Scribes were an extremely important part of society - they didn't have to pay taxes, join the military or take part in any form of manual labour.
It took up to 10 years to learn and cost a lot of money, hence it was usually middle class children that undertook the training but quite often the job was hereditary.
The Egyptian word for scribe is 'sesh' which actually means 'to draw'. The highest level would be within Pharoah's court and the most well-known village of scribes and skilled craftsmen is at Deir-el-Medina in Thebes. They were fed by the people and treated very well - houses were often provided. Scribes were also one of the earliest 'jobs' and many positions within the administrative sector of Ancient Egypt required their specialised training. Very few of the population could read or write and the hieroglyphic language is extremely complex with over 700 unique signs that could be combined to give different meanings.
Most students would begin at age 5 with formal training at 9. Not only hieroglyphs were studied: hieratic, demotic and maths were also on the curriculum - many jobs included doing work for the architects, tax collectors and treasurers. Students spent a lot of time practising by copying onto papyrus, pottery pieces or even flakes of limestone. Hours were long and discipline harsh, beatings were common.
Everything that we know about Egypt comes from these people, stocks of food, legal documents, magic spells (i.e. The Book of the Dead), court proceedings, proclamations - everything was recorded.
Experience is extremely useful when writing and, since writing this blog a short time ago, I have discovered that one of our most well-read authors used his to the full. He didn't like to acknowledge this and was very reticent when asked about his past but his books are full of autobiographical events.
In Great Expectations, Pip, like Dickens, dreams of becoming a gentleman; Marshalsea Prison features in Little Dorrit and Dickens' father had been sent there for three months when unable to pay his debts; Dickens visited the United States twice and came back largely unimpressed using his opinions in Martin Chuzzlewit; in Nicholas Nickleby he used his own mother as the model for the always confused Mrs Nickleby - fortunately this lady didn't realise; in the Old Curiosity Shop Dickens used the trauma of the death of his sister-in-law Mary Hogarth when writing about Little Nell and David Copperfield contains many autobiographical elements.
His early influences:
Mary Weller had been employed to look after Charles and his siblings and she was always telling stories about people such as Captain Murderer who made pies out of his wives.
Money was always an issue and, at the age of 12 Charles was sent to work in a shoe-polish factory whilst his father was in prison. He met a man there called Bob Fagin.
His other jobs before becoming a well-known writer were a law clerk - Bleak House - a court stenographer - David Copperfield - and shorthand reporter which led to the publication of the Pickwick Papers.
He was heavily involved in charitable and social issues which led to assisting in the writing of A Christmas Carol as he was very concerned with poor children who had to turn to crime in order to survive. Like himself, he wanted to introduce them to education and was a part of the Ragged School Movement.
His home life also contributed - he had 10 children, had a very public marriage breakdown and a mistress!
As I mentioned in a previous blog - no home, and definitely author, should be without one so I thought I'd do a little research and find out where it originated.
In Greek the verb 'tithenai' means to put or to place and the Latin 'thesauros' meaning treasure (also in the Albanian Language). However it was Roget who used it to mean 'collection of words arranged according to sense' in his original edition published in 1852.
His wasn't the first however as Philo of Byblos authored the first script that could now be called a thesuarus and in the 4th century a verse form was written in Sanskrit, the Amarakosha.
Peter Mark Roget collected words and phrases in a simple notebook to assist him in his work as a writer and lecturer. He then spent four years of his retirement expanding and systemizing this material, the purpose being 'to facilitate the expression of ideas and assist in literary composition.' Still, not everyone recognized the purpose of the work and reactions were mixed as to how exactly it could be used. One reviewer did say that it would one day rank as important as Samuel Johnson's Dictionary and that prophesy has certainly come true with over 30 million copies sold and is one of the best-loved reference books in English. Possession of the book has been used as a mark of good character - J.M. Barrie described Captain Hook in Peter Pan as 'The man is not wholly evil - he has a Thesaurus in his cabin.'
The book is now not only used to assist people with their writing as, over the past century, a new market has developed, the crossword puzzle - the New York Times naming Roget as the 'Saint of Crosswordia'.
Not very many changes have taken place within the structure of the book since its inception. the layout was in columns but now entries are in units as these are easier to follow. The vocabulary content has increased hugely as few entries have been deleted since Roget's edition. Some rare or archaic words have been dropped but the advances in both science and society mean that new words have come into common usage, especially those connected with computing and the Internet, as well as beauty treatments, biotechnology, tourism, lifestyle, climate changes, etc. In the up-to-date editions there are sections on literary quotations and text boxes.
The thesaurus must keep up with all the latest developments and has stood the test of time for a publication begun almost two hundred years ago by a man who had worked with Dr Beddoes and his laughing gas experiments, working with Jeremy Bentham and being influenced by his Utilitarianism ideas. He went on the Grand Tour and got trapped in Geneva when the Peace of Amiens collapsed. He was a qualified doctor working in both Manchester and London, being elected as a member of the prestigious Royal Society. He set up the Northern Dispensary charity and gave lectures to medical and science students as well as being one of the doctors involved in the Millbank prison epidemic investigation. He read voraciously in several languages, was married with two children and wrote for the Encyclopedia Britannica. Science and mathematics remained his true interests and he was Fullerian Professor of Physiology, lecturing at the Russell Institution for thirty years. His Bridgewater Treatise prepared him for the work of creating the Thesaurus as he had set out Natural History in all its variety as well as assisting with the classification of the Medical and Chirugical Society and Royal Society libraries. He loved organizing knowledge and for that we are truly grateful.