Rules for Writing.
The Pentateuch and Esther, when designated for synagogal use, are required to be written with scrupulous attention to rules laid down in the Law (see Soferim). They must be written in square characters (, also known as ; see Alphabet), without vowel-points and accents, on parchment made from the hides of “clean” animals, which, when duly prepared, are sewn together by threads of the same origin. If four mistakes are found in one column, or a single error is discovered in the “open” and “closed” sections of the Law, or in the arrangements of the metrical portions, the whole copy is rendered unfit for use () and must be buried. Great age—through long use, and exposure to climatic and other influences involving decay and other imperfections—is among the causes which render a copy unserviceable; and this circumstance explains why very old copies are not found.
The manuscripts intended for private use vary considerably in size, material, and character. They are in rolls, and in book form—folio, quarto, octavo, and duodecimo. Some are written on parchment, some on leather, others on paper; some in square characters, others in rabbinical (the latter only in modern times). They are usually provided with vowel-points, written in a different color from the consonants, which-are always in black. Initial words or letters are often in gold and silver; some, indeed, are artistically illuminated. Sometimes on the inner margins of the columns are given Masoretic notes; the outer ones are reserved for scholia and, in more modern manuscripts, for rabbinical commentaries. Yemenite manuscripts have usually no columns; and each verse is accompanied by the corresponding verse from the Targum Onkelos and the Arabic translation by Saadia. The space at the bottom of the pages is sometimes occupied by the commentary of Rashi.

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