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Creation and Use of Monastic Books in 15th Century Spain

Quills and Brushes

Until the 19th century and the invention of the fountain pen, writing was done with a quill pen created from the wing feather of a bird, typically swan, goose, or turkey. To create a pen the feather needs to be tempered to improve its resilience and toughness. To temper a quill, you first soak it overnight in water and then place it in hot sand. Next, the barbs (the feathery part of the feather) get removed to make the quill easier to hold. Lastly, the quill is cut to form the nib using a small, sharp knife. The tip wears down every 3-4 pages and needs to be recut so a quill typically only lasts for 9-10 pages.

On this page, a quill was used for the lines and the ornate D, but no feather is big enough for the remaining letters and notes so a brush was used. A brush is made by first gathering squirrel, badger, or sable fur, leveling the hairs, and binding them with waxed thread. Next, a stick was whittled for the handle. Lastly, the brush head was adhered to the stick using the hollow part of a feather and glue.