Private or government documents remained hand-written until the invention of the typewriter in the late 19th century.Because of the likelihood of errors being introduced each time a manuscript was copied, the filiation of different versions of the same text is a fundamental part of the study and criticism of all texts that have been transmitted in manuscript.
Manuscripts may be in book form, scrolls or in codex format.
Illuminated manuscripts are enriched with pictures, border decorations, elaborately embossed initial letters or full-page illustrations.
Papyrus has a life of at most a century or two in relatively moist Italian or Greek conditions; only those works copied onto parchment, usually after the general conversion to Christianity, have survived, and by no means all of those. In China, and later other parts of East Asia, woodblock printing was used for books from about the 7th century.
The earliest dated example is the Diamond Sutra of 868.
Before the arrival of printing, all documents and books were manuscripts.