Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Quill Pens

We are continuing our study of history - this year focusing on the Middle Ages. One of our recent projects was to make, and use, quill pens. We did this after reading about monasteries and scriptoriums, and one of our books had detailed steps for curing parchment (from animal hides), making quill pens and mixing inks. We skipped the hides (using the more recent invention of paper from trees) and ink (using an old refill for the ink-jet printer!) but tried cutting some quill pens from geese feathers collected in the summer.

One story we read of an apprentice boy in a scriptorium commented that he had spent months learning how to cut the quills, and then more months learning how to use them to make the letters. (This was after he had a mastery of Latin!) So I wasn't too surprised at the mess we made writing, or the difficulty the children had in using the pens. It took a fair bit of concentration to reproduce the alphabet the monks would have used.

Even so, we had an enjoyable time, and returned to the modern world of ball-points, fountain pens and pencils with an appreciation for the monks and others who preserved so many texts in such a labourious way.

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