Deep into the Middle Ages at St. Gallen, Switzerland

stewi87 By stewi87, 17th Oct 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Graphology

Digging deep in the oldest library of Switzerland!

The library

Recently I made a trip to St. Gallen in Switzerland with my University class in order to visit the old abbey library of the former Bendictine monastery. It is one of the oldest and largest libraries in the world. Founded in 612 A.D. it contains about 170 000 books and other media. It is still used today for research and as a public library, although for the books published after 1900 only. There are lots of old parchments and papers to be discovered and if you stay with me I will tell you how to produce a piece of parchment yourself!

The "Abrogans"

As a language studying class we were especially interested in seeing the oldest book in which for the first time German language appears in written form. I am speaking of the Abrogans (Cod. 911), which contains a large dictionary for translations from Latin into Old High- German. This is quite a treasure, since some German words, which appear in this document, don’t appear in any other documents we have. The Abrogans is written in small letters (Minuscule), which resemble the writings of Irish monks. This is not surprising however; if you bear in mind that the founder of the abbey was an Irish monk, namely St. Gallus. The Abrogans is now digitalised and is published at:, which is free and public for everyone to see!

How to produce Parchment

And now the promised recipe for you to produce some parchment at home:

1. Take a goat (make sure it is dead)
2. Take off its skin
3. Put the skin into a solution of chalk
4. Take knife and scrub off rests of flesh and bad skin
5. Clean the skin, stretch it and let it dry
6. To make it white you have to make it smooth with a pumice and color it with chalk
7. You have a piece of parchment!

If this is complicated for you to do, then you can now understand why it was such an expensive process and why literacy among the common people spread only after the invention of paper, which is much cheaper. Just imagine for every paper you write, you have to kill several animals! What a terrible thought. What is more, there were still two different sides of the parchment: The hairy side and the fleshy side, which was a further disadvantage for the quality of this writing material, not speaking of holes and further difficulties.


Abbey, Abrogans, Library, Parchments, St Gallen, Switzerland

Meet the author

author avatar stewi87
I have a degree in English languages and literatures, and I absolutely love reading and reviewing books.

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author avatar Retired
17th Oct 2012 (#)

Interesting. I don't think I can make parchment even if I follow your instructions, I am sure to err. Surprisingly, just as paper brought informtion to the masses, now the internet made present through cell phones is bringing informtion to the lowest empowered people on the financial rung. Wonder how this will change society.

I also find the part about the abrogans to be very intriguing. Thanks for sharing:)

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author avatar 女性用媚薬
30th Sep 2017 (#)



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14th Feb 2020 (#)

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