The Elder Scrolls

On Paper – questions of literacy, education, typography and a bit more

Many players throughout years ask themselves the same questions – how is it everyone knows how to read? Where do all these books come from? Do children get education? And for many years these questions sought answers, every new post mentioning something new, yet no clear answer was given.

My goal is to gather all mentions of literacy, typography, education, paper making and more found throughout the series, therefore providing a stable basis for future research and discussions.

My objectives are:

  1. Gather all arguments previously used in similar posts;
  2. Find sources of provided information;
  3. Compilate it into a single post;
  4. Highlight moments that need more research and provide possible solutions.



  • Clarifications
  • Literacy as sacred duty across Tamriel
  • Education and how it is depicted
  • Mentions of illiteracy (and dilemma on which can be trusted)
  • Typography in Tamriel
  • A bit more – paper making, length of books
  • Conclusion and notes on further research (a.k.a. TL;DR)
  • Annexes:
    • Sources and examples left out for various reasons
    • List of local posts used for research



Contains 19 A4 pages, approximately 7k words and around 43k characters including spaces, thus the need to post it outside of Reddit.


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To conclude every chapter of this work, or, as it is said, TL;DR:

  • Recording one's life is considered a sacred duty by most inhabitants of Tamriel. This tradition has roots in almost every race's culture.
  • According to in-game sources, there's four ways of one learning how to read and write – learning by yourself; homeschooling a.k.a. learning these skills from one's parents; attending local religious or possibly magical institutions that took a school role upon itself; finding a private teacher.
  • Mentions of illiteracy are somewhat foggy, but can be separated into two categories – mentions of illiteracy among unfortunate (thieves, bandits, mercenaries, etc) and beliefs that someone is illiterate due to them not knowing Tamrielic.
  • Printing press is a very known technology spread across Tamriel – first mentions of it trace back to the middle of the 2nd Era, we have at least two organizations directly connected to mass printing shown in-game and quite a few mentions of books being printed in books themselves.
  • Paper making is mentioned in-game, though we don't have details on the process itself or logistics of it; books might be much longer than what we get in-game; Crassius has written a play in which at least 10 hours is just horny and we don’t even get till the start of the process.
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Topics for future research:

  • Calculations and approximations of possible literacy/illiteracy rate;
  • Research of the same topics but for more specific territories, especially regarding native lands to races that were not discussed much in this work, such as Khajiit, Argonians, Altmers, Bosmer, Redguard;
  • Implication of the idea of at least two spoken languages in every land and its effect onto lands we know already (immigrants in Cyrodiil speaking with accent, Dunmer not being accepted among Nords in Windhelp due to poor assimilation rate, other imaginable topics)


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