Stories in Parchment

Right from when I first pitched the idea that became It’s a Feudal, Feudal World I knew that I wanted to include a page about medieval manuscripts. That page ended up with everything from chained libraries to the contents of King Edward III’s personal collection, but there was one thing I knew would be on it from the start: the material that was the page.

In the abstract, most people know that parchment is different from paper or papyrus, but we rarely think about what that difference means. Parchment is animal skin, and its preparation for writing never erases that fact. Sheets of parchment show veins and scars, hair follicles, and curves. This blog post from the Ohio State University’s rare book collection blew my mind in 2008, and it still blows my mind today for showing all the ways that what’s beneath medieval writing is still very much material that matters.

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