner | January 19th, 2017

Hundreds of years ago in 15th century Europe, professions looked very different than they do today.  One such profession was known as a scribe – a person who was responsible to read, translate and write (by hand) valuable information from other documents. The ability to read and write is commonplace now, but back in the 1400s it was a skill that was rare among the population. As a profession, the scribe was responsible for reading and translating fragile and decaying documents filled with wisdom from the past to share with the current generation. The role of the scribe was irreplaceable and only a small group of people held the revered title and skills to be one.

Wikimedia
Wikimedia

And then, in the mid 1400s, a change occurred. A German blacksmith and inventor name Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. The machine allowed people to mechanically type instead of writing by hand, making the entire process more efficient. Suddenly, writing was not just reserved to those who had specific training. A printing press allowed people to produce their writing, and spread information more rapidly thane ever before. The new technology was revolutionizing how people acquired and shared information, and this meant big changes to the function of a traditional scribe.

By the end of the 1400s, with the printing press well established, scribes were no longer the gatekeepers of the written word. The invention of the printing press allowed information to be shared faster and travel further, rendering the role of the scribe profession as functionally obsolete. In defense of the traditional scribe profession, Johannes Trithemius, the Abbot of Sponheim, wrote De Laude Scriptorum (which translates to “in praise of scribes”). Trithemius focused his work on highlighting the virtues and values of the scribe traditions, lauding their importance and value for the profession and larger society.

And how did he get the word out about his work? By ironically using a printing press, of course! By the end of the 1400s, the scribe profession was extinct.

Next Article
  • Mantra Rays The Geniuses Of The Sea

    When it comes to the fish family, the overachiever award would have to go to the mantra ray. They are not only giants and charismatic, they are also geniuses in fish terms. Being the biggest fish, they have huge brains and even have specific sections that are developed only for...

    Read More
  • Famous Greek Philosopher Died From Eating Too Much Watermelon

    One famous philosopher and lecturer by the name of John Argyropoulos has an extremely rare cause of death. Made even more surprising when you learned he survived the sacking of Constantinople. Argyropoulos apparently died from consuming too much watermelon. Born in 1415, he was a Greek scholar who is reputed...

    Read More
  • You May Have Talked To Halle Berry Anonymously When You Had AOL

    One film star loves to have normal conversations with new people, unfortunately when you are a worldwide known celebrity this is not always possible. However, with online chat rooms readily available in this modern age, it is easy to go and talk to someone anonymously. Halle Berry was one of...

    Read More
  • Young Abraham Lincoln’s Deadly Sword Duel

    At a young age in 1842, Abraham Lincoln publicly berated by James Shields during a debate about banking in Illinois. The humiliation in public led to James Shields challenging Lincoln to a duel. This was a duel to the end, where the victor would take both the life and the pride of his opponent. [caption...

    Read More
  • Blue Java Bananas That Taste Just Like Vanilla Ice Cream

    When it comes to mother nature there is no barrier on it providing us with tasty delicious dessert flavored fruits, you don’t need to buy a tub of Ben and Jerry's every night. There is one banana that taste just like ice cream, in fact, it is nicknamed the ice cream banana. [caption id="attachment_4900" align="aligncenter"...

    Read More
  • George Washington And The Huge $15,000 Bar Tab

    If you think some of the modern day politicians commit indiscretions and fraudulent expense claims, well you may be surprised to hear some of the historical heroes were the same. In fact, it was well known that George Washington loved his whiskey. In the late 18th century, Washington was actually...

    Read More