top of page

Scriptorium Press resurrects rare classics from Antiquity and the Middle Ages in the form of high-quality, affordable translations. Our ever-growing array of titles includes a rich selection of saints’ lives, many of which appear in English for the very first time. All of our editions are produced directly from the original sources and come with insightful introductions for the general reader.

Monks writing in Scriptorium

Scriptorium (plural: scriptoria) derives from the Latin word for “writing.” In the Middle Ages, scriptoria were specialized workshops in monasteries dedicated to the production of manuscripts. In an age before printing, each book needed to be copied by hand. Groups of several copyists worked diligently under the supervision of a superior to produce various volumes that were necessary for the monastery. These included copies of the Scriptures, patristic works, commentaries, liturgical documents, monastic rules, charters, letters, and even secular works. As a matter of fact, we owe the survival of all of antique literature to the great scriptoria of Carolingian France and Byzantium. Miniscule script, which we still use today, was also an invention of the medieval scriptoria. 


Copying a book could be an intensive endeavour taking several weeks or even months, depending on its length. Sometimes, one individual would dictate a work aloud as others copied it simultaneously. At other times, one and the same manuscript could be worked on by several hands. The production of manuscripts also depended on the available resources. Vellum was the material of choice, that is, leather that had been carefully treated and cleaned, although paper also became popular towards the thirteenth century.  One bishop from Cyprus in the twelfth century remarked that he had to wait until Easter, when many sheep would be slaughtered, to have enough animal hides to commission a copy of Demonsthenes’ orations! An upside of this laborious process was that the manuscripts that were produced, if properly cared for, were virtually indestructible. Amazingly, we still possess copies of the Bible from the fourth century and an illuminated copy of the works of Vergil from the fifth, when the Caesars still ruled Rome.

Rossano Gospels The Good Samaritan 2.jpg

The Good Samaritan, Illumination from the Rossano Gospels (6th century)

The fluidity of the medium allowed manuscripts to be highly personalized and idiosyncratic creations, in which several authors and excerpts from different works could be grouped together thematically. For instance, the manuscript that contains the famous Old English poem Beowulf also includes the Life of Saint Christopher, a poetic retelling of the life of Judith, an account of the marvels of the East, and the letter of Alexander the Great to Aristotle. The compiler evidently had an interest in the fabulous and the monstrous. Manuscripts could also be lavishly decorated with illuminations. Some of these, like the illuminations of the Rossano Gospels (depicted above), the Lindisfarne Gospels, the Book of Kells (image below), the Beatus Apocalypse of Spain, and the Menologium of Saint Basil are veritable artistic masterpieces. Thus, each manuscript was not simply a copy but a unique living work that became imbued with the personality of the copyist and the place where it was produced. Indeed, it was not uncommon for the same manuscript to be completed, edited, and augmented over many centuries.

Chi-Rho from the Book of Kells

Chi-Rho, Illumination from the Book of Kells (9th century)

The final, and possibly most important aspect of copying manuscripts, was that it constituted a form of monastic labour. According to the sixth-century Rule of Saint Ferréol, “he who does not turn up the earth with the plough ought to paint the parchment with his fingers.” Cassiodorus claimed that “every word of the Lord written by the scribe is a wound inflicted on Satan.” What's more, the very process of transcribing fostered a state of prayerful meditation and encouraged the memorization of the text. It is our hope to draw on this timeless wisdom to edify and instruct present generations.

Cassiodorus Sitting in from of a Bookcase in a Scriptorium

Scriptorium Press was founded in 2023 by Evangelos Nikitopoulos and Anthony Pavoni, two friends from Montreal, Quebec, who share a deep passion for learning and civilization. Evangelos has degrees in linguistics and translation from McGill University and Anthony has a Master of Arts in Classics from Oxford University.


bottom of page