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