Vibrant Parchment Repairs

A 12th century Latin manuscript was brought down to the lab yesterday and we all had to stop work for a few minutes to ogle the colorful stitching used to piece together some of the leaves.

Parchment can be oddly shaped or become damaged during production, so it was a common medieval practice to mend or patch the leaves with colorful thread.  Sometimes you can tell that the stitching was done before the scribe started writing. For example, this column of text just continues around the thread.

The colors of the thread are so intense that I began to wonder if they were original. What pigments or dyes could make such a vibrant yellow/green color? A few years ago, Beth had taken Cheryl Porter’s workshop, Recreating the Medieval Palette, and just happened to have the color swatches they made on hand. You can read some excellent reviews of that workshop here and here.

The buckthorn and cochineal are actually pretty close matches to the colors of the thread in our manuscript. Being closed inside a book would also have protected them from light exposure and potentially fading.  If you’d like to see more examples of colorful stitching in medieval books, check out this post from Erik Kwakkel or the post it inspired on Colossal.