From the fifth through 13th centuries, parchment, made from animal skin, was used for pages of books. Parchment was strong, but the quality of it varied based on thickness, uniformity of color, and evenness of each page. While pages of books made with very high-quality parchment remain intact fairly well, poor-quality parchment had a tendency to split and rip. Parchment was expensive, so these holes and tears were often repaired by scribes. Leiden University medieval book historian Erik Kwakkel (previously) has documented some of the creative methods scribes used to make repairs or even incorporate holes in parchment into art.
The amazing collection of fascinating discoveries from medieval book historian Erik Kwakkel who previously introduced the internet to his observations on the history of doodles, color theory, and rare forms of bookbinding. Kwakkel has also been investigating how bookmakers found creative solutions around damaged parchment—thin membranes of cow and sheepskin used for printing books between the fifth and thirteenth centuries before the rise of paper. After witnessing their doodling artistry, it should come as no surprise that medieval scribes had a host of ideas to work around bad parchment, from webs of silk embroidery to cheeky illustrations, the blemishes were incorporated right into the physical texts. Although a different medium, the process is uncannily similar to the ancient Japanese process of repairing broken ceramics, Kintsugi, where fractures in pots or bowls are mended with precious metal, acknowledging the history of the imperfect object instead of discarding it.