Traditionally, a manuscript was any document that was written by hand (or once typewriters became available, typewritten) when compared to mechanically printed or reproduced in some indirect or automated way. However, the term has recently come to be understood to further include any typed, written, or word-processed copy of the work of an author as distinguished from its rendition as its printed version. Before printing arrived, all documents and books were manuscripts. A manuscript is not defined by its contents, which may combine writing with maps, music notation, mathematical calculations, explanatory figures, or illustrations.
The traditional abbreviations used in this context are MS for manuscript and MSS for manuscripts, while the forms MS., ms or ms. for singular, and MSS., mss or mss. for plural, including with or without the full stop, all uppercase or all lowercase, are also accepted. The second is just the plural. It is expressed so because of an old convention, a doubling of the last letter of the abbreviation that expresses the plural. The parallel that can be drawn here is just like how pp. refers to ‘pages’.
A manuscript can be a codex or a scroll as well. Illuminated manuscripts are often enriched with pictures, elaborately embossed initial letters, full-page illustrations, or border decorations.
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