I am wondering what methods to reproduce or copy books are available on the work of Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire).

I been trying to do some research (Google, Game of Thrones wikis, this site), but with keywords like "books" and "copy" I only get results about number of copies of the series sold or printed or the like. I haven't been able to find anything reading about maesters or The Citadel on the Internet.

I haven't read the books, only watched the show. I wonder if this is ever addressed in the books, since George R.R. Martin's worlds tend to be pretty detailed and consistent. In the tv show this is of course not addressed at all, and apart from Sam's love for books, or Ser Davos learning to read the only other reference I can recall about books is Tyrion giving a very special tome to Joffrey for his wedding. This was supposed to be a very expensive and unique book. I don't know it if was so due to its content or due to how difficult it was to reproduce such tome.

Is it known (mentioned or referenced in the novels) how are all these books (re)produced? Does anything like Gutenberg's print exist in Westeros (or anywhere in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire)? Are all books copied "by hand" by certain people (at The Citadel or wherever)?

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    im pretty sure its all by hand, they dont ever discuss a "news paper" of sorts so id assume there is no printing press. which fits since they are operating on about 1000ish AD tech.
    – Himarm
    Commented Sep 25, 2015 at 14:24
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    There is no mention of printing books, as far as I can recall. The value of books seems to be great, and it is often mentioned that maesters copy books by hand, mostly regarding pictures, but also regarding historical tradition copying old books to renew them (e.g. Sam thinking about the books in the NW basement).
    – TLP
    Commented Sep 25, 2015 at 16:11
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    There seems to be a vote to close on this as opinion-based. I don't see that as a fault of the question, but just a gap in the source material. Doesn't seem opinion based, just possibly not answerable at this time.
    – Radhil
    Commented Sep 25, 2015 at 22:38
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    I'm sure there is discussion of books being copied by hand. I'm sure there are mentions of "[famous book], in [famous maester]'s own hand", with context indicating that this makes it extra precious, and I'm sure Sam complains about unfaithful copies by inattentive novices. The books' rarity also supports this. (and closing this question would be crazy. If you think there's not enough info yet, a) you could be wrong, don't be so presumptuous, and b) leave it unanswered until something does emerge. If the author gives an answer at a Q&A, don't stop people sharing the answer) Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 8:30
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    @TLP, you don't need to, you just point to the evidence that many books are hand-copied, state what's known there, point to the evidence that many valuable acclaimed books have very few copies in existence, and say "there's currently no evidence of any other methods being used beyond copying by hand". Simple. Then if evidence does emerge ("the Xerox Engines of Asshai"), it can be added. I'd write it myself but I can't remember which books it's discussed in Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 10:30

2 Answers 2


Since there are no photocopiers in the world of a song of ice and fire. We can assume that copies were created by hand. There are couple of quote which indicate the same:

Castle Black

“Look, this one is crumbling,” he said, frowning over the faded script.

“Be gentle.” Sam came around the table and took the scroll from his hand, holding it as if it were a wounded animal. “The important books used to be copied over when they needed them. Some of the oldest have been copied half a hundred times, probably.”

“Well, don’t bother copying that one. Twenty-three barrels of pickled cod, eighteen jars of fish oil, a cask of salt . . .”

“An inventory,” Sam said, “or perhaps a bill of sale.”

A Clash of Kings, Chapter 6, Jon

King's Landing

There is another reference to books written by hand. This is from my favorite wedding from the series.

“Your Grace,” Ser Garlan Tyrell said. “Perhaps you did not know. In all of Westeros there were but four copies of that book illuminated in Kaeth’s own hand.”

“Now there are three.” Joffrey undid his old swordbelt to don his new one. “You and Lady Sansa owe me a better present, Uncle Imp. This one is all chopped to pieces.”

A Storm of Swords, Chapter 59, Sansa

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    Good one. Additionally, the Night's Watch sent many copies of the same letter to the Lords and Ladies of Westeros (these were written by the Maesters). Also, I believe Stannis of House Mannis wrote a bunch of letters (you know what was in it), to the Lords and Ladies of Westeros (again, copied by hand).
    – Möoz
    Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 23:20
  • Since they were letters, I decided not to include them.
    – Vishvesh
    Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 0:26
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    Thank you for your answer. I agree about the letters (you would not print them even if you had the resources/devices).I understand that in your first sentence "photocopiers" means "devices such as printing presses or the like". This post and the comments answer my question, so I'll accept it as best answer, since based on the comments is really unlikely that it will be disproved anytime soon.
    – Kreann
    Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 13:42
  • I think the clinching evidence is the following quote "In all of Westeros there were but four copies of that book illuminated in Kaeth’s own hand.". If author has to write the book four times, it indicates the process of copying in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire.
    – Vishvesh
    Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 14:23
  • @Vishvesh That is not actually proof at all. It says there were only 4 books that were hand made by the author himself, that is not to say that since then or elsewhere books have been printed. The same goes for the Sam quotes.
    – TLP
    Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 18:06

It is difficult to prove a negative but consensus among fans is that:

No society has ever been mentioned that use printing presses, or even wood block printing.

As shown in the other answer the copying of books is mentioned a few times and it always involves some group (typically Maesters) doing it by hand.

One other mention is when Stannis is sending out roughly 100 letters to all the lords of Westeros regarding some minor lineage dispute. While this is just letters rather than books, the copying is being done by hand.

Be open where you can and stealthy where you must. Use every smuggler's trick you know, the black sails, the hidden coves, whatever it requires. If you run short of letters, capture a few septons and set them to copying out more.

A Clash of Kings - Davos I

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