The cost of copying books by hand

At the end of Ms. Vall. 2297, there is an interesting note by the owner, a 15th century chap named Sozomenus, about whom I know nothing except that he owned manuscripts:

Melius est emere libros iam scriptos quam scribi facere: nam pro membranis exposui grossos tredecim, scriptori dedi libros duodecim, et cartorario grossos quatuor.  Summa ergo in totum libras  sexdecim solidos tredecim denarios vi. Die primo mensis Martii MCCCCXXV.[1]

It is better to buy books already written than to have them written: now for parchments I am out 13 grossos, I gave 12 to the scribe of the boooks, and 4 grossos to the binder.  In total therefor in all books 16 solidi, 13 denarii and vi.  1st March, 1425.

The “grosso”, or “denaro grosso” — “heavy penny” — was an Italian silver coin, heavier than a silver penny.  The name is related to the medieval “groat”, I believe.  It cost the owner 29 of these to have these books copied.

  1. [1]Albert C. Clark, Sabbadini’s Finds of Greek and Latin MSS, The Classical Review 20 (1906), p.229, referencing the Valliere catalogue (cur. de Bure, 1783) vol. ii. p.26.

Leave a Reply