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

Skins and scraps

For much of the Middle Ages dead cows were the main ingredient for books. What was frolicking in the meadow one month, may have been a page in a Bible the next. The skin of animals - calfs, goats, sheep - was turned into parchment, which was subsequently cut into sheets. Parchment was introduced in late Antiquity, when the codex, the book made of double leaves, was born and started to replace the papyrus scroll. In the 12th century another material appeared in Europe: paper.
Imported from Arabic culture, it was first exclusively used for documentary purposes, such as account books and letters. In a remarkable shift of scribal practices, in the fourteenth century scribes all over Europe started to use paper for manuscripts. Conservative scribes, such as monks, ignored the new material, while others, especially those who wanted to economize, embraced it. Paper and parchment were used for all sorts of manuscripts, from chunky volumes to small folded books.