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Creation and Use of Monastic Books in 15th Century Spain


Once the book block and writing materials were created, the work of copying the text could finally begin. In monasteries, this work happened in the scriptorium or place for writing. Scriptoria were usually located in spaces with the best light since candles and other artificial light sources were expensive. Since smoke and fire were detrimental to expensive materials stored in the room, the rooms often lacked fireplaces, but since cold fingers couldn’t write well they instead shared a wall with the kitchen or calefactory (warming room) to provide some warmth to the room. This made an assignment to the scriptorium highly desirable in the winter when the rest of the building was unheated.

In the scriptorium, monks would be assigned a desk that was strictly laid out for efficiency. The scriptorium was overseen by the armarius or provisioner who maintained the needed supplies, assigned tasks, and served as the librarian for the monastery.

Books in the scriptorium would go through multiple steps before they were completed. Depending on the size of the monastery, these steps could be completed by one monk or each step could be completed by a different monk.