Medieval Scribe's Toolkit

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The creation of medieval manuscripts involved specialized skills, tools, and techniques. The objects in this exhibit, all from the Museum of Writing collection assembled by Alan Cole now, the Museum of Writing Research Collection Institute of English Studies, University of London, housed in the Senate House Library, give some idea of the materials that were used to create handwritten and illuminated manuscripts in the medieval period. Though dating of these objects is sometimes uncertain, the basic instruments of quill pens, leads for marking lines on skin for writing, ink horns and wells, and sanders were part of the standard equipment for scribes throughout the middle ages in Europe and the British Isles. The objects here often show signs of wear that are the result of having been thrown into the Thames, or stored in less than ideal circumstances. Others are surprisingly pristine and though they show evidence of use and wear, the smoothed surface resulting from handling, they are remarkable objects and often suggest the mythic image of a medieval period of pre-industrial technology and craft.

Contents of this exhibit were created by students in an Information Studies seminar in the History of the Book taught by Professor Johanna Drucker in Winter 2014 at UCLA relying heavily on the notes supplied by Alan Cole.