Because there was no printing press back then, scribes had to copy manuscripts by hand. Manuscript copying is a difficult task. As scribes copied manuscripts, they made little modifications here and there—a word here, a phrase there. The result was many different versions of each work. It's not unusual for more than one manuscript to exist today with different errors or variations.
In addition to copies of works, we also have letters written by scholars discussing various aspects of their subjects. These are called "scholiasts." They help us understand how ancient historians treated topics such as sequence, chronology, and analogy. Scholars used these tools to compare differences and similarities among sources (manuscripts and letters). This helped them create a more complete picture of the past.
Some problems have multiple names used by different writers over time. For example, "anachronism" comes from the Greek words for "without" and "time." So an anachronism is something that happens without regard to time. There are three main types of anachronisms: chronological, cultural, and linguistic.
A chronological anachronism occurs when someone mentions events that happened before or after other events mentioned in the same text.
Because there was no printing press between 700 and 1750, scribes had to write down the hand-written texts. Because all of the copies were handwritten, it was impossible to tell which one was the original. That was the disadvantage of such copying. However, because they used their skills to create works of art, many scribes' notes are beautiful to read today.
During this time, books were made from paper that was either handmade or manufactured. So scribes had to be good with a pen or pencil, since that is what was needed to make the writing legible on the page. Some scribes were also musicians so they could add music to their writings. A few scribes were even artists themselves so they could add pictures to their books.
Books became more common than scrolls because they were easier to carry around. Also, people knew that a book could contain information that might not exist in a scroll. For example, a scroll may cover a topic that previous rulers didn't want people to know about. This would put them in danger of being punished by having its head cut off or being thrown into a boiling pot of water.
Finally, books could be passed down through families while scrolls couldn't. This is why books are more common now than scrolls are: because books can be printed and copied, while scrolls have to be manually created one at a time.
Manuscripts were copied by medieval scribes. During the Middle Ages, all books were handcrafted. Monks with special training cut the paper, manufactured the ink, wrote the scripts, bound the pages, and designed the covers. They also painted pictures if required. Women performed some of these tasks too.
Books from the 13th century on are called "incunabula" (inky-noob-ah). These are the first printed books. The term comes from Latin incunabula meaning "little rolls". Incunabula were produced in small numbers and often included works by a single author. They were made up of sheets which were pasted together with animal glue. The sheets came from old vellum manuscripts that had been used as the basis for new ones. The quality of the work was not very good yet it showed an enthusiasm for printing that is evident today.
The first printers were monastic institutions such as churches or universities. They needed to produce copies of holy texts that could be distributed among their members. As time went by they began to print other materials too. First there were religious books, then historical accounts, and finally novels.
The end of the Middle Ages marks the beginning of modern history. After the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, Europe didn't have a system of writing until the 11th century.