Ink Ingredients: Modern and Medieval


I try to keep my posts under 750 words so that they can be read in a shorter amount of time.  Posts that are going to be longer I try to break up in component parts like I did with the calligraphy analysis posts.  This post could be broken into pieces but I believe doing that would lose some informational value if I did..  Please enjoy this post and let me know what you think of it by giving it a star rating or making a comment at the end.

Ink is absolutely vital to having a robust and healthy understanding of history and so ink is very much like the blood history. There are many other things that we can use to see how things were in history, such as archeological discoveries, paintings, pottery and much more.  But reading what the people wrote about themselves makes the guesswork…

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web references [basic]

Old-English resources:


digital Beowulf manuscript at the British Library:

MS. Junius 11 digital (Bodleian Library):

Paleography and codicology resources

Medieval writing:

from(University of Cambridge) with online resources for manuscritps:

Summer workshop course (London):

online material/courses:

Online courses:

Free online Paleography course from Stanford University:

Library or Labyrinth?


By Irene O’Daly

A book that has probably done more than any other to introduce people (including myself) to the world of the medieval library is Umberto Eco’s masterpiece The Name of the Rose. Published in 1980, it was translated into English in 1983, and made into a film starring Sean Connery and Christian Slater in 1986.  A book about books, The Name of the Rose, is a story set in an early fourteenth-century monastery where secrets are currency, and knowledge is a weapon as well as a tool.  Essentially a murder mystery, the narrative moves between the primary buildings of the medieval monastery: the Chapter house, the library [aedificium], the cloister and the Church, as well as its more practical outbuildings: the pigsties and the smithy.

U. Eco, Map of the Monastery, The Name of the Rose U. Eco, Map of the Monastery, The Name of the Rose. Library/aedificium indicated in red.

The monastery depicted…

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Pondering the Physical Scriptorium


By Jenneka Janzen

When meeting new people, sooner or later one is invariably asked “What do you do?” In my case, after providing my go-to brief description of Manuscript Studies, it is nearly always followed with “How did you get into that?” Consequently, I’m often reminded of my first manuscript experiences, and also of the early (mis)conceptions I had about their production.

Initially, I always pictured a tidy row of tonsured monks stationed at their desks, painstakingly copying out the texts before them. These men silently worked together, not only in a collaborative sense, but also physically; without fail, I imagined their activities happening simultaneously, and very much defined by shared space. In my manuscript-making vision these scribes always worked in a room purpose-built for their task, i.e. the scriptorium.

The scriptorium in The Name of the Rose. The scriptorium in The Name of the Rose.

While this impression isn’t wrong per se, it is easily complicated…

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aprendiendo a escribir en el siglo XIII

Aprendiendo a escribir...

La naturaleza humana parece inalterable en algunos aspectos. Uno de ellos es que los niños cuando aprenden a escribir y cuando estudian, o están en clases se aburren pronto y prefieren llenar el espacio en blanco con dibujos sobre batallas, la familia y paisajes. ¿Quién no ha dibujado en los márgenes del libro mientras el profesor explicaba la lección o ha recurrido a hacer garabatos en la hoja donde estaba intentando memorizar las declinaciones de latín, griego o simplemente repitiendo los verbos de francés, o haciendo sumas y sumas?
Como prueba de que la diferencia en siglos no es nada, Onfim un niño que estaba aprendiendo a escribir en el siglo XIII en Novgorod (Rusia) y que se decidió a dibujarse en mitad de grandes hazañas y de dejar en la corteza de abedul, que servía de medio barato y fácilmente accesible para la escritura, sus obras de arte.

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