The contents of a scriptorium’s cabinet have something of the ‘eye of bat, toe of frog’ about them. The parchment pages are goatskin, sheepskin, calfskin, split and pared down to tissue thinness, or they are ‘uterine vellum’ — the skin of aborted calves. Cuttlefish bones scraped the parchment smooth. Quills were cut from goose, swan or crow feathers. Hair from squirrels’ tails made the finest brushes. Gold leaf could be polished to brilliance with a ‘dog’s tooth’ — a shard of agate.And another taste of the past:
The Roman taxonomer Pliny, a collector of both natural histories and far-fetched fables, writes of a red pigment called ‘dragon’s blood’ derived from the mingled bloods of a battling dragon and elephant. While most pigments could be had from the town apothecary, a scribe wanting to get his hands on dragon’s blood would have to wait for a defeated dragon to be crushed beneath a wounded elephant. Spoilsport art historians have since identified ‘dragon’s blood’ as the sap of the East Asian rattan palm tree.Read the rest! You'll find illuminated books to be even stranger and more beautiful than before.