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writng-inst-lnks – 7/14/06


A set of web links to information on medieval writing instruments by Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon.


NOTE: See also the files: writing-inst-msg, seals-msg, seals-bib, sealing-wax-msg, parchment-msg, paper-msg, writing-desks-msg, calligraphy-msg, inks-msg, quills-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I  have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I  have done  a limited amount  of  editing. Messages having to do  with separate topics  were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the  message IDs  were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make  no claims  as  to the accuracy  of  the information  given by the individual authors.


Please  respect the time  and  efforts of  those who have written  these messages. The  copyright status  of these messages  is  unclear at this time. If  information  is  published  from  these  messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



From: aoife at scatoday.net

Subject: [Aoife-Links] Mightier than the Sword...Medieval writing implements and related topics

Date: February 9, 2005 8:35:50 PM CST

To: aoife-links at scatoday.net


Greetings my Faithful Readers!


Not long ago, near to the date of Epiphany and in an email message to me,

Erlan Nordskald penned: "I don't know if you ever did one (a links list) on

writing implements, not like scribal resources, but actually the history of

things that people wrote with....but, I have interests in knowing about the

pencil, wax crayons, pens.... how early did writing materials come about...

and other than the quill/ink... what was there?"


Of course, this is a terrific idea, picking out specific tools used by the

average Medieval Person in their daily life and researching their medieval

existence. The only question remains...Can Aoife find enough information on

this tricky and esoteric topic? Read on, and you will see (and please feel

free to share this information widely, wherever it will find a ready and

interested audience). This information could be of use to the average

re-enactor, scribes, artisans, and crafts persons. After all, where else can

you find a link to a visual on a  medieval paperclip :)






Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon, wanna-be scribe

Canton of Riverouge

Barony of Endless Hills

Kingdom of Aethelmearc


Medieval Writing: The Quill Pen


(Site Excerpt) You can try this at home without creating hazard, but a lot

of practice and patience might be needed to get a good result. Simple

technology is like that. The scribe first selected a feather. It didn't have

to be a particularly exotic variety, but a good strong flight feather from

the wing of a robust bird worked the best. Medieval re-enactors and people

putting on plays please note that there were not many ostriches running

around northern Europe in the middle ages. It was usual to cut back the

plume of the feather and remove the barb, or feathery bits, from at least

the underside of the central barrel of the feather. Despite the loss of

romantic affectation, this made it easier to write with and it didn't scrape

the scribe's hand. Most pictures of scribes show them holding what looks

like a narrow stick rather than something fluffy.


Regia Anglorum: Quills Part 1: Broad Guidelines


(Site Excerpt) If you attempt to cut the quill it could well shatter, so

before cutting immerse the tip into boiling water for a few seconds. This

will give the quill the consistency of a finger nail. You may now cut the

nib, cutting  horizontally across the root. Clean out the matter within the

quill, then make two diagonal cuts that come to an apex at the point.

Carefully cut along the centre of the point for approx. 10mm. You can now

chose the width of the nib by simply cutting it.



(Site Excerpt) Here are some ink recipes:1: (Taken from the twelfth century

manual 'On Divers Arts' by Theophilus)

'When you are going to make ink, cut some pieces of [hawthorn wood in April

or May, before they grow blossoms or leaves. Make little bundles of them and

let them lie in the shade for two, three, or four weeks, until they are

dried out a little. Then you should have wooden mallets with which you

should pound the thorn on another hard piece of wood, until you have

completely removed the bark....


Materials and Techniques of Manuscript    Production   5: Pen


(Site Excerpt) Everyone is familiar with the image of the medieval scribe

copying texts with a quill pen: it is quite correct. The inks were thicker

and more glutinous than modern commercial ink, and there are numerous

medieval recipes for their manufacture but there are almost no medieval

instructions for the cutting of pens. All literate people evidently prepared

their own pens and there was thus no merit in writing about how it was done.


Stefan's Florilegium: Scribal Arts


A vast array of collected knowledge. For this topic click on Inks, or

Iwandoc (inkwells and pen cases), Quills, Sealing-wax,  Wax-tablets, Writing

Desks and Writing Instruments.


Chester Amphitheatre: Medieval Finds


Scroll down to see a medieval paperclip, and a medieval copper pen


The Roll of the Wax Tablet in Medieval Literacy


(Site Excerpt) In a patch of muddy wasteland a dark brown rectangular (30mm

x 50mm) waterlogged object was spotted lying in what seemed to be a rubbish

pit. It had fallen open to reveal writing!... The first text is written in

Middle English and is part of a poem. Not all has yet been deciphered but

the poem contains a phrase interpreted as '....still she did not answer me,

but she didn't say no...',


The Waxed Tablet Page of Randy Asplund


(Site Excerpt) The stylus you see was made by forging and grinding a nail.

The horizontal smears on the right side are from the spatulate end wiping

the surface back to flat. It can be further smoothed by waving it lightly

over a flame.


Midlaurel Weblinks: Wax Tablets


11 links to articles on Wax Tablets


Making an Illuminated Page


(Site Excerpt) The second step was to draw a fairly complete linear

rendering of the design  (see fig. 2) with what a medieval craftsman called

a crayon. The medieval crayon was much like a pencil, being made of hardened

pigment paste, and so I used a .5 mm 2h pencil to emulate it. Lead styluses

were also used in the middle ages to mark a metallic grey line. The next

medieval step would have been to finalize the lines with ink, but I skipped

that step on this one to save time. With modern kneaded erasers there is so

much control over the cleanup of the final lines anyway, that inking before

erasing is unnecessary.


The city on a hill - and on a crayon by Gena Reisner (note: not alot of

crayon information, but interesting to note how some colors are named)


(Site Excerpt) The burnt sienna in every big box of crayons is named for the

color of the earth around Siena, Italy - a reddish-brown hill town of

medieval buildings, narrow alleyways, and old squares surrounded by

vineyards, olive groves, and cypress trees.


The Columbia Encyclopedia: The Pencil


(Site Excerpt) The Egyptians ruled lines with metallic lead, as did medieval

monks. The so-called lead pencil-a rod of graphite encased in wood-came into

use in the 16th cent.


The Ink Compendium

copyright 1998, E. Boucher


(Site Excerpt) The history of writing itself becomes a bit more clear with

the arrival of the first cuniform tablets. By the time we get to our period

of interest, however, we have individuals not only making ink, but writing

the process down for posterity. Ink, the word, derives from incausium,

refering to the product's ability to "burn into" the writing surface.

Different types of ink will have different abilities to sink or soak into

the writing surface; too, different surfaces will allow penetration of some

types of ink, while repelling other types of inks.


How To Cut a Bamboo Pen

A demonstration by Ward Dunham


(Site Excerpt) Reed pens are many centuries old. They are used for

Calligraphy that needs a broad-edged, flexible pen. Ward uses bamboo pens

for Blackletter and other Gothic writing. The pens are about seven inches

long and one half to one inch wide at the tip.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org