How the Book was Made

Image of page 1 of the Psalter with manuscript writing in Latin in two columns

Page 1

p. 91.Jpeg

Page 91

The majority of the writing in this manuscript—including the notes in the margins—is done in brown ink, although red ink was used for illumination. Red ink was also used to signify the start of Psalms, to indicate interesting passages, or to underline certain important sections.

The brown colour of this book's parchment pages suggests that they were likely produced from the skins of brindled cows or goats. The skins would have been soaked in a vat of lime and water to remove all the hairs, and then they would have been stretched out to dry. Once this lengthy process was completed, the skin was ready to be manipulated and written on.

However, parchment was not the only material employed in the production of medieval manuscripts. This manuscript, for example, is comprised of an outer bifolia of parchment and an inner bifolia of paper. The process of making paper during the Middle Ages—especially in Italy—would typically involve the use of linen rags. The rags were washed and then pierced with drainage holes; these pieces would then be cut up and put through a repetitive process of washing and beating. These pieces would then be stacked together and pressed to form a flat sheet of paper. The paper would then have a smooth stone rolled over it to give it an aesthetic glisten, after which it would be ready for use. Both materials—parchment and paper—were bound together and held by animal glue.

This particular book is bound by sheepskin leather. The sheepskin would need to be tanned and stretched before it was ready for binding. Sheepskin was only a popular material for bookbinding for a small time before it was swiftly overtaken by calfskin.

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