Planning a period scribal kit, part 2

This post is a continuation of Planning a period scribal kit, part 1.
In part 1, I write about what I already have and the plans of making a burnisher from a dog´s tooth and a ceramic brush tray. In this post I will write about pounce pots, leather cases and ink pots. My plan about making wax tablets anda writing slope will be saved for later posts.

Pounce pot

Pounce is used when preparing the surface of parchment to get rid of grease and get a clean and smooth writing surface. You can also use it to clean pergamenata from oil and grease that might ended up on the surface from your hands. Pouncing means sprinkling pounce over the parchments surface then gently rub it against the surface before dusting it of again. This will make the parchment take in colours and ink nicely.

Pounces that is used is often powdered gum sandarac, cuttlefish bone or pumice. Cennini writes in The Craftsman´s handbook about using powdered calcined bone from birds or pouncing rosin when pouncing and then using a hare´s foot when dusting it of.  (p. 5-7).

Thompson writes in The materials and techniques of medieval painting about using powdered pumice, chalk, rosin, or colophony when pouncing (p.29). I use cuttlefish bone when pouncing. You can buy cuttlefish bone at your local pet store since it is used as a dietary supplement for birds. Pounce was stored in something called pounce pots/sanders or in a cloths tied up like a bag.

Ian the Green have written a exellent blog post about preparing your writing surface, if you want to know more about the topic.

I will make a ceramic pounce pot for my scribal kit. It could be made in various materials as different metals and wood. I however have no access to a lathe for woodturning even if I would love to do one in wood. The same goes for tools working in metal. I really need a workshop for hard materials! Until I might get a chance to make a pounce pot in wood or metal a ceramic one will be my goal.  At Medieval Scribe’s Toolkit page you can pounce pots ,and a collection of other authentic medieval tools used in all aspects of the scribe’s work.

A penner leather case and a leather or/and ceramic ink pot

Penner and ink pots can be seen in many pictures from paintings and museums. The penner often seems to be made out of leather or wood while the ink pots could be both leather and wood, metal like bronze or brass, glass or ceramic ones. One can often see both penners and ink pots hanging in a string from peoples belts, making it easy to travel with them.

I am planning to try and make a tooled leather penner inspired by some finds from Italy around 1500. At the Met museums collection I found a beautiful leather cuir bouilli penner with a wood core from Italy, 1450-1500. The penner has the inscription “(in raised letters, on box) may be read as: A BONA FEDE TE AMO DEL BON heartshape [CUORE?]; trans. In good faith I love thee with a good heart (or: I really love you with all my heart), by WHF. (on cover) A~gamma”

The items page also describes what cuir bouilli means: “The term cuir bouilli, literally, “boiled leather,” is used to describe a particular type of leather decoration. Soaked in a lukewarm solution of resin or wax to make it soft and flexible, the leather was molded into the desired shape. Decorative patterns were then tooled or impressed on the surface and often highlighted in color, gilding, or punching.”

Another tooled leather penner from italy, 1500 can be found at Victoria and Albert museum (V&A).

A third leather case penner from Walters art museum that have decorations containing: “two unidentified coats of arms are embossed on its exterior. Below one is the inscription, “alta petit” (“he seeks lofty things”), and the other reads, “humilitas” (“humility”).

I will also try and make one or two ink pots. One will probably be made in ceramic clay and the other one in leather just as the penner.

The leather ink pot will be inspired by finds from Italy around 15th century. The first one can be found in the Met museums collections and is a leather ink pot with wood core and beautiful inscriptions from Italy around 15th century. The other one is a ink pot from northern Italy, 1425-1450, found in The Cleveland of Museum of Art collections.

The Met museum writes following text about ink pots:

“Ink containers of different shapes and sizes frequently appear in manuscript illuminations and in paintings depicting scribes or scholars in their studies. Although it is difficult to determine their material from the pictorial evidence, ink containers are known to have been made not only of horn, but also of silver, tin, and leather, and, in later periods, of glass and stoneware. Horn was used early in the Middle Ages; a twelfth-century manuscript shows two containers made of ox horns set in holes in the scribe’s desk. By the fifteenth century, however, ink pots were designed as free-standing containers.

Twelfth-century recipes for ink indicate that pigments, made of lampblack, gallnut, and similar materials, were stored in powder form and mixed with liquid in small amounts according to the scribes’ immediate requirements. This practice, which continued throughout the Middle Ages, allowed ink containers to be carried without fear of spilling. Portable writing cases, which could be attached to a belt, were equipped with a well for the ink pigment container and sheaths for quill pens. Unlike several leather ink pits which have been excavated in London, this leather case is fitted with strap loops and was probably designed to carry either a pigment container or a more elaborately worked inkwell.”

Still looking and hoping to find sources besides paintings of ceramic ink pots that I like. If not I will stick to paintings and make a ceramic one with a lid containing a cork in the lid.


Cennini, Cennino d’Andrea. The craftsman´s handbook, Il libro dell’ Arte. Translated by Daniel V. Thompson New York: Dover, Publications Inc, 1933, 1960, p. 5-7

Thompson, Daniel V. The materials and techniques of medieval painting, New York: Dover, Publications Inc, 1956, 2016 p. 29

Medieval Scribe’s Toolkit, authentic medieval tools used in all aspects of the scribe’s work.

Ian the Greens blogpost

Met museums collection

Victoria and Albert museum

Walters art museum

The Cleveland Museum of Art


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