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What sort of pens/quills would be used?

Would paper, cover and bindings be readily available?

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Could the divebomber leave a comment to explain what the issue is? –  Stefan Jun 27 '13 at 12:04
    
Btw, are you writing a novel set in the period? Or just curious about daily life... –  Felix Goldberg Jun 27 '13 at 12:23
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I am a re-enactor but am not able to fight at our big shows due to now having children so I was going to give talks to the public on the admin side of things instead. –  Stefan Jun 27 '13 at 12:25
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1 Answer

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The first issue, it almost goes without saying, is that in the 1400s it was still a fairly rare thing to know how to read and write, and in fact reading and writing were essentially two separate skills. There were many, many scribes during the medieval era whose job it was to copy down ancient texts and who often had no idea what, exactly, it was that they were copying down.

Regarding paper, this was a Chinese invention which was passed over to the West in the 1200s. By the 1400s it would have been fairly well known, and there were probably paper mills in or around most of the larger towns, but it was by no means as ubiquitous as it is today. For documents which were supposed to last a long time you still would have wanted to use parchment and/or vellum, which are made with animal skin instead of wood pulp and as such are much more expensive and rare.

As for putting ink to paper, yes, you're right on that they would have used quills.

Quill pens were the instrument of choice during the medieval era due to their compatibility with parchment and vellum. Prior to this the reed pen had been used, but a finer letter was achieved on animal skin using a cured quill. Other than written text, they were often used to create figures, decorations, and images on manuscripts, although many illuminators and painters preferred fine brushes for their work. The variety of different strokes in formal hands was accomplished by good penmanship as the tip was square cut and rigid, exactly as it is today with modern steel pens.

Source

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Groovy, thanks (+1). The job I am looking at (at a re-enactment show) is the book keeping and admin for a mercenary company employed by the house of York. Would I be correct in thinking that this level of bureaucrat would have the relevant skills and would write on paper? –  Stefan Jun 27 '13 at 13:27
    
By 1400, yes, I believe that would be the case. I'm not so sure it would have been a couple hundred years prior, and I want to say that accountants had their own secret notation earlier on, but yeah, by the High Middle Ages period you're talking about, I don't believe that would be terribly out of place. And for regular accounting purposes, paper and not parchment or vellum would have been used. –  NotVonKaiser Jun 27 '13 at 13:32
    
Sorry, I should have said that the target date is 1471! Never mind, you nailed it anyway - thanks! :-) –  Stefan Jun 27 '13 at 13:35
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