Female Scribes

From the British Library Manuscript Viewer: Isidore, Bishop of Seville, Etymologiae. Folio 23 right

Did women write?

Did women make manuscripts in the medieval times or earlier?

“What is the earliest European manuscript in the British Library’s collection that was created by a female scribe?” – the last question was asked of the British Library and they answered it in “Female Scribes in Early Manuscripts.” Follow the links in the Bibliography.

Quick answers:

Yes, women write – now and in the past.

Yes, women created medieval manuscripts. Entire nunneries were devoted to creating manuscripts for the Church to provide to their patrons.

For a full manuscript, that is a known creation due to notes made by the eight women who worked on it, The Isidore, Bishop of Seville, Etymologiae from 1130-1174 may be the earliest. Earliest written piece in any format by a female of the British Library may be a birthday invitation from the second century BC.


British Library Digitised Manuscripts. “Harley MS 3099 – Isidore, Bishop of Seville, Etymologiae”. (last viewed 4/10/2022; note as of 4/26/2024 link no longer works)

British Library Blogs. “Female Scribes in Early Manuscripts.” 2017 March 08.  https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2017/03/female-scribes-in-early-manuscripts-.html (last viewed 4/10/2022; note as of 4/26/2024 link no longer works)