TECHNOLOGICAL

Making of Parchment

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lluminated Manuscripts were written on parchment or vellum, created from animal skins, mainly sheep, goats, or calves. The skins were soaked in lime to loosen the animals’ fur. The parchment maker would then scrape away the fur and while wet, the skin was stretched tightly on a frame. As the skin dried, the parchment maker would increase the tension and continually scrape the skins over several days, until the skins get to the desired thickness. The parchment maker would then cut the sheets of parchment down to the size of the pages needed for the book.

A man removing fur from an animal hide, a step in the parchment making process. Image sourced from botanicalartandartists.com

A man removing fur from an animal hide, a step in the parchment making process c.1473 in Nuremberg
Image sourced from botanicalartandartists.com “Vellum.” BOTANICAL ART & ARTISTS, www.botanicalartandartists.com/vellum.html

 

Writing

After the parchment was prepared, it was passed on to the scribe who ruled the page with a straightedge using lead point (coloured ink). The scribes used quills made from feathers of a bird, which were carved to a point, a slit would be cut in the middle to help ink flow to the middle, and the sides would be cut to the desired width. The shape of the quill point would alter the appearance of the script whether rounded or angular. Scribes would then use the quill to write the text using black ink made from Gallnuts, a growth found on oak trees. It would be then passed to another monk that would proofread for errors; if the scribe made an error, he could use a pen knife to scratch it out.

 

“Natchez Trace Parkway Presents Junior Ranger Program ‘Quill Pen Writing.’” Quadcitiesdaily.com, 1 Feb. 2020, quadcitiesdaily.com/?p=574681

Example of feather quill pens loaded with ink.
Image sourced from quadcitiesdaily.com
“Natchez Trace Parkway Presents Junior Ranger Program ‘Quill Pen Writing.’” Quadcitiesdaily.com, 1 Feb. 2020, quadcitiesdaily.com/?p=574681

 

Illumination

Only after the scribe was done copying the text, he would then pass the manuscript to the illuminator who would decorate the pages of a manuscript using paints and precious metals. The illuminator would sketch his design using lead point, then adding details of figures or intricate initials. They would then put down a base coat of gesso, or gum that would help the gold leaf stick to the page. Then, the illuminator would brush away any excess, and burnish the gold leaf. After the gold leaf being applied, the illuminator would paint the rest of the design from a wide variety of coloured inks. These inks come from minerals and vegetable dyes that would be ground up and dissolved in liquid.

Modern day gesso. Image sourced from Canadaoncanvas.com “All about Gesso.” Canada Giclee On Canvas, www.canadaoncanvas.com/include/guide_all_about_gesso.php.

Modern day gesso.
Image sourced from Canadaoncanvas.com
“All about Gesso.” Canada Giclee On Canvas, www.canadaoncanvas.com/include/guide_all_about_gesso.php.

 

Gilded manuscript. Quran. Illuminated manuscript in Arabic on paper. [Persia, ca. 1600]. Image sourced from smu.edu Southern Methodist University. “Manuscripts in the Islamic Tradition.” SMU, Sept. 2013, www.smu.edu/Bridwell/SpecialCollectionsandArchives/Exhibitions/IslamicText/MS31_1600.

Gilded manuscript.
Quran. Illuminated manuscript in Arabic on paper. [Persia, ca. 1600].
Image sourced from smu.edu
Southern Methodist University. “Manuscripts in the Islamic Tradition.” SMU, Sept. 2013, www.smu.edu/Bridwell/SpecialCollectionsandArchives/Exhibitions/IslamicText/MS31_1600.

Binding

Once the copying of the text and the illumination was finished, the manuscript would be prepared to be bound. Parchment sheets are folded into groups called gatherings, that was sewn together onto supports like leather thongs. The binder would then lace the supports through channels carved into wooden boards, that would serve as the cover of the manuscript, and secured by wooden pegs. The wooden boards would then be covered in leather, and decorated with a variety of materials from precious metals and silks, to jewels and carvings; all depending on the type and intended use of the manuscript.

Gatherings being sewn together. Images sourced from trumpetvine.com “Moleskine Reloaded…or, How to Rebind a Moleskine Notebook.” Trumpetvine Travels RSS, www.trumpetvine.com/moleskine-reloaded/

Gatherings being sewn together.
Images sourced from trumpetvine.com
“Moleskine Reloaded…or, How to Rebind a Moleskine Notebook.” Trumpetvine Travels RSS, www.trumpetvine.com/moleskine-reloaded/

 Manuscript anatomy, to visualize how manuscripts were bound. Image sourced from gilbertredman.com “Scriptorium: Binding.” Medieval Manuscripts, gilbertredman.com/medievalmanuscripts/codicology/scriptorium-binding/


Manuscript anatomy, to visualize how manuscripts were bound.
Image sourced from gilbertredman.com
“Scriptorium: Binding.” Medieval Manuscripts, gilbertredman.com/medievalmanuscripts/codicology/scriptorium-binding/

 

Illuminated manuscript from France c. 1250 tempera and ink on parchment. Image sourced from The Thomson Collection at Art Gallery of Ontario, ago.ca https://ago.ca/collection/object/agoid.69292

Illuminated manuscript from France c. 1250
tempera and ink on parchment.
Image sourced from The Thomson Collection at Art Gallery of Ontario, ago.ca
https://ago.ca/collection/object/agoid.69292

 

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