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Food #A: Living in the Past: The Original Office Job

Copying Manuscripts

The first office job in the world was copying books. Here is what it was like to work under adversity.

This page has not been written very slowly. Copyists worked under tremendous pressure. They had to copy a certain number of pages a day... before they were allowed to sleep. If they could not make their quota, they could lose their position.

Now I've written the whole thing: for Christ's sake give me a drink. Copyists often did not receive food or drink if they did not make their quota of pages which had to be copied for that day.

Thank God, it will soon be dark. Copyists had to work from "can see" to "can't see" if they were in a poor facility... one without candles or fires.

What I could not write by the beams of the sun, I finished by candlelight. Copyists had to work around the clock were there were candles and fires available... in "better" houses.

While I wrote I froze, I am very cold... and Oh, my hand. Copyists could not achieve the precise control over their letters if they wore gloves (which were not usually available anyway). So their hands were constantly cold, cramped, and arthritic.

Writing is excessive drudgery. It crooks your back, it dims your sight, it twists your stomach and your sides. Copying was really hard on the body. You had to sit on an uncomfortable chair in a rigid position for endless hours. You had to squint away your eyesight by candlelight.

That's a hard page and a weary work to read it. English translation: even the copyist was bored by they totally uninteresting texts they copied.

New parchment. The ink is thin. St [fill in the blank], deliver me from writing. Bad ink and bad paper made the copyist's task that much harder.

As the harbor is welcome to the sailor, so is the last line to the scribe. This was the only thing the copyist had to look forward to: the end of the work.

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." Immortality like this was the only thing that the copyist could hope to achieve with their days of painful, unrelenting labor.

Credits: source from Brain Pickings and channeled information.


 

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