21 November 2014

Medieval Parchment Doodles and Creative Repairs ... who would have expected?

Sometimes you don’t think of something until someone mentions it.  That was certainly the case when I recently read two items about Medieval parchment on Colossal – Art, Design, and Visual Culture both by Christopher Jobson.

I like reading pieces like this because they get me thinking outside-the-box as I look at documents.  Back in the day, they didn’t have staplers, paperclips, whiteout, erasers, glue, or many of the other tricks of the trade that we use to repair issues in documents.  So, what did they do?

I’ve seen words cut out of documents (a definitely permanent form of “delete”), I’ve seen wax used to attach a re-write, I’ve seen thread used to sew a tear, I’ve seen paper scraped to almost transparency to remove some text

I added in the doodling link as I have come across such myself when researching in court records and in private manuscript collections. You will be looking at some serious papers and then all of a sudden see a doodle.  I find that when I see these, they immediately “humanize” the individual in my mind.  Even our ancestors didn’t just work, work, work while on the job.  It makes you wonder what they daydreamed about?  The same things that we do?

Sometimes, the doodles are clearly those of a child.  Did the parent step away from his desk and a child entered and wanted to practice writing or drawing?  Or did the clerk grab a sheet of paper not realizing that the reverse side was already scribbled on and just opted not to rewrite the official document? 

It also made me wonder if my kid’s doodles (their school papers seem to be full of them) mean that someday an important document in the future will contain their scribbles?  It also got me thinking, if we move more and more to a computer-based virtual world and paper continues to be passé, can one really doodle electronically to the same affect?  Will a window into who we are be lost?

So, these types of articles both give me something to think about regarding ancestors and historical documents while at the same time giving me food for thought about the future?

Have you seen a really neat/creative document repair or correction?

Have you come across doodles in the most unexpected places when doing research?

Are there any conservators amongst our readers? Do you know of any neat resources that talk about how documents were repaired through time?

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