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Early Modern English Manuscripts


A Note on Manuscripts

The Early Modern English Manuscripts Collection is a subset of a larger collection of manuscripts dating from the medieval through the modern period (1399-1901). A manuscript is a handwritten document.  It could be in the form of a book (codex) or on a single sheet (charter).  Some are lavishly embellished (illuminated). Others are simple text. This collection of manuscripts has examples of all these forms.

The most common material used in the collection is parchment. Parchment is made by stretching and scraping animal skin, most commonly sheep, sometimes followed by treatment with chalk, lime, or another material to improve the texture and whiteness.

The ink ranges from black to pale brown. The ink is probably one of two types: carbon ink or iron gall ink.  Carbon ink is made of charcoal or lamp-black mixed with a gum.  Iron-gall ink is made by mixing a solution of tannic acids with ferrous sulfate. It too requires added gum, but as a thickener rather than as an adhesive. The blackness of iron gall ink is the result of a chemical reaction. Iron gall ink came into use around the fifth century and remained in use until the twentieth century.

The seals attached to many of these manuscripts are wax or wax and paper.