In this week’s Economist, an article details a sad development: the age of the scribe in the square is over:

The church has been there since 1736. For almost as long, scribes have gathered on its plaza to tend to correspondence, public and private. It was they who gave rise to the printing shops. They, too, who gave the neighbourhood its character. But they are now a dying breed, superseded by ever-spreading modern gadgetry. […]

[Rojas] mostly writes receipts for tradesmen—plumbers, construction workers and the like—or helps fill out tax forms. As a sideline, he types letters of complaint to government agencies, the city’s mayor or even to the president himself. In a full day’s work, he can still expect to see eight to ten customers. But business is down, he says, even over the four years he has been there.

The square’s scribes were once famous as stand-in Romeos, writing love letters. Sometimes, the same scribe would find himself handling both sides of the correspondence for a courting pair. But requests for such letters are now rare….

Of course, with the lowering of information transmission/creation costs, the role of these scribes has declined in the past. As new art forms develop, those locked in LOL-land, digital arts, and ever more numerous variations of them — a few are losing their way. There may come a day when the scribe in the square perishes from the earth completely.

At that day, their services will become more valuable than ever. After all, what Juliet would prefer a missive in an email over a letter obtained through the most important signals of investment from love, time and thoughtfulness?