The kalamos (from Gr. κάλαμος, pl. κάλαμοι kalamoi; lat. calamus, pl. calami) is a writing tube made of reeds that was used throughout antiquity.
The writing tube (camulus) was used by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. It consists of a tube with a flattened tip. As with the quill, the writing tube was dipped with its tip is ink and could be used as a result for writing for a few words of writing.
Depending on how thick a stroke was to be, the tip of the camulus was tilted slightly to one side.
Among the oldest known specimens is a bronze calamus found together with a papyrus scroll in a 5th century BC tomb in Attica (Greece). The use of bird feathers as writing implements is not mentioned in literature in antiquity before the 6th century AD.
The usual writing instrument in the Middle Ages was the goose quill, also called quill pen. Only 4 large wing feathers could be taken per goose. The feather plumes were plucked out and the tip of the feather was put into hot sand to harden. After that, the tip of the feather could be cut to size.
Goose quills or quills as writing nibs are the oldest precursors of the fountain pen. Since mostly feathers from geese were used, they are often called goose quill or (older) gander quill. If you want to try to write with a quill today, you should make sure that left-handed people buy the quills of the right wing and right-handed people buy the quills of the left wing. The reason for this is the anatomical design and the resulting handiness of the quill. For writing, the disturbing feathering of the keel was usually removed.
Medieval scribes also made mistakes. What did they do then?
The surface of the parchment was rubbed off with a pumice stone at the points of error. Then the spot was whitened (lightened) with chalk or sepia dust and polished with a pig's tooth until it was smooth again. Now one could repair one's scribal error.
Fortunately for today's scientists - unfortunately for those who knew how to write at that time - the original text can often still be read in the backlight or by photographic methods, which can be a real treasure trove for today's research.
The common writing material in the early and high Middle Ages was parchment - that is, the tanned, whitened and thinly polished skin of animals. Older codices could also be made of papyrus - a pulp made from a reed fiber.
In principle, all animal skins could be made into parchment, but cattle and sheep were preferred. Very fine parchment could be obtained from the skin of unborn lambs, since these had no injuries. Of course, lamb and dam had to die for this high-quality writing material.
Paper did not gain momentum on the continent north of the Alps until the advent of letterpress printing (Gutenberg) - which required larger quantities of writing material due to its higher print runs. It was already known in the High Middle Ages, but was rarely used.
Our own experiments with handmade paper have shown that writing with a goose quill is relatively difficult due to the uneven texture and softness and often leads to ink stains, as the quill gets stuck in the material.