My Manuscript Writing Process: The Challenges I’ve Encountered

Hello once again to everyone in Medieval Manuscripts,
I have chosen to write this blog post surrounding the manuscript writing process and the problems that I have encountered whilst I have been reconstructing the manuscript that I chose. There are two major ones that I want to talk about, the first being the way in which constructing the physical version of the manuscript was done. Second, I want to talk about reproducing the text of my manuscript and the ink that I will be using to do it. I also want to talk about how much more difficult these challenges would have been to overcome in a medieval setting.
The physical piece of paper that is meant to imitate the manuscript I chose was not easy to construct. I spent the first class that we got with the manuscripts like the rest of my peers. Taking measurements of everything that I could think off. Only to find that I was missing a couple of key details or rather that I had made some incorrect measurements. The measurement that forced me to stop was the spacing in between the text and realizing that I had measured it incorrectly. This made it necessary for me to go and look at my manuscript again. Thankfully this was relatively easy to do, but if I had been a medieval scholar assigned with doing this same task. It may take months for me to have the opportunity to look at the manuscript again. It may have also been the case that I am copying something that I have seen a lot, so it may have been easier back then to simply copy it onto another piece of paper while I was present, instead of taking measurements for copying later. Nevertheless, I am glad that I had this opportunity, as I was also able to discover that my page was not straight and that the problems that I was having with the text spacing was due to the page being curved. Something that I had not previously noticed. This was not the only problem that I had whilst in the process of copying my manuscript though, as the ink required to get the writing on the page also presented its own unique problems.
I realized during the process of understanding how I would copy my manuscript that I did not have a fountain pen tip that was small enough to write the text within my manuscript. So, I went and bought one, only to discover a day or so later that the ink cartridge was leaking and needed to be replaced. What ensued was around half and hour of anger and frustration as I attempted to get the cartridge back into place, all the while staining my hands black from repeatedly touching the ink. This situation was eventually resolved by disposing of the ink cartridge and getting a new one, but the whole situation made me think about what I would do if I were a medieval scribe in this situation. First, I need the right size quill tip or pen tip to make a manuscript work. This may not have been a big problem if I did not have any requirements in this area. But if I did then I would either half to have a quill that was that size already made and ready, or I would half to make a new one. Which would have been a way bigger hassle then simply going to Michaels and buying a steel pen that was already made. This little detail is accentuated by the fact that the pen came with more then one tip, allowing for creative freedom as it applies to the size of my writing. As a scribe you’re stuck with what you’ve got. I think that phrasing also works well to describe the ink problem that I encountered. Imagine for a moment how much more devastating the problem of spilled ink would have been for someone in the Middle Ages. Getting ink on your hands isn’t a big issue for me because I have soap and olive oil to make the substance not stain things. But in the Medieval Period how would you even combat this? There would be no real way to have running water, and if they were getting paid by commission to do this work then spilling ink on resources that were in short supply would have been devastating. I was also afforded the luxury of being able to put the pen away and leave the copying of my manuscript to another time. But if there was someone paying for a commission to have this piece of work done then this wouldn’t be possible.
This also makes me think about how fortunate I am to have the fountain pen I bought come with different colours of ink. Not only because one can be replaced when it runs out, but because of all the possibilities it offers. My manuscript doesn’t have any colourful text like some others, but if it did, I could use the same pen to make all those colours come to life. If I was in the Middle Ages, I wouldn’t have this luxury. I would be limited completely by the equipment that was around me. For example, if I wanted to make some text green but there was no green ink then too bad, I would half to use something else. I believe my description highlights how much easier writing a manuscript is today, at least from a resource standpoint. So, when I get frustrated with deciphering a letter or a word with my manuscript it is helpful to remember how lucky I am to have easy access to these tools.
Hope that this was an interesting read and that you can take something from it. I also want to wish everyone the best of luck with their manuscripts.