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 > Palimpsest

Stowaway

What to do when you run out of parchment as a medieval scribe? You can look around for something else to write on, such as left-over parchment strips in the bin (schedulae), or use paper, if it is available. Alternatively, you can take a book that is no longer used from your monastery's library and scrape the text off its pages. You then simply reapply text of your own. Such recycling resulted in a 'palimpsest', which held a removed 'lower text' and a newer 'upper text'.
The ink of the reapplied text often does not stick to the page very well, as is clearly seen here. Moreover, the older reading often shines through – note the word vaguely seen in the margin. Especially important are palimpsests from the earlier Middle Ages, because underneath this old text an even older work is buried, like a stowaway. With digital photography the lower text can sometimes be made visible again, which makes studying these books like digging for treasure.