The development of books has perhaps done more to change our world than anything else: it gives us the ability to record and share knowledge not only with contemporaries but also with following generations. When Rome fell and the barbarians swept across Europe the isolation of the monasteries preserved the literature of the classical cultures. In the scriptoria the monks meticulously copied hundreds of thousands of books. The Islamic libraries kept pace and we owe a debt to all the scribes and librarians that played a part in preserving it for us . Achilles sacrificing to Zeus from the Ambrosian Iliad, late 5th or early 6th century, on vellum. It is one of the oldest surviving illustrated manuscripts.
More than anything else from these early periods, books survive, hundreds of thousands of books. St Augustine's Abbey in Canterbury, considered the first English monastery, has been in ruins for centuries, yet 250 books from it still survive.
The codex were written on vellum (from calves) or parchment (from sheep). Producing a codex as large as a bible required between 200-300 sheep skins and at the modern equivalent of $165 each, the price would have been between $32,000 and 50,000. A lead was used to rule margins and lines, the page edges were punched in order to keep the lines even from page to page, and rulers and compasses were used to measure and set out the page. The ink was usually kept in a horn that the scribe held in one hand while the other held the quill. There was also a scraping knife to correct mistakes.
After the text was copied it was checked by the corrector. Then the rubricator did the more elaborate designs and added the rich colors, rubrics and initials in the spaces that had been initially marked out and left blank by the scribe. The binder then made the quires, usually by folding the parchment together in groups of four to make quires of eight leaves or sixteen pages. These were then tied together and then bound and covered. Usually leather was used for this or wood covered in parchment or velvet.
Important Calligraphy Styles Square Capital The earliest example of this script was used on a column erected in Rome in 113.
This style was popular for more than 500 years - from the 3rd to the 9th century.
Irish Half Uncial This script existed between the 6th and 9th centuries and was also called Insular Majuscule or Insular Miniscule. The Book of Kells is an excellent example of this distinct and ornate script
Anglo-Saxon Miniscule This version of the Insular Miniscule developed by the Anglo-Saxons, who copied it from Irish Monks who had set up outposts in Northern England, in the 6th century
Carolingian Miniscule This script was developed to be easily recognized throughout the Charlemagne Empire. From the 8th to the 12 century, it was used to produce classical texts, religious books and educational material. It is considered a true renaissance script but became obsolete in the Gothic era.
Early Gothic Miniscule This script was the most ornate and was used between the 11th and 12th century.. Early gothic was also penned "Littera Moderna," or modern letters.
Batarde Miniscule A This script was a derivative of the Gothic Littera Bastarda , found in France between the 14th and 16 century
Parts of an illuminated manuscript decorated margins miniature painting gold leaf decorated initial calligraphy
This page from the Book of Kells gives a genealogy of Christ and is a good example of the illumination being carried into the text itself.
Some fine examples The Book of Deer , 9 th century gospel, is probably the oldest Scottish manuscript. It is written on vellum in brown ink.
A portrait of St John from the Book of Dimma, Ireland, 7 th or 8 th century
This miniature from a manuscript of Pope Gregory's Moralia in Job depicts a scribe presenting a copy of the work to the Holy Roman Emperor. The Pope himself is shown writing in the upper left .
Text with placemarkers and rubric; miniature of Samson holding up columns from a bible (1445)
Growing squash and Making pasta from Tacuinum Sanitatis , a medieval health handbook published in the 10th century
The Bible of Saint Louis published in the 13th century
Canterbury Tales , probably a version made during Chaucer’s lifetime (mid-late 1300s)
This is actually a facsimile of the Metz Codex that has information about astronomy and mathematics. The original is 10 th century and in the Spanish National Library. The rights to make a facsimile for this codex and many others are presumably sold bt the library to a private company that then produces historically acurate copies that are available to buy. I found several companies selling these with prices for smaller works starting at about 500 euros. http://www.testimonio.com/espanol/colecciones/scriptorium/metz.htm
This is a single leaf, genuine not facsimile, that is available online for $8.900. It is French late 13 th century. http://www.cepuckett.com/home.asp
In1587 Leiden University Library opened. This drawing is interesting for the book chains, categories listed on the stacks and dogs .