The Diffusion of the Codex

Classical Antiquity 36 (2):183-235 (2017)
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The adoption of the codex for literature in the Roman world was one of the most significant developments in the history of the book, yet remains poorly understood. Physical evidence seems to contradict literary evidence from Martial's epigrams. Near-total adoption of the codex for early Christian works, even as the book roll dominated non-Christian book forms in the first centuries of our era, has led to endless speculation about possible ideological motives for adoption. What has been unquestioned is the importance of Christian scribes in the surge of adoption from 300 C.E. onward. This article reexamines the foundation of many theories, the timeline for non-Christian adoption sketched by Roberts and Skeat in their study, The Birth of the Codex, and reevaluates it through the lens of “diffusion of innovations theory” in order to reconcile the evidence and elevate practical considerations once and for all over ideological motives.
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