In the Middle Ages, from about the 400's to the 1400's, art was produced mainly to glorify God and to teach religion. Painting and drawing merged in the illustration of Bibles and prayer books produced by monks. These beautifully decorated manuscripts were hand-lettered on vellum (calfskin), or later, on paper. Those made for royalty contained miniature paintings ornamented with gold. Those made for less wealthy persons were decorated with pen-and-ink drawings. The flat, linear forms often resembled the ornamental patterns made by metalworkers.
Drawings were used in the preparatory stages of a work of art during the Middle Ages, but few survive. Paper was not made in Europe until the 1100's, and at first it was expensive and difficult to obtain. Artists sometimes drew on prepared animal skins such as parchment or vellum. But these were also expensive. For centuries, artists made their preparatory drawings on tablets made of slate, wood, or wax. These tablets were thrown away or reused. Some painters made their preparatory drawings directly on the panel or wall that was to be painted. These were covered in the final stage of painting.
Drawings had another important function during the Middle Ages. They helped artists keep a record of images they frequently used. Pen-and-ink drawings of the human figure, costumes, plants and animals, and many other forms were collected in model books. Artists then copied the drawings instead of working directly from live models or from nature.