Testing the Quill Pen

On a scrap of parchment we tested the modern nib pen (its the closeted nib shape to a quill that we could find, because apparently you can’t buy a quill in this town). The nib end of the nib is rounded and bent to create a tip that isn’t pointed and sharp like out modern nibs which would scratch the surface of the parchment. The only major difference between our modern nib and a feather quill, besides the materials, is that we wouldn’t have to re-sharpen the metal nib, whereas you do have to re-sharpen a quill with a sharp knife.

(For more quill information see:  Making of Illuminated Manuscripts 2011, Encyclopedia of Art, viewed 24 July, 2011, <http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/cultural-history-of-ireland/making-of-illuminated-manuscripts.htm#quills&gt;.)

The results:

  • the angle that you hold the pen at determines the width of the line
  • you have to constantly dip you pen in more ink because it runs out quickly due to the fact that the pen doesn’t have an ink reservoir
  • when you first set the pen down on the paper right after you’ve dipped it in ink you have to be careful that it doesn’t create a large ink blot
  • writing and drawing are pretty easy, the nib moves smoothly across the paper
  • although curvilinear forms are challenging to make
  • in order to keep your lines of a consistent thickness, you will have to re-trace them, which is easier with thick lines then it is with thin lines, which is also challenging when you have varying ink levels on your nib and have to concentrate on keeping you pen held at the same angle
  • its hard to create perfectly straight lines

Fun, but time consing and challenging. It would take a lot of practice for a monk to successfully create the complex interlace images and text that are present in the Book of Durrow.

Trying the Pen

Alison trying the quill pen

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