Preserving the Aeneid through the Centuries Three manuscripts of the Aeneid from the fourth and fifth centuries are the basis of the text of the poem in use today. Surprisingly, these manuscripts are relatively free from mistakes and generally agree with one another — evidence that the scribes who reproduced them were working with consistently good, earlier copies of the poem, which had to be painstakingly copied again and again by hand, a method that invited error. It was the custom when composing by hand, as Virgil did, to write on tablets coated with wax. The text was etched into the wax surface by means of a stylus, an instrument with a sharp point at one end and a flat edge, used for erasing, at the other. Later, professional copyists, using a primitive pen and ink, transcribed the individual books of the Aeneid onto papyrus, a form of paper made from the
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