Booksellers

Booksellers in Ancient Rome

In antiquity, the author wrote the original manuscript of his work himself or dictated to a scribe slave. The manuscript was then given to a publisher, who had it copied by professional scribes, who were usually slaves. Before distribution, the ancient Roman books were proofread by an editor (lat. corrector) for mistakes. However, sometimes this was done rather poorly, as the geographer Strabon (63 BC – 19 AD) complained about error-ridden copies in Rome and Alexandria’s bookstores. From an exchange of letters between Cicero and his publisher and friend Atticus, it can be seen that Atticus even recalled books that were already at the booksellers upon Cicero’s request in order to make late corrections.