Quill pens are writing instruments
made from the feathers
of large birds (think turkeys
). The shaft of the feather was tempered
with heat to make it strong. The fluffy part of the feather is then stripped off, in order to clear a place for the hand to write with. Finally, a nib
is fashioned from the tip with a knife
Writing with a quill pen is the same as its successor, the dip pen: dip pen in ink, write until you run out, then repeat. As the nib wore down, a new one could be cut further up the shaft.
Up until the nineteenth century, this was perhaps the most common way of marking paper (or parchment). The metal nib of the dip pen proved to last significantly longer, and displaced the quill.