Friday, 1 January 2010

How to Cut a Quill

What the five qualities of a good quill? It should be large, hard, round, narrow and taken from the right wing, preferably from a domestic goose. In her Renaissance Secrets, Recipes and Formulas, Joe Wheeler reproduces instructions of how to cut a quill from Giovambattista Palatino's New Book for Learning to Write, first published in Rome in 1540.

Palatino purports that all previous instructions were confusing and difficult to understand. He promised to enlighten his readers as to how to cut a quill and his Libro Nuovo became the "most often reprinted of all the Italian writing manuals".

How to Cut a Quill
The greasy membrane on the top of the wing should be scraped away with a penknife. A cut should be made on the same side as the groove and two further cuts "into an elegant shape resembling a sparrow-hawk's beak". Two symmetrical cuts should be made on both sides of the first cut. The point should be trimmed as required. Care should be taken that "the right side of the nib resting on your thumbnail is slightly shorter than the left".

Do not allow the tip to dry out. Good luck.
For more information consult Palatino's book or Joe Wheeler's, Renaissance Secrets, V&A Publishing: 2009.

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