The Codex: A New Technology

From monks to urban professionals, scribes have existed in literate society since writing began—training in the craft of copying, composing, and recording texts by hand. Before the birth of Christianity, scribes in the Mediterranean world wrote on clay tablets or on scrolls. But a new technology emerged in the early centuries of the church—the codex—which we know today as a book.

Sheets stacked into folded piles and sewed together with writing on both sides allowed scribes to fit more writing together and made it easier to flip between different sections. The codex wasn’t invented by Christians, but its widespread use was significant in the spread of Christianity. It bound together the Gospels and Paul’s letters into a single, travel-friendly book, and eventually led to the mass production—still copied by hand—of the entire Bible in one volume!

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