scribes tools

here’s the section for all the tools used by insular scribes in the scriptorium, mostly based on evidence, some conjecture required. I think ink horns are more of a fashion statement!

Parchment press, both before writing and after it’s important to keep parchment under some pressure to keep it flat.

Ink horn, as seen in several insular manuscripts being used by various evangelists, a convenient tool in North Africa where itinerant scribes could stick the point into the dry sand when they sat down outside to write at plus 20 degrees, not such a convenient tool in Ireland, especially as ink would need warmed up for most of the year to achieve the best results.

Small iron pot, the less glamorous but more practical alternative to the ink horn allowing ink to be heated during use to dissolve the optimal amount of ferrous sulphate in the tannic acid and get the darkest ink.
Goose feather quills, only the outer 5 or so flight feathers are suitable for calligraphy quills but the smaller feathers can be used to make other marks such as being cross cut to produce the small red lead circles found in various contexts within the Book of Kells
Brushes can be made from the tail hair of pine martins, sables cousin, and from feather tips with the feather barrels used to secure both feather and hair brushes to handles
folios for text are lined using a bone creaser which doesn’t damage the surface of the parchment.
Line widths are marked out by pricking the parchment, the regularity suggesting some convention or rudimentary standardized measurement
Text was penned when the parchment was pegged to a sloping surface at the optimal angle for ink flow, the better the materials and skill of the scribe the more room for aspects such as comfort to be taken into consideration, this is at a’student’ angle.
Manuscript art is based on complex geometry which would have been worked out on slate trial pieces before being committed to parchment.
Even the most complex designs were carried out with the same basic tools, compasses, dividers, straight edge and lead point.
There’s evidence from the Lindisfarne Gospels that designs were executed on the back of folios and then back lit to be painted in on front, a frame similar to this would be needed to execute such a technique.
Pigments would be stored in various containers but for use being mixed with a binder in a mussel or clam shell is most convenient
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