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Subject Literature

Period 1 - 999 CE
1000 - 1999 » 1000-1099

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780470657621.2012.x


The Anglo-Saxon book was shaped by the materiality of manuscript culture. Every book was unique, written by hand on materials that had been prepared by hand and that could be copied, but not replicated, i.e., not copied exactly. Illustrators were responsible for decorations, including illuminations, drawings, and decorated capital letters to suit the layout or mise-en-page (“page setting”). There were other differences, ranging from letter forms to the size of the parchment that formed quires (usually four folded sheets making eight pages). Further variation came from compilers who assembled the text and stitched quires together. Finally there was the bookbinder, whose unique materials ensured that no two codices were exactly alike. Most of this work took place within the monastic scriptoria, but the preparation of parchment involved less skilled labor, including the raising and killing of the animals whose skins formed the parchment (see Bible ). The manuscript book or codex devolved from the custom of writing on ivory tablets or wax-smeared boards (the tablet was a codex in Latin). Tablets usually had hollowed-out areas that could be filled with wax and written on, then smoothed over and used again. Several such tablets could be joined together by cord or metal rings. Texts were composed on wax tablets and then copied onto permanent materials if they were deemed worthy ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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