Masoretic Jewish scribes (6-10th Cent. AD)

After the Jews returned from Babylon, they formed communities of scribes to preserve and circulate the precious Scriptures. These scribes, later called "Masoretes" were so careful that they wouldn't write a word or even a letter from memory, they would be seated in full Jewish dress after having washed their bodies, and if a king should come in and address him he was not to look up. After the scribe finished copying a particular book, he would then count all the words and letters it contained. Then he checked this number with the count for the manuscript he was copying. If they didn't match, the copy was immediately burned. In fact the Masoretes destroyed all other manuscripts except their own and that is why we have so few Old Testament manuscripts, and also why the Dead Sea Scrolls were so important.