Would a Medieval Prince Have Had an ‘Office’?

A reader asked me this the other day, and I thought it worth a post because we think of ‘offices’ as being a modern invention, with computers and fax machines and secretaries. And yet, a medieval prince or king–any ruler, from a sheriff to a thane for that matter–must have had a place for conducting business.  Where were papers kept? Where did he upbraid his inferiors for shoddy work? England in particular has been known for its government system of record keeping back to the Middle Ages. Where did the king keep all that? I chose to use the word ‘office’  because it does, in fact, have ancient roots in the English language and because even if a Welsh prince wouldn’t have used the word ‘office’ (which he actually might have, see below), he still would have needed its function. Read more…

History of Paper

Medieval lords had castle accounts, right?  On what were these written?  Did they call them paper, or parchment?  Were they made of dried skins, linen, paper? Account books could have been made of paper, which was viewed as less sturdy than parchment and thus for less important matters.  “There are indeed very many medieval manuscripts written on paper. Cheap little books made for clerics and students were probably more often on paper than on parchment by the fifteenth century. Even major aristocratic libraries had manuscripts on paper. Some paper manuscripts survive with the inner and outer pairs of leaves in each gatherings made of parchment, presumably because parchment is stronger and these were the most vulnerable pages. Paper was a Chinese invention probably of the second century and the technique of paper-making spent a thousand years slowly working its way Read more…

Books in the Middle Ages

Books have been around as long as there has been writing–it’s just that in the past, they were less accessible, expensive, and rare.  Many, many fewer people were literate, especially as we understand the word (see my post on literacy: http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/?p=1310). “Every stage in the creation of a medieval book required intensive labor, sometimes involving the collaboration of entire workshops. Parchment for the pages had to be made from the dried hides of animals, cut to size and sewn into quires; inks had to be mixed, pens prepared, and the pages ruled for lettering. A scribe copied the text from an established edition, and artists might then embellish it with illustrations, decorated initials, and ornament in the margins. The most lavish medieval books were bound in covers set with enamels, jewels, and ivory carvings.”  Source: The Art of the Book Read more…