– notes, frequently asked questions and useful links from the archivist and curator of manuscripts at Balliol College, University of Oxford. Opinions expressed are the author's own.

conservation survey notes 7

??????????It’s usual to come across occasional production repairs of parchment in medieval books, but today’s example (Balliol MS 210) we immediately named Frankenbook! There are numerous pages with multiple stitched tears each, and in most cases the stitches have been left in, leaving long, bumpy dents in the facing page.


The parchment-making process involves a lot of scraping and stretching, so tears in the skin are inevitable during production – they are usually stitched up while the skin is still wet. I’m reliably informed that this is very difficult, and the sewing as a result is often rather crude. The stitched area tends to be lumpy when dried, and the stitches themselves are often removed at a later stage to make the page lie flatter against its neighbours. This can leave either a slit edged on two sides by stitch holes, or a narrow rectangular hole (example in the photo above). It is often clear that these cuts/repairs have been made before the book was written because the text is written around the hole – example below, leaving space around the ‘scarred’ area. In this case the stitches have been scraped rather than removed, but the surface is still not flat enough for writing on.


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