A term often used to refer to ancient handwritten documents, such as books of the Bible. The word “manuscript” comes from the Latin manu scriptus, “handwritten.”

Ancient manuscripts were often made of parchment, vellum, or papyrus. Parchment was commonly made from the skins of cows, sheep, or goats; vellum, from the skins of very young animals. Papyrus, a primitive form of paper, was made from the papyrus plant, especially the pith.

The original Bible manuscripts disappeared long ago. However, very old copies have been found, most notably the Dead Sea Scrolls of books of the Hebrew Scriptures. Some of these scrolls, including fragments, have been dated to the third century B.C.E. It is estimated that a total of about 6,000 manuscripts of the Hebrew Scriptures or parts thereof are still in existence in various libraries. Of the Christian Greek Scriptures, about 5,300 are in Greek and about 10,000 are in Latin, besides many other languages.