The Making of a Medieval Book by The J. Paul Getty Museum (2003)

The Making of a Medieval Book, exhibition held in 2003 at The J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles), is part of the Getty's "Making of" series, which explores the historical techniques behind various art forms. The exhibition complemented Illuminating the Renaissance: The Triumph of Flemish Manuscript Painting in Europe, a major international exhibition also held in 2003.

The Making of a Medieval Book
video, available from the museum website, explores the materials and techniques used to create the lavishly illuminated manuscripts produced in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The images in these handwritten texts are called illuminations because of the radiant glow created by the gold, silver, and other colors. The video examines the four stages involved in the making of a medieval book: parchment making, writing, illumination, and binding.

Parchment making

Most medieval manuscripts were written on specially treated animal skins, called parchment or vellum (paper did not become common in Europe until around 1450). The pelts were first soaked in a lime solution to loosen the fur, which was then removed. While wet on a stretcher, the skin was scraped using a knife with a curved blade. As the skin dried, the parchment maker adjusted the tension so that the skin remained taut. This cycle of scraping and stretching was repeated over several days until the desired thinness had been achieved. Here, the skin of a stillborn goat, prized for its smoothness, is stretched on a modern frame to illustrate the parchment making process.

After the surface had been prepared, the parchment was ruled, usually with leadpoint or colored ink. In this prayer book, you can see the ruling in red ink. Ruling lines helped the scribe to write evenly and were part of the design of the page. The scribe wrote with a quill pen made from the feather of a goose or swan. The end of the feather was cut to form the writing nib. A slit cut into the middle of the nib allowed the ink to flow smoothly to the tip of the pen. The appearance of the script—whether rounded or angular, dense or open—was partly dependent upon the shape and the angle of the nib.

Illumination, from the Latin
illuminare, "to light up or illuminate," describes the glow created by the colors, especially gold and silver, used to embellish manuscripts. In making an illumination, the artist first made an outline drawing with leadpoint or quill and ink. Next, he or she painted the areas to receive gold leaf with a sticky substance such as bole (a refined red clay) or gum ammoniac (sap). The gold leaf was then laid down and burnished, or rubbed, to create a shiny surface, which sparkles as the pages are turned. Finally, the illuminator applied paints that were made from a wide variety of coloring agents: ground minerals, organic dyes extracted from plants, and chemically produced colorants. These pigments were usually mixed with egg white to form a kind of paint called tempera. The deep blue of this illumination was probably made from crushed stone, while the background is a solid mass of shining gold leaf.


Once the writing and illuminating had been completed, the parchment sheets were folded and nested into groups called gatherings. The gatherings were ordered in their proper sequence and sewn together onto cords or leather thongs that served as supports. Once the sewing was finished, the ends of the supports were laced through channels carved into the wooden boards that formed the front and back covers of the book. The binding was usually then covered in leather or a decorative fabric. This binding's most stunning ornamentations are the metal corner pieces and raised medallions that would protect the binding as it rested on a surface. The dyed parchment pieces inset into the central medallion were once brightly colored yellow, green, and blue, creating a stained-glass-window effect on the covers of the manuscript.

(Source http://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/making/)


Leatherwork in ancient Egypt by Veldmeijer (2008)

Veldmeijer, A.; Leatherwork, in Willeke Wendrich (ed.) UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, Los Angeles (2008)

Leather was used throughout Egypt’s history, although its importance varied. It had many applications, ranging from the functional (footwear and wrist-protectors, for example) to the decorative (such as chariot leather). Although leather items were manufactured using simple technology, leatherworking reached a high level of craftsmanship in the New Kingdom. Among the most important leather-decoration techniques employed in Pharaonic Egypt, and one especially favored for chariot leather, was the use of strips of leather of various colors sewn together in partial overlap. In post-Pharaonic times there was a distinct increase in the variety of leather-decoration techniques. Vegetable tanning was most likely introduced by the Romans; the Egyptians employed other methods of making skin durable, such as oil curing.


Parcheminier d'après l'Encyclopédie de Diderot et d'Alembert

PARCHEMINIER, s. m. (Commerce.) ouvrier & marchand qui achete des Mégissiers le parchemin en croûte, & le prépare ensuite pour le mettre en état de recevoir l’écriture, en en ratissant la superficie sur le sommier avec un fer tranchant.

Deutsch: Pergamenter, Pergamentmacher.
English: Parchment maker, parchmenter.
Español: Fabricante de pergaminos.
Français: Parcheminier.
Italiano: Lavoratore di pergamena.
Português: Pergaminheiro, fabricante de pergaminhos.


Harness making by Hasluck (1904)

Hasluck, P. N.; Harness making, Cassel, London (1904)

Table of contents:
1. Harness-maker's tools
Harness-maker's materials
3. Strap making and stitching
4. Looping
5. Cart harness
6. Cart collars
7. Cart saddles, reins
8. Fore gear and leader harness
9. Plough harness
10. Bits, spurs, stirrups and harness furniture
11. Van and cab harness