Parchment holes in manuscript repaired using embroidery

2:05 AM

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.

Medieval manuscripts face many dangers. Holes can be caused by insects, fire damage, mold, or perhaps from damage done during the writing, illustration, or binding of a text. Holes were clearly viewed as part and parcel of the medieval bookmaking process. Many manuscripts—it seems particularly common in Continental manuscripts, like this Swiss manuscript from the monastery of St. Gallen—have holes and tears sewn up with colorful thread. Some of these holes were apparently caused by damage from the bookmaking process: these horizontal slits that have been sewn up appear to have been caused by a monk who was ruling the page with too heavy a hand. The stitching serves two purposes: to protect the book from further damage, and to add decoration to what might otherwise be seen as unsightly.

You Might Also Like

4 komentarze

  1. Very interesting. When I saw the first picture, I was sure it was a modern art piece - both from the concept and the brightness of the colors.

    I was going to quibble with labeling this "embroidery", since I was absolutely certain that I once learned the method used in the first picture as a darning technique. However, an hour's frustrated search online failed to turn up that precise darning method, but it is shown in some places as a basic needlework lace technique. In technical terms, it appears to be a simple blanket stitch (aka Brussels/buttonhole/net stitch) used in repeated circles to fill in the hole from the outside in.

    After all that, I'd say it exists somewhere in the nebulous area between darning, embroidery, and lacework. Examples of this lace technique are shown in these links:

    1. I'd say that due to the openwork nature of the finished work "lace" is the most proper word :)

    2. I was surprised to learn that embroidery can also refer to openwork techniques similar to this one, if an existing cloth piece is used as the base for the work. In addition, some lace is done using embroidery on top of a backing cloth, which is later removed (cut away or chemically dissolved). The overlap between embroidery and lace is much bigger than I'd thought.

      Here's a wikipedia article that discusses some openwork techniques:

  2. Your article is really inspiring. I am really glad that I found your article.