Female Scribes

From the British Library Manuscript Viewer: Isidore, Bishop of Seville, Etymologiae. Folio 23 right

Did women write?

Did women make manuscripts in the medieval times or earlier?

“What is the earliest European manuscript in the British Library’s collection that was created by a female scribe?” – the last question was asked of the British Library and they answered it in “Female Scribes in Early Manuscripts.” Follow the links in the Bibliography.

Quick answers:

Yes, women write – now and in the past.

Yes, women created medieval manuscripts. Entire nunneries were devoted to creating manuscripts for the Church to provide to their patrons.

For a full manuscript, that is a known creation due to notes made by the eight women who worked on it, The Isidore, Bishop of Seville, Etymologiae from 1130-1174 may be the earliest. Earliest written piece in any format by a female of the British Library may be a birthday invitation from the second century BC.


British Library Digitised Manuscripts. “Harley MS 3099 – Isidore, Bishop of Seville, Etymologiae”. (last viewed 4/10/2022; note as of 4/26/2024 link no longer works)

British Library Blogs. “Female Scribes in Early Manuscripts.” 2017 March 08.  https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2017/03/female-scribes-in-early-manuscripts-.html (last viewed 4/10/2022; note as of 4/26/2024 link no longer works)

Medieval Blue Ink and Shipping Costs

Photo by Max Tcvetkov on Unsplash

Modern paint and ink, made from synthetic dyes, fades and chips. How did medieval manuscript illuminations last centuries? 

Scientists are working on that and think they have solved one of the mysteries.

“The Mystery of a Medieval Blue Ink Has Been Solved.” by Isaac Schultz. Atlas Obscura. 2020 April 17. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/folium-medieval-ink?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=atlas-page (last viewed)

Another little tidbit dropped in here is how medieval times SHIPPED ink. They super-dyed some cloth and shipped the ink and dye that way. I always thought they shipped the plants/materials and people in various parts of the world would make the inks there, but this way makes so much more sense. Concentrated, so shipping is more cost effective. The importers don’t need any special technology, just a bucket of water. Of course they shipped it by dyed linen.

Art Projects: C&I Time

In September I broke out my pens and brushes for the first time in years and really went to town in making a few beautiful pieces to give out as awards in the Society for Creative Anachronism. Below are some closeup shots.

 Completed on the September 23, 2017, the “J” scroll was inspired a 1410 Italian manuscript, The Prayer Book of Michelino da Besozzo.

Art Projects: Calligraphy

Painted B illuminationPosting two examples of using a pre-printed “B” and experimenting with Celtic spirals. Painted B - Illumination exampleThe Flash “Scriptorium Mediation” is based off of personal experience – at least the painting part.

More posts about calligraphy and illumination will follow as projects are started and completed