Romans first adapted the Greek alphabet to fit their own needs. As they were using a broadened quill, the Romans created the first letters in calligraphy and this art spread and flourished until the 15th century.
To write calligraphy, illuminators or calligraphers had to use quill pens. These pens were made from bird feathers. Quills that were made from a goose or swan were best to use. Since the pen tip wore down with use, calligraphers or illuminators had to sharpen the quills with a "pen knife."
Calligraphers and illuminators during the Middle Ages also had to use ink to draw or write on a parchment or manuscript page made from animal skin. Books and documents were also written on them. The ink could be made from acid or iron gall. Gall was an oak apple, or a substance found in a growth on oak trees.
Monks, who knew how to read and write, lived in a monastery. These monks worked in a scriptorium, which was part of the monastery cloisters which were set aside for writing.
One type of calligraphy was writing and drawing illuminations. These were pictures, designs, or decorations drawn on a manuscript page. Most illuminators were monks and professional painters, who were both women and men. Illuminators embellished handwritten texts with gold, silver, and other colors. Sometimes these colors were made from plant juices. These miniature pictures added interest and they were helpful in telling stories.
Few people could read or write in the Middle Ages. Most merchants and trade people taught themselves arithmetic and learned to keep their own business accounts. The children of noble families learned to read at home, but nuns, priests, monks, friars, bishops, and abbots were the best educated people during the Medieval time.
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