The writing laboratory

The writing laboratory: how a scriptorium works

The idea of a scriptorium has been written about insightfully by Michel de Certeau in his book on the writing of history. Letters are usually not writings made in isolation from other forms of inscription, of reaching out across the divide between self, and others, who are in different places, sometimes close and sometimes far.  Working on whole collections demonstrates this, with their mixture of different kinds of writings, and also different kinds of inscription in one piece of writing, with the letters often containing lists, instructions, and other forms. Those collections, fairly rare, where drafts and copies have been kept demonstrate this very graphically. For the people producing these different kinds of writings, writing has a laboratory aspect to it, of them using these different forms of inscription to work out ideas, and not just to record facts. To express themselves as well as to communicate with others.