In Scribes, Script, and Books: The Book Arts from Antiquity to the Renaissance by Leila Avrin, on page 153, it is mentioned that copyists were paid average .25 denari per line (or 25 denari per 100 lines). How many lines did a good copyist write per day and how many characters were there on a line?! I'm thinking of time span around 200BC - 200AD.

  • I would imagine that this will vary depending on whether your definition of "good" means accurate or fast, and upon the quality and complexity of the work being copied.
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 5:52
  • Yes, also the style like cursive, graphic, minuscale, manuscale... copying from dictated material or visual source all might have influenced to the result. Could it be deductively counted span or average if not any historical reference isn't available?
    – MarkokraM
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 6:10

1 Answer 1


‘Twenty-five lines an hour’ says a modern calligrapher who "worked with a quill to try to estimate the speed of a twelfth-century scribe."

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The article analyzes the evidence for midieval scribal speed, with detailed references for your further study. The calligrapher's experimental result of 25 lines per hour is probably slow for a professional scribe, but gives a starting estimate.

The article also notes that lettering styles were more complex/difficult in late antiquity, and so would have required more effort per line of text -- that is, writing would have been slower.

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    The question was about greek scribes "around 200BC - 200AD" so this doesn't answer that.
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 5:06
  • @Peter, can we somehow determine, if the copying process was similar / different thousand years earier for the handwriter? Do you think same rate could apply to the ancient greek scribe?
    – MarkokraM
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 5:10
  • 2
    Recreation/re-enactment is a fairly standard way to study historical practices/procedures where we have no documentary evidence.
    – MCW
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 12:25
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    25 lines an hour (more than 2 minutes per line) sounds very slow. I think this must be talking about very elaborate calligraphy. An ordinary working codex would have been written much more quickly.
    – fdb
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 12:51
  • With four lines you could have earned a dinari, days wage. Pretty good salary. 40 lines per day and you made 10 days salary. Until you were a slave doing the job for daily bread only.
    – MarkokraM
    Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 9:45

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