Constructive parchment destruction in medieval manuscripts | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 7, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2042-8022
  • E-ISSN: 2042-8030



This article argues that in the fifteenth century, many manuscripts were physically recycled, and that this recycling is symptomatic of interest in sustaining books. In the case studies explored here, unwanted or old texts became valued for the physical qualities of the parchment on which they were written. Case studies of recycled manuscripts, including flyleaves, pastedowns, limp covers and palimpsests, are presented to argue that many books were made (and re-made) in sustainable ways. Although recycled books, and bits of books, have been mentioned fleetingly by many scholars, and studied as treasures or for the scraps of text they preserve, this article focuses particularly on the practices and processes of medieval book recycling. Research into recycled books thus adds to the history of material culture, to the history of the book, and to debates about the sustainability and durability of media today: we can learn from the practices and processes of the past.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): fragments; manuscripts; materiality; medieval; recycling; sustainability
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