Broidery on a medieval page

Hole in manuscrip repaired with embroidery

Erik Kwakkel is a medieval book historian at Leiden University, The Netherlands. He says, “I post images of medieval books and share with you what’s special about them.” His blog inspired an earlier post of mine, Cats Haven’t Changed Much,” about 15th-century cats walking with inky paws across (or urinating on) a manuscript.

Holes in the pages of medieval books are common. They were easily made (by the parchment maker’s knife), as in this wonderful case. Fixing it by stitching the hole together with strings of parchment is also common: parchment makers did it all the time, leaving behind “scars” on the page. What is totally unusual, however, is the repairs seen in this 14th-century book in Uppsala, Sweden. The damage is repaired, or at least masked, by good old broidery. It was done by the nuns who purchased the book in 1417. It is delightful to think that they took the effort to make a medieval hole disappear by replacing it with patterns like this, made up from pieces of silk in the most vivid of colors.

Pics: website of University Library Uppsala. More information about the preservation of this manuscript here.

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