Secrets of the Scriptorium

Oak gall inkSecrets of the Scriptorium

Where science meets history meets art: exploring the amazing world of the medieval scriptorium, making real ink and quill pens, and creating our own illuminated parchments.

Scotland has a rich history in illuminated manuscripts, with scriptoria not only in the monasteries but also in castles throughout the country. Some of the greatest books of all time – such as the Book of Kells – were made in Scotland, and were among the most valuable possessions a person could own.

Session 1 – Think Ink!

This workshop takes the making of a manuscript back to the beginning, and in so doing delivers a science-focussed session with some dramatic chemistry.

  • Ink is made in the medieval fashion, from pounding oak galls to the moment they suddenly transform into jet black ink on contact with iron solution.
  • We will cut feather quills into pens, and create authentic-looking parchment.
  • An introduction to Uncial and Gothic script will offer a chance to try out the ink and quills on Harry Potter-style spells.
  • Think about science in history, and how experiment and discoveries were happening a thousand years ago and more.

Session 2 – The art of stories.

This workshop explores the beauty of books and considers how words changed from being told as stories to being written down, and then celebrated as works of art.

  • Design and colour a large ‘historiated’ initial letter as in the Book of Kells.
  • See real gold leaf and learn how books came to look like jewels.
  • In a full storytelling session hear tales about books and from inside books: how they caused wars and were used as lucky charms.

Time and money

Each workshop takes a minimum of 2 hours excluding breaks, and both are therefore suitable for either a full morning or afternoon. Delivering both workshops as a full day event is the best option for a rounded topic (and is better value!).

A worksheet with ideas for further projects in the classroom is included in the package. All materials are included in the price.

The cost is £100 for one workshop (morning or afternoon), and £150 for a full day with both workshops.