Books

During Davidís time books were very rare and precious. There were no printing presses so each book had to be copied out by hand by the monks. It took many months just to copy out one book. The monks had to make sure that they did not make any mistakes, each book had to be perfect. The books were written in Latin, a very old language which was used in church services.

Monks copied out books in a special room called the scriptorium. In this way they could add more books to their library. Paper had not been invented so the monks used sheepskin or calfskin. Before this could be written on it had to be soaked clean, stretched out thinly, scraped, dusted with chalk and smoothed with pumice stone. The finished product was called vellum.

Ink was made from charcoal. Different colours were made from simple dyes from plants, for example, yellow was made by mixing powdered saffron with sticky, beaten egg-white. Many of the books were beautifully illustrated. The first letter on each page was painted in bright colours and shining gold. The gold leaf was so light and precious that whoever was working with it had to hold his breath so that it didnít blow away!

Unfortunately there are no surviving examples of these beautiful books written during the time if David. However, there are examples of books written a little later such as the Gospel of Saint Teilo which is in Lichfield Cathedral, and the Book of Kells.

The monk in charge of looking after all books was called the precentor. He was also responsible for training the choir who sang in the church services.

The illustration is from a Welsh book called "Dewi Sant" by Alun Ifans (published by Gwasg Aeron),
who has kindly given his permission for it to be used in this project


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