Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

History of the Book: Manuscripts

This guide provides introductory resources to learn about the History of the Book.


Before printing with movable type became practical in Europe in 1450, books were handwritten and known as manuscripts. This was a painstaking process that required the expertise of many different artisans and scholars, from those preparing the vellum to write on to those using a reference edition of a text to write out the new copy in beautiful calligraphy. Some manuscripts also featured illustrations, known as illumination. Many of these manuscripts were produced in religious "scriptoria" where monks or nuns worked to produce these highly valuable resources. Because of the time, effort, and materials needed to craft even a single book, they were incredibly valuable and often inaccessible. On this page of the guide you'll find resources for learning more about the production, use, and study of medieval manuscripts.

What's in this Guide?

Use the tabs above or the links below to navigate this guide.