Painted Initials – 13th Century

Photographic Example

This photograph was taken from part of a book of the monastery Zella with the text: Liber Celle Sante Marie.

How and with what Materials have Initials been Painted in 13th Century Books?

Many years ago I visited the old monastery Altzella in Saxony / Germany and found this display of materials to paint initials in books of the 13th century and took the photographs included in this article.

Materials used in the 13th Century for Initial Paint in Books?
  • Wax tablet … The draft paper
  • Pen to scratch text into the wax, the flat end was to smooth the result
  • Goose feathers for writing
  • Fine vellum from calf skin
  • Pumice stone for vellum treatment
  • Cow horn as container for ink
  • Iron-Gall Ink
  • Gall Nuts (from Oak Trees)
  • WineMennige – as a red colorant for the adornment of initials
  • Golden powder – called shell gold – as it was kept in shells

All samples were provided and assembled by Dr. Vera Trost of Stuttgart / Germany using oak gall ink, red mennige, mountain blue and shell gold on parchment ground.

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