Children’s university: a book for half a million euros

Children's university: a book for half a million euros

Maria wustenhagen told a tale. King artus and his wife guinevere, the wizard merlin and the round table. And from a giant who simply destroys everything. Although this story seems familiar, there is something wrong with it: what is the giant doing there?? And why does the story just stop like that?? What about the end?

The almost 100 children at the first lecture of the bamberg children's university this semester were allowed to come up with their own ideas. They tell the story, each child in his or her own version. Just like the storytellers did in the middle ages. Only very few people could write at that time, monks for example.

German lessons with really old books
What they wrote on, explains maria wustenhagen's colleague andrea schindler. She is a professor of germanic mediavistics. "It's a bit like teaching german at school", she says about her subject. "But the stories and books we deal with are very old." They come from a time when there was no real paper at all. If the monks wanted to write down a story, they had to use parchment. Andrea schindler passes around a few sheets of parchment paper so that every child can get a feel for what it's all about.

"That's pretty rough", says sandrina (8). She came to the children's university with her brother leonhard (10) from scheblitz. "Somehow it feels fake", finds mia (9) from bamberg. "Not at all like real paper."
"Parchment is made from animal skin", says andrea schindler. It was very hard to produce. "All the animal remains had to be scraped off the skin with great care." The finished parchment was very dark and rubbed easily when worked on. But it has a decisive advantage over paper: even after 800 years, you can still easily read what the monks wrote on it in the middle ages. "It doesn't yellow and doesn't turn brown", says schindler.

Decorated with gold and diamonds
"Back then, people didn't just write everything down, it was far too expensive and time-consuming", says andrea schindler. Only very important things, for example religious writings, were noted down. The more important the content of a book was, the more carefully and valuably it was usually decorated. The binding of some books was coated with gold leaf or even small pieces of gold, and many precious stones were set in between. A boy wanted to know how much a book weighs. "Certainly more than you", says andrea schindler.

So a book was quite rare in the middle ages. You could not just walk into a bookstore and buy one. No, books were commissioned. "It could take a whole year to finish a thick book", told by andrea schindler. The monks sat in their writing room, the scriptorium, and wrote all day long. Everything had to be neat and tidy, which made them work very hard. "If they made a mistake, they couldn't just take the ink killer. They had to write the whole page again." That's why books were very expensive and only a few could afford one. Most of the time they were commissioned by nobles, who had enough money.

If you want to buy such a book today, you have to dig deep into your pocket: a book from the middle ages decorated with gold and precious stones is worth up to half a million, the professor estimates.


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