Monday, January 28, 2013

Today's research snippet. The tools of a medieval scribe

More from Alexander Nequam, milk brother of Richard the Lionheart. This time he talks about the requirements of a scribe. Very interesting about the window cover.

"Let him have a razor or knife for scraping pages of parchment or skin; let him have a " biting" pumice for cleaning the sheets, and a little scraper for making equal the surface of the skin. He should have a piece of lead and a ruler with which he may rule the margins on both sides - on the back and on the side from which the flesh has been removed.

There should be a fold of four sheets (a quaternion). I do not use the word 'quaternio' because that means "a squad in the army." let these leaves be held together at top and bottom by a strip of parchment threaded through. The scribe should have a bookmark cord and a pointed tool about which he can say 'I have pricked (punxi) not pinked (pupigi) my quaternion.' 
Let him sit in a chair with both arms high, reinforcing the back rest, and with a stool at the feet. Let the writer have a heating basin covered with a cap; he should have a knife with which he can shape the quill pen; let this be prepared for writing with the inside fuzzy scale scraped out, and let there be a boar's or goat's tooth for polishing the parchment, so that the ink of a letter may not run; he should have something with which letters can be cancelled. Let him have an indicator or line marker (speculum) in order that he may not make costly delay from error.
There should be hot coals in the heating container so that the ink may dry more quickly on the parchment in foggy or wet weather. 

Let there be a small window through which light can enter; if perchance the blowing of the north wind attacks the principal window, let this be supplied with a screen of linen or parchment distinct in colour; green and black offer more comfort to the eyes. Whiteness, when too intense, disturbs the sight and throws it into disorder. There should be red lead for forming red Phoenician or Punic letters or capitals. Let there be dark powder and blue which was discovered by Solomon that is ultramarine."

Today's photo is of a Gothic English window in the V&A museum.  No dateline, but a rare survivor from the Middle Ages.

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