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How Books Were Written Before Gutenberg Invented the Press

were books written by hand

Before Gutenberg invented the printing press, books were primarily written by hand. They were produced in rooms called scriptoriums by monks known as scriptores.

The earliest books were produced by writing on rolled scrolls made from a plant called papyrus. These were then glued together and bound into a book.


In ancient times, people wrote on paper made from a variety of substances. These included linen, papyrus (the fibrous layers of the reedy plant found along the Nile River in Egypt), animal hides and lint. Colored inks were also used.

When bookbinders needed a thicker material than was available from the skins they were already using, they learned to make paper from a new material called parchment which was primarily made of calf or sheep skins. Parchment was produced by first soaking the skins in water with caustic lime and then scraping away the hair on the surface of the skin.

The paper was then bleached, strained, flattened and dried to produce large sheets that were then cut down to size and folded into books. The pages were then bound together into hardback and paperback copies.


During the Middle Ages, the pen was a symbol of status, education, and wealth. It was used to write down Latin letters and documents, record financial statements, and sign legislation.

Quill pens were the most popular writing instrument during this time. They are made by hollowing out a goose feather, drying it, sharpening the tip, and then placing a metal nib that holds ink in place.

They were very popular and used in all of the medieval manuscripts that were printed. They were also the primary tool of professional scribes and calligraphers.

A few writers still prefer to use a fountain pen, mainly due to the ability to write quickly without worrying about ink drying. These pens are also easier to clean, which is an advantage over a ballpoint pen.


Ink has been an important element of writing for millennia. From Paleolithic cave paintings to the Kindle, ink has been used and reinvented in many different ways.

In the medieval period, ink was produced from various ingredients and mixed with gum arabic or water to make it a liquid that would stick to paper. Some inks were made from vermilion, a mercuric sulphide. Others were made from brazilwood chips, which were infused in vinegar and then mixed with gum arabic.

There were two main types of ink: carbon, which was typically made from lamp black (or ivory black), gum, and water; and metallic, made from iron gall (also known as copperas), tannic acid and ferrous sulphate. The tannic acid helped the ink to adhere to paper, while the iron sulfate prevented it from smudging. The tannic acid also gave the ink its blackness, which is why it was often called black ink.


Book binding is the process of creating a book from loose sheets of paper. It can be done with traditional materials or modern tools and machines.

The best way to bind your book is to choose a durable method that will keep the pages together for years. You can use a variety of methods from comb binding to tape binding.

Comb binding is the best known of these methods. It uses a series of holes punched near the bound edge and a curled plastic “comb” that feeds through the slits to hold the sheets together.

Another type of binding uses a “C” shaped wire spine that is squeezed into a round shape by a wire closing device. It is commonly used for books destined for home or office use, such as annual reports and software manuals.

The most common form of hardcover binding is case binding. It is typically a folio (one sheet folded three times) or octavo size, though some books may be larger and heavier.

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