Jerome (ca. 347-420 CE), while residing in Rome, wrote to Eustochium (ca. 384), a woman who had placed herself under his spiritual guidance. In the letter Jerome set out the proper motives for those who wished to enter into a life of virginity. Also included in the letter was a vivid description of the decadence of the city of Rome. Among many other sins of extravagance Jerome mentions a curious trend of the Christians of Rome;
"Parchments are dyed purple, gold is melted into lettering, manuscripts are decked with jewels, while Christ lies at the door naked and dying." (Epist. 22; NPNF2 6:36)In his Prologue to Job, Jerome wrote that he had worked hard at translating Job from Hebrew and Greek into Latin. In this prologue he described the horrid textual state of the Latin manuscripts of Job. Apparently responding to those who criticized his efforts, he wrote
"Let those who will keep the old books with their gold and silver letters on purple skins, or, to follow the ordinary phrase, in “uncial characters,” loads of writing rather than manuscripts, if only they will leave for me and mine, our poor pages and copies which are less remarkable for beauty than for accuracy."(NPNF2 6:492)It seems that there where those who only cared about the beauty and craftsmanship of their manuscripts and not the accuracy of the text of the Bible that they contained. Christians also cared more about the appearance of piety, spending their money on lavish copies of the gospels, rather than on the furtherance of the gospel, or on the poor and needy.
What is particularly interesting is that a "relatively high proportion of early Latin gospel books are written on purple parchment" (Houghton, p. 187). One in particular, Codex Palatinus, dates to the 4th-or 5th century (during the life-time of Jerome) and is written on purple dyed parchment with gold and silver lettering. Judging by the manuscript evidence, it seems that Jerome's criticisms were no exaggeration.
H. A. G. Houghton, "The Latin New Testament: A Guide to its Early History, Texts, and Manuscripts" (Oxford: OUP, 2016).