It’s something I’ve heard too often – if you’re filmed handling manuscripts, wear gloves. Otherwise, the broadcaster receives hundreds of letters from the concerned public complaining about the cavalier treatment of national treasures.
So let me just put this out there once and for all: researchers do not, and should not, wear gloves while handling vellum or parchment manuscripts.Vellum and parchment are treated sheep or calf skins, and are the material in most medieval manuscripts. The oil from your fingers is therefore actually good for the pages, and keeps them moisturised and supple. Gloves, on the other hand, make it impossible to feel the pages you’re handling, making it more likely that you will accidentally tear or crease them, or otherwise damage the codex.
So next time you see a scholar on TV handling a medieval manuscript with bare hands, trust that he knows what he’s doing!