The Book Trade in the Roman Empire

Harry Y. Gamble

in The Early Text of the New Testament

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780199566365
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191740985 | DOI:
The Book Trade in the Roman Empire

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Although there was a commercial trade in books in the Roman imperial period, it was not the principal means by which books were published and disseminated in the Roman Empire. The traditional and preferred method of publication involved several stages: an author made his work available to a small group of friends, either by oral presentation or by the limited distribution of a provisional text, revised the work in light of their responses, and then prepared a final fair text which was either given in a few copies to several friends, or dedicated to a patron, or placed in a library or (less commonly) with a book dealer. Once released by its author, a text began to circulate as others learnt of the work, wished to possess it, gained access to a manuscript and made a copy. Texts were normally disseminated through private social networks constituted by friendship or by shared literary, intellectual, or professional interests. The copying and circulation of early Christian texts followed a similar pattern, being transmitted privately along networks of relationships among Christian communities.

Keywords: book trade; scribes; scribal networks; book circulation

Chapter.  7509 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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