Anyone lost a pen? National Archives conservators find QUILL with ink still in its nib inside the pages of 16th Century document dating from reign of Queen Elizabeth I
- Quill was discovered in document at the National Archives in Kew, West London
- Experts had been carrying out repair work on the draft land lease agreement
- The quill was spotted lying horizontally inside the document’s pages
A quill with ink still its nib has been found in between the pages of an official document dating from the rule of Queen Elizabeth I.
The writing implement was discovered by conservators when they were carrying out repair work on the manuscript, a draft land lease agreement, at the National Archives’ headquarters in Kew, West London, yesterday.
Incredible images show the quill – its feathers flattened after centuries stuck in the document – lying horizontally on one of the pages of the 16th century document.
Senior conservation manager Natalie Brown told MailOnline: ‘You hear about these things getting found but I’ve been working at the Archives for two years and this is the first time we have found something like this in a document.’
Queen Elizabeth I was the daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn. She ruled from 1558 until her death in 1603.
A quill with ink still its nib has been found in between the pages of an official document dating from the rule of Queen Elizabeth I
The writing implement was discovered by conservators when they were carrying out repair work on the manuscript, a draft Crown Lease, at the National Archives’ headquarters in Kew, West London, yesterday
Ms Brown’s team had been working on the document to ensure it could be handled in the reading rooms at Kew without getting damaged when the quill was found.
Her colleague, associate conservator Maurice Ronan, was the first person to spot the quill.
‘As soon as my colleague found it we all went over and took pictures,’ Ms Brown said.
‘We speculated about why it was there. That maybe it was left on purpose as a bookmark or maybe they had just lost their quill.
‘It was just a really nice surprise because it really brings home why we work with these documents.
‘It was a very personal side to government documents that you don’t get to see every day.’
A land lease was a contract granting a tenant use of land owned by the Crown in return for annual rent.
Ms Brown said the document was likely a proof copy that would have been checked over by senior clerks before being issued.
Queen Elizabeth I was the daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn. She ruled from 1558 until her death in 1603
The astonished team, led by senior conservation manager Natalie Brown, were leafing through the pages of intricate 16th century handwriting when the quill – complete with feathers – was spotted. The quill has left an ident on the page opposite to where it was lying
The find first came to light yesterday via a series of tweets from the National Archives’ official Twitter account
The conservators were using what is known as a smoke sponge – named after the sponges once used by firefighters to remove soot – to wipe away dirt on the document.
It also had a lot of tears which were being repaired so researchers can handle the document safely in future.
Ms Brown said the quill will now be kept with the document because – even though it may have been left inside it by mistake – it is ‘now part of its history’.
A small box has been prepared for the quill to lie inside. It will then accompany the land lease document when researchers view it.
The find first came to light yesterday via a series of tweets from the National Archives official Twitter account.
Above the stunning images of the discovery, one tweet read: ‘The conservation team have been working on this document, carrying out a few repairs to ensure it can be handled safely in our reading rooms.
The National Archives said on Twitter that the quill will remain with the document because it is now part of its history. It has been placed in a small box (top left) which will accompany it when researchers look at the document
‘Conservators are basically the magicians of the archive world.
‘In the process of working their magic, conducting their repairs, and turning the pages, they stumbled across this [Something in the image below is a little unexpected.’
They then went on to jokingly challenge Twitter users to spot the unexpected find in one of the images of the document.
They then added: ‘Much to the conversation team’s amazement the record contained this quill!
‘We suspect this quill has been hiding / lost in amongst these records for quite some time. As you can see, it’s left quite the indentation on the opposite page!’
The tweets also revealed that the quill still contained ink in its tip. They then jokingly asked: ‘We wonder how long that poor scribe spent looking for his lost quill?’
Carrying on the scenario, they suggested how one scribe may have asked another where he had put his quill, before denying that he could ‘left it in the parchment’.
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