Quill Books before print mediamediamediamediamediamedia
choosing a writing support
making quires and sheets
preparing the page
copying the text
correcting the text
decorating the book
binding the book
using the book
> Choosing a Writing Support > Parchment > High Quality Parchment

Perfect skin

Up to around 1300, most books in Europe were made from animal skin - parchment. The quality of these sheets varied considerably. Like people today, not all medieval creatures had perfect skin. Some cows loved to rub against trees and others were particularly prone to insect bites. We can still see these defects on the medieval page today as we read Jerome or Chaucer, which appear as tiny holes, gaps or dark patches.
The quality of the page also had a lot to do with preparation. A scribe producing a book for his own library may be less attentive than one that worked in a monastic community. The best sheets have a deep-white color, with a hint of yellow. They feel like velvet and make a slight rustling sound when you turn the page - suspenseful whispers that teased the reader.