Hand Manuscript and the Old Days

In my high school years, I used to play around with manuscript and calligraphy pens. I was experimenting with arranging for the band and small ensembles and I knew that if I didn't write out the music in a readable fashion, the musicians would never Vellumtake my arrangement very seriously. These were the days before the music writing software so it was a tedious job to write out scores and parts. Of course, the first drafts were done in pencil but if I were really serious about reproducing official copies of my music, I had to write with ink on vellum, a very thin paper made from cotton.
Vellum used to be made from calf skin or other animal hides and some places still use that. As you can see by the photo on the left, vellum was translucent and the staff lines were permanently printed on the back. I would write the music on the other side with pencil first and make sure everything was spaced correctly. The more complex the piece, the harder it was to plan this out. After sketching the measures out, I would then take a calligraphy pen with the appropriate size nib and and start tracing the pencil marks. If I made a mistake, I would have to take a single-edged razor blade and scrape it off the vellum. Thank goodness we have computers and music writing software today!
You might have noticed some unusual music notation on this photo example. This is from a piece written back in my graduate days and it has an interesting story to it. Click here for more information about "Portals for Solo Oboe".
Pen separator