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Pricking and Ruling

As medieval codices were often very complex and elaborate works of art, it was necessary for scribes and their assistants to carefully plan the layout of each page before they began their work. Scribes therefore turned to a practice of pricking and ruling to ensure that each line of text was properly located to create a beautiful and coherent finished product. Pricking and ruling allowed scribes to create an organized template for their text before they began to write. Scribes completed this task by puncturing the parchment in designated locations and drawing lines, either with a pencil or with a blunt object, to demarcate the locations of the lines and columns. The scribes then made small holes on the edges of the parchment with sharp tool at carefully measured intervals so that the markings would be carried through onto subsequent pages. Should the scribe choose to create lines through dry ruling, the lines would carry through onto each page of the codex, though if they used a pencil they would be required to mark each page individually.

Below is a template for pricking and ruling. The upper and lower margins can be made slightly larger if that is your desired aesthetic. Additionally, horizontal lines can be spaced everywhere from 1/4 of an inch to 1/2 of an inch based on the size of the writing.



Bagnall, Roger S. The Oxford Handbook of Papyrology. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.

Clemens, Raymond, and Timothy Graham. Introduction to Manuscript Studies. Ithaca: Cornel UP, 2007. Print.

"Pricking and Ruling." Oxford Reference. Oxford Reference, n.d. Web. 12 May 2016.

"Pricking and Ruling Patterns." Stanford Online Lagunita. Stanford University, Web. 17 May 2016.

"Pricking and Ruling." Nota Quadrata. University of Toronto, Web. 13 May 2016.

Roberts, Colin H., and T. C. Skeat. The Birth of the Codex. London: British Academy by the Oxford UP, 1983. Print.

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  1. Pingback: Pen to Parchment: National Handwriting Day – Circulating Now from NLM

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