With the parchment now prepared to take ink, the scribe would set about cutting the quills and making the ink needed for the text.

The best feathers to use are the 5 or so outer wing feathers of a goose or swan. Once these feathers were cured (being left to dry out for a few months, or by being soaked in water then plunged into heated sand), they were Medieval calligraphyready to be cut. The greasy outer skin and pith within the barrel of the feather would be removed, then a penknife was used to make two cuts to approximate the look of a fountain pen nib. Then a slit would be cut up the center of the nib, and finally the end would be cut straight across to make a crisp, square tip. This tip would have to be regularly re-cut as the scribe worked, as often as 60 times a day.

Two different types of ink were used in manuscripts. They were carbon ink, made from charcoal or lamp-black mixed with gum, and oak-gall ink, made from oak galls and ferrous sulphate with some gum added as a thickener.

Oak galls are small, marble-sized growths which appear most often on the leaves and twigs of oak trees. They are formed when a gall wasp lays its egg on the bud of a tree. A soft, pale green sphere forms around the larva, and when it is fully-grown the wasp bores its way out and flies off, leaving the hard oak-gall behind, which is now rich in tannic and gallic acids. These galls would then be crushed and infused with water and left to soak for a few days in the sun or by the fire. Then ferrous sulphate, or copperas, is added to the oak gall mixture and the resulting ink slowly turns from pale brown to black.

Calligraphic styles changed considerably over the years that these magnificent manuscripts were produced, and professional scribes were capable of reproducing any number of different types of fonts. Copying the text from one manuscript to another would take approximately one week, at which time the finished text would be handed over to the illuminator for gilding.




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