We’ve added even more classes this year! Here is the most recent list of classes for the event this weekend. As always, a full list of classes with descriptions will be available on our website, www.angelskeep.net.
Hoping to see lots of you on March 17, 2018!
All classes are one hour long unless otherwise noted.
Understanding tournament trees – Baroness Ekatarina Volkvolva
Parchment 101 – THL Abigail Kelhoge (2 hours)
WWDD – What Would Durer Do? An Intro to Fine Line Pen Work – Lady Gillian McGill
WWDD Studio – Lady Gillian McGill
Chain Stitch Bookbinding: How to Make a Simple Book – Lady Ulfgrimma Tannadottir
At a Loss for Words – Baroness Ekaterina Volkvolva
Faux Fonts and the Technique of Their Development – Master Jon Blaecston
Making a Quill Pen – THL Robert l’Etourdi 2 Hours
Demystifying the Ames Lettering Guide, or How to Line a Scroll the Easy Way – THL Juliana Stafford
A Beginner’s Introduction to the Swetnam Style of Fence – Don Michael Gladwyne
Building Better Scroll Blanks – THL Abigail Kelhoge
Many SCA members have scrolls that were given to them when they received awards from their Baron or Crown, or when they won a competition. But how much do you know about the work that went into making that scroll? It’s probably more time-consuming, costly, and complex than you think.
To give concrete examples, I will use the Master of Defense scroll I did for Maestro Orlando di Bene del Vinta last spring, with thanks to Maestro Orlando for giving his permission for the use of images of his scroll.
The first step is when a scribe receives an email from the Kingdom Signet offering him or her the scroll assignment. For confidentiality purposes, the Signet usually doesn’t tell the scribe who the award is for at first; she asks if the scribe is willing to take an assignment, and may give them a general category of assignments available. For example, not long ago I volunteered to take an assignment for a local event, and then was asked which of several awards I wanted to do. I was not given recipient names, just the types of awards – Fleur, Sycamore, Cornelian, etc. Scribes will sometimes ask the Signet to assign them scrolls for their special friends, or if the Signet knows about relationships the scribe has with recipients, they may get assigned those scrolls, but it’s just as common for the scribe to know nothing about the person for whom they’re crafting the scroll. Once the scribe accepts the assignment, they are provided with the recipient’s name, the award, the reason it’s being given, and any other details the Crown has provided or the Signet has available.
Experienced scribes who know multiple styles of illumination and calligraphy will usually try to match the scroll’s time and place to the recipient. This involves leafing through books or scouring websites for suitable manuscripts until the scribe finds the design that appeals to him or her and is best suited to the recipient. This can take several hours or even days; sometimes scribes will fall down a rabbit hole looking for the best fit, or just get caught up in the wonder of all the beautiful manuscripts out there.
Some scrolls, usually peerages or backlogs, may involve discussions with the recipient since the award isn’t a surprise once the award or a Writ is given. When I did the Knighthood scrolls for Sir Byron and Sir Ariella, I asked about their general preferences, sent them links to multiple manuscript pages that matched their requests, and let them choose the design they preferred. Some people still prefer to be surprised, of course, but I really prefer to make sure I’m doing something that the recipient will like. Negotiations with the recipient for these scrolls can take days or weeks.
The manuscript pages below are just three of the 16 options that I provided to then-Don Orlando for his consideration, based on his preference for 16th century Italian. He chose the third one, from the Rangoni Bentivoglio Book of Hours, which was created around 1505 in Bologna, Italy.
The next step is for the artist to gather the supplies and equipment needed to create the scroll. Depending on the level of award, the scribe’s finances, his or her relationship with the recipient, and other factors, the scribe could choose any of multiple media. Even assuming the scroll is the traditional paint on paper style (as opposed to wood or rock carving, embroidery, engraving, stained glass, or other less-typical media), the scribe needs to select whether to use watercolor paper, Pergamenata (a type of vegetable parchment that mimics vellum), or the much more expensive parchment made from goat, sheep, or calfskin. Some artists grind their own pigments while others use gouache from a tube (and many do both, depending on the scroll and their time constraints). The scribe might use gold paint or 24-karat gold leaf. Using the most expensive materials, a single scroll on vellum with gold leaf can cost the scribe as much as $100. Even for scribes using plain paper and paints, the investment in supplies can be substantial as a typical scribal toolbox contains $50 to $100 worth of paints and equipment. While scribes have sometimes received donations, most of the time they bear the entire cost of making the scroll.
For Maestro Orlando’s scroll, since it was not only a peerage scroll but also the second Master of Defense scroll to be given in Æthelmearc, I wanted it to be special, so I scoured the Internet and found some lovely goatskin parchment for only $40 through Guild Mirandola. I already had gold leaf, walnut hull ink, and period pigments, so I decided I would use only period materials for the scroll. The picture below shows just a few of the tools and supplies I used: gold leaf, a tumble-polished amethyst burnishing stone, period paints I had previously ground and stored in small plastic containers, brushes, pen holders and nibs, and a small bottle containing the walnut hull ink.
It took about 10 days for the parchment to arrive, and when it did, I was dismayed to receive it rolled in a tube. So I had to press it under layers of many books in a humid area for several days to get it to lie flat, then taped it to a heavy cardboard backing.
Now the scribe is ready to begin working on the design of the illumination. Different scribes have different ways of doing this. Some scribes will place a printout of the original inspiration page on a light table under the scroll paper and trace all or part of the design, while others will sketch freehand. Many will do some combination of the two. Sometimes, a scribe will not directly copy a single page from a manuscript but instead pull elements from multiple pages of the manuscript or even multiple manuscripts of the same style to create a completely new design. Even when a design is a close replica of its inspiration, it usually needs to be modified to incorporate things like order badges and recipients’ arms. Depending on the complexity of the design, and whether the scribe is tracing or drawing freehand, sketching can take anywhere from an hour or two to several days.
When I could finally begin sketching, I starting by ruling off the dimensions of the finished scroll since the parchment was an irregular size, and marking the major blocks of the design in pencil. Like most scribes, I always make sure the finished scroll fits in a standard sized frame to reduce framing costs for the recipient.
Then I could begin sketching all of the elements of the illumination. This took several days since I was sketching freehand. Also, I needed to adapt the design to incorporate the badge of the Order of Defense and the badge of the Kingdom, as well as Don Orlando’s arms. Here’s the final sketched version.
Once the sketch is complete, most artists will go over the pencil lines with ink. Some use modern tech pens while others may use very thin metal dip pens called “crowquills.” This cleans up the design and clarifies it for the artist. After the ink dries, the pencil lines are erased. Again, depending on the complexity of the design, inking can take a few minutes or a few hours.
Here’s Don Orlando’s scroll inked.
Most scribes calligraph (or write the words of the scroll) before painting the illumination. This is done in case a serious error or “typo” turns out to be unfixable, in which case if the artist has to start over, not too much time is lost. Minor errors can usually be fixed, but sometimes a really major issue can make the scroll irreparable. Calligraphic errors have, alas, existed from the start of the written word; medievals even had a “patron demon” of typos, named Titivillus! So, doing the calligraphy first ensures that serious errors don’t result in throwing away a completed painting.
Of course, before doing the calligraphy, the scribe must have a wording. In Æthelmearc we have a lot of leeway to write creative scroll texts, and there are guidelines available on the Kingdom Scribal website as to the required elements. Some scribes are good with writing texts, but others are more comfortable having someone else “wordsmith” the scroll text. That can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few days.
The amount of time it takes to calligraph a scroll is highly variable, based not just on the length of the text but also the scribe’s familiarity with the hand. I always do a test run on tracing paper before putting pen to the real scroll, mostly to make sure the words will fit and fill the page in a pleasing way, and that the calligraphy is the right height proportional to the border. That means I do the entire text twice for every scroll. However, if the hand is one I’ve never done before, I might need a couple of days of practice to get it to the point where I’m confident I will do it well, and only then can I begin doing the test version. Before calligraphing, the scribe needs to either rule guidelines in pencil or place the scroll on a light table with guidelines behind it to ensure that the text is straight and the letter heights are consistent. After the calligraphy is dry, any penciled guidelines are erased. A typical scroll for which I already know the hand will take me one to two hours to calligraph, including the test run and then the actual scroll.
If the scroll is going to have real gold leaf on it, applying it must be the next step. Gold will stick to many paints, so you don’t want to paint the scroll until the gold is done. Gold leaf is attached to the page by painting an adhesive known as gesso, or size, to the areas to be gilded. The gesso is left to dry for at least an hour; more typically for several hours or a day, depending on the humidity. Humid weather can prevent gesso from drying at all, which can seriously delay the scribe; dry weather can prevent the gold from adhering to the gesso. I once had a peerage scroll whose gesso refused to dry for an entire week during an especially hot and sticky summer, and I had to resort to taking the scroll someplace where there was air conditioning! Once the gesso is set, the artist cuts the gold leaf to the size of each section of illumination, breathes on the gesso to rehydrate it slightly, and applies the leaf one section at a time, rubbing it gently to make sure it adheres properly. After it’s affixed, the scribe uses a soft brush to remove excess gold. It’s often necessary to apply multiple layers of gold to achieve full coverage. After the gold has set, typically at least overnight, the scribe then uses a polishing stone called a burnisher to buff the gold so it both adheres fully and also shines up nicely. The scribe must also clean up the edges of the gilding, since excess gold will make the illumination look ragged. I usually use an Exacto blade to scrape excess gold from around the edges of the illumination. Again, depending on the complexity of the design and how cooperative the weather is, gilding can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a week or more.
Given that it’s done with real gold, it’s no surprise that gilding is expensive. Each sheet is hammered very thin but, hey, it’s still gold. A book of 25 sheets of loose leaf gold, with each sheet being 3-3/8″ square, runs $50 to $60 plus shipping, so that’s about $2.25 per sheet. Not too bad if you don’t use too much of it. Don Orlando’s scroll took about three sheets of gold leaf.
I forgot to take a photo of just the calligraphy, but this one shows the calligraphy complete and the gilding in process. The pink portions have been painted with gesso but the gold has not been applied to those sections yet. Notice that gold has been applied to the middle section but has not been cleaned up yet. Overall, the gold looks very uneven and messy, but that will be fixed by adding more layers of gold and then scraping the edges to straighten up the lines.
Once gilding is complete, the scribe is finally ready to paint the scroll. If they already have paints available, they can start painting right away, but scribes who use period pigments may need to grind fresh paint. This typically involves taking powdered pigment and mixing it with water and a binding agent like egg yolk for tempera, glair (egg white), or gum arabic, and then using a glass or stone implement to grind the powder finer while incorporating the liquid into it. Some people use a mortar and pestle, others use a tool called a muller and grind their pigment on a flat ceramic, glass, or marble tile. The amount of grinding required varies significantly depending on the material from which the pigment is made. Vegetable-based pigments grind quickly, soft stones a little more slowly, and harder minerals take the longest time. Some pigments change color as you grind, requiring the artist to check the pigment periodically while grinding to verify that the appropriate color has been achieved.
Painting the scroll is usually a multi-layer process. For most designs, a base coat is applied to the larger areas of the scroll, and then different tints may be applied on top of that, especially if the artist is attempting to achieve a three-dimensional effect. Sometimes paints must be mixed to achieve exactly the right shade for a face or a flower. Limning is the art of shading figures and objects by using a fine hatchwork of brushstrokes. Another technique common to 13th and 14th century French and English manuscripts is called whitework, in which abstract squiggly lines are applied with white (or sometimes yellow) paint on borders or capital letters using a very fine brush. Both of these techniques require a delicate touch and great patience to achieve good results.
Again, depending on the complexity and size of the design, painting can take a few hours or multiple weeks.
Don Orlando’s scroll was painted using only a few colors in period pigments like malachite, cinnabar, yellow ochre, and Naples yellow. Although the original scroll was primarily burgundy red and slate blue, I modified it to green and yellow since those are his armorial colors. First I did the underpainting of the base colors, then added the highlights and lowlights to make the vines and animals seem more three-dimensional. In the left-hand picture, you can see the underpainting in progress, while in the right-hand picture, highlights and lowlights have been added.
Not all scribes go back over their painted scroll with ink to re-outline the objects, and it’s not always appropriate depending on the design. But it’s usually helpful to neaten up the edges of the design with ink after the painting is complete, because even really skilled artists aren’t perfect at “coloring between the lines.”
For Don Orlando’s scroll, not all sections were re-inked because the original inspiration page did not have outlining around the leaves and birds, but the gold border, armory, and some other elements were re-inked for clarity and neatness. Here’s the finished scroll, all cleaned up.
Oh, and scribes who are being kind to the heralds will also type up a “cheat sheet” with the scroll text and affix it to the back of the scroll, so the herald can more easily read it aloud in Court.
You’d think we’re done now, right? Not quite….
Transport and delivery
Finally, the scribe is responsible for making sure the scroll is delivered to the event where the Royalty plan to give the award. If the scribe is going to the event, this is pretty easy – when he or she arrives, the scribe finds the Signet officer of the day, or the Court Herald, and drops off the scroll. But if the scribe is not going to the event, he or she must either find someone to transport the scroll, or mail it to the Crown well ahead of the event to ensure that it arrives in time. Again, the expense of mailing the scroll is usually borne by the scribe. If the scroll is large or needs to be sent overnight, mailing it can cost as much as $15, and of course the scribe also has to acquire an appropriate container to mail it in.
I was fortunate that this scroll was given at Æthelmearc War Practice, which I was planning to attend anyway, so I didn’t need to mail the scroll. However, given that the forecast was for rain and it was a camping event, I took the precaution of purchasing a frame to protect the scroll from the weather and keeping it in a waterproof case.
Totaling it all up
So, now that you know what’s involved in making a scroll, let’s look at the time and money required of the volunteer who has made this lovely piece of original artwork, customized just for you:
1 – 5 hours
0 (unless you count the cost of the books the scribe has bought…)
½ – 3 hours
$5 to $100
1 – 12 hours
1 – 5 hours
1 – 3 hours
Gilding (if applicable)
3 – 30 hours
0 – $40
5 – 100 hours
0 – $20
1 – 3 hours
Transport and delivery
0 – $15
10.5 to 161 hours
$5 to $175
Let’s use the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ mean hourly rate for fine artists, which is just over $24/hr. A fairly simple scroll at the lowest end of time commitment as listed above (10.5 hours) would then cost over $250 just in labor. A 100-hour scroll would cost $2,400, again, just in labor. (Thanks to Meesteress Odriana vander Brugghe for those figures).
I didn’t track the number of hours I spent on Maestro Orlando’s scroll, but I’d guess it was probably in the 50- to 75-hour range. Many years ago, I did a very large and extremely complex Knighthood scroll for a dear friend and gave up trying to track my hours about 3/4 of the way through when I was well past the 100-hour mark.
Caring for scrolls
It should go without saying that scrolls need be protected from water and dirt. We are fortunate in Æthelmearc that most of us receive a scroll case from the Signet right there in court after receiving our scroll, but that scroll case should be returned once your scroll makes it home so it can be used at another Court. Of course, you really want to frame your scroll and put it on the wall, right?
For scrolls with gold leaf on them, it’s important to keep the gilding from coming in contact with paper or other objects to which it might stick. One way to do that for unframed scrolls is to place a sheet of glassine over the scroll. Glassine is the glossy paper in which sheets of stamps are sold, so if you go to the post office and buy a sheet of stamps for sending holiday cards, save that glassine sleeve! When you do frame scrolls with gilding, make sure there’s a mat to keep the scroll away from the glass of the frame.
Forget what you’ve seen in the movies – scrolls should never be rolled or (heaven help us) folded. They should be stored flat until they can be framed. Rolling can cause the paint to flake off or severely damage the paper or parchment. Keep them in a dry place, because moisture can also damage the paints or any gold leaf.
Once your scroll is framed and ready to hang, it’s a good idea to put it on a wall that doesn’t get much sunlight. Many paints and inks are not lightfast; my Award of Arms scroll from 1979 is so faded that it’s almost illegible.
Why be a scribe?
After learning all this, you may be wondering why anyone would want to be a scribe! If each scroll takes so much time and potentially costs that much money, why would anyone want to make them?
The answer varies from scribe to scribe, but generally you will find that the scribes of the SCA love doing their art and see their work as a service to the Society. They also enjoy seeing the expressions on the faces of the recipients when they behold their scrolls for the first time.
Sadly, it’s rare that a scribe receives so much as a spoken thank you. In 38 years as a scribe, creating at least 1,000 scrolls, I have been pleased to receive a few thank you cards and emails, and even a couple of small gifts from scroll recipients. So, next time you receive an award scroll, remember that it’s a gift of time and cash as well as beauty from the scribe, and let them know how much you appreciate their work!
Personally, I was delighted and honored to do Maestro Orlando’s scroll for him. He and I had been friends for several years, and I have long admired him as both a fencer and a leader on the rapier field, so I was thrilled when he received his Writ. I was also pleased to have the chance to craft a scroll for a shiny new peerage order – such a rare opportunity comes only once in a lifetime.
Questions? Contact me at ariannawyn (at) gmail.com, talk to your local scribe, or email the Kingdom Signet if you are interested in becoming a scribe.
Mistress Arianna of Wynthrope reports on the Pennsic Arts & Sciences War Point.
This Pennsic included a War Point for Arts and Sciences for only the second time in the history of the War. The first time an Arts & Sciences competition was a Pennsic War Point was 20 years ago, in the first reign of Timothy and Gabrielle as King and Queen of the East. Their Majesties and the entrants all hope we won’t have to wait so long for it to happen again after the success of this year’s competition.
Each side chose 14 champions (plus alternates) to represent them, with none being Laurels. The entrants displayed their items on Wednesday of War Week in Æthelmearc’s Royal Encampment. All items had to be anonymous as to both creator and kingdom. Gentles from all the Kingdoms of the Known World were invited to view the entries, and those with Arts and Sciences awards from their Kingdom were given three beads to bestow on the entries they liked best, either all to one entry or distributed among multiple entries. Judging took place from 9am to 3pm, and then the artisans were encouraged to return to stand by their entries and answer any questions that visitors might pose from 3 to 5 pm.
We proudly present an overview of the entries created by Æthelmearc’s Arts and Sciences Champions.
Lady Máirghréad Stíobhard inghean uí Choinne of the Barony of Thescorre entered a calligraphed and illuminated page of music for the motet “Deus in Aujitorium” based on a folio from the Montpellier Code, a significant source of 13th and 14th century French polyphonic musical manuscripts. In her documentation, she discussed how she prepared the goatskin parchment, made quill pens, bought inks and paints made using medieval recipes, and gilded the piece with 24K loose leaf gold. You can read more about her entry here under the link “Preparing a Late Period Medieval Music Manuscript: Deus in Aujitorium.”
Scroll by Lady Máirghréad Stíobhard inghean uí Choinne. Photo by Mistress Rowena ni Dhonnchaidh.
Closeup of Lady Máirghréad’s scroll. Photo by Mistress Arianna of Wynthrope.
THLady Álfrún ketta of the Shire of Sylvan Glen, who received the Fleur d’Æthelmearc at Kingdom Court the night before the competition, had an extensive collection of weaving samples based on finds from a variety of archaeological sites in Scandinavia. In a binder, she displayed numerous pages of photos of the period cloth on the left, with explanations about how each piece was made, along with a sample woven to match the original artifact on the right side. She also displayed larger samples of her weaving along with information about wool production (and the evolution of the Northern European sheep) as well as how wool was processed and used in period. You can read more about her entry on her website.
Viking weaving by THLady Álfrún ketta. Photo by Mistress Rowena ni Dhonnchaidh.
THLady Renata la rouge of the Shire of Hartstone (formerly of Heronter) embroidered a 16th century sword hanger with a Pelican motif in metallic threads. It was originally inspired by a Swedish sword hanger from the reign of Gustavus Adolphus, 1594-1632, which is housed in the Collections of the Royal Armouries, Sweden, but the design is loosely based on a goldwork book cover from Cambridge, 1629, which includes a Pelican. The embroidery is of a raised nature, but the stitches are satin stitch and surface couching. You can read more about THL Renata’s entry here.
Metallic embroidered sword hanger by THLady Renata la rouge. Photo by Mistress Rowena ni Dhonnchaidh.
Lady Abigail Kelhoge of the Shire of Hartstone created a breeching gown, which was worn by both girls and boys during their toddler years throughout the High Middle Ages and Renaissance. It allowed them to walk and made diaper changing easier. The hand-sewn outfit included a biggin (white linen cap), a blackwork linen shirt with ruffles on the cuffs and collar, a long coat or petticoat with buttons down the front, and a long gown with hanging sleeves, fur-lined for warmth. More information about her entry is available on her website.
A child’s breeching gown by Lady Abigail Kelhoge. Photo by Mistress Rowena ni Dhonnchaidh.
Baron Artemius Andreas Magnus of the Barony of Delftwood created a stained glass panel based on a German piece at the Cloisters in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC that dates to 1260-1270. Measuring 9-1/16″ square, it’s an image of the Prophet King from a Tree of Jesse window. His Excellency spoke to a curator at the museum about the piece, in the process helping him to correct some errors in the information posted about it online. He made most of the lead cames by hand until his mold broke, then also made the stain for the details on the king’s face as well as the solder for the project, both using period recipes and techniques. You can read His Excellency’s documentation for the project here and here.
Stained glass by Baron Artemius Andreas Magnus. Photo by Mistress Rowena ni Dhonnchaidh.
Closeup of Baron Artemius’ stained glass. Photo by Mistress Arianna of Wynthrope.
Duke Christopher Rawlins of the Barony-Marche of the Debatable Lands, who was elevated to the Laurel the day after the competition, entered a 14th century arming jacket based on the one worn by Edward, the Black Prince, of England. His Grace visited the site of the Prince’s tomb in Canterbury and did extensive research into how the arming jacket was constructed. Then, through wearing multiple reproductions of it while fighting, Duke Christopher determined that it had to have been worn over the fighter’s arm harness rather than under it as is common among SCA fighters.
14th c. Arming Jacket by Duke Chrisopher Rawlins. Photo by Mistress Rowena ni Dhonnchaidh.
Lord Silvester Burchardt of the Shire of Abhainn Ciach Ghlais created a tablet woven brocaded band. According to Lord Silvester’s documentation, “Brocading is a technique that uses one or more secondary weft threads to create patterns on the surface of woven fabric. These additional weft threads are not a structural element of the fabric. Because the brocade threads bridge across the surface of the fabric, they need to be “tied down” to the fabric at various locations; these “tie down” points become an integral part of the design.” Rather than basing his design on a single exemplar, he chose to use a range of period pieces from central Europe in the 9th through 13th centuries as models, but designed the band to show his own animals (including chickens, ducks, a dog, and even a parakeet) as they actually appear in life. You can read more about his entry here.
Brocade tablet weaving by Lord Silvester Burchardt. Photo by Mistress Arianna of Wynthrope.
Lord Enzo de Pazi of the Barony of the Rhydderich Hael created an ornate bascinet for Duchess Eanor of Ealdormere, complete with ducal coronet and motto, chainmail aventail, and an elaborate faceplate. The helm is made of 4130 spring steel, commonly called “chromoly” in industrial terms. The motto was acid etched into the coronet, which was made of brass with cast bronze strawberry leaves.
Ducal Helmet by Lord Enzo de Pazi. Photo by Mistress Arianna of Wynthrope.
THLady Jacqueline deMolieres of the Shire of Abhain Ciach Ghlais created a red velvet pouch with pearls sewn in the shape of a rose. Her Ladyship says in her documenation, “If you were a lady in the late Medieval period, a red velvet pouch embellished with pearls would… communicate to the world that this is a lady of wealth and importance. This pouch is not a replica of a particular item, but rather is made up of elements of various items; i.e., drawstring, beads, pearl appliqué, gold couched outline, tassel, etc. The time frame is 1450 to 1600. The area would be anywhere in Europe, most likely England, France or Germany.” You can read more about her entry here.
Pearled pouch by THLady Jacqueline de Molieres. Photo by Mistress Rowena ni Donnchaidh.
THLord Ian O’Kennavain of the Shire of Heronter’s sugar soteltie was easily the largest entry in the competition. His Lordship noted, “I wanted to exhibit a few different ways to create sculpture from sugar, so the display is comprised of three main elements: a fountain of sugar paste, a 20 lb. turtle cast in “grained” sugar and a pear tree made from free-formed sugar paste over an armature of wire, printed sugar paste leaves and cast sugar plate pears.” The fountain’s design is based on one in Perugia, Italy called the Fontana Maggiore that was constructed between 1277 and 1278 by the sculptors Nicola Pisano and Giovanni Pisano. “Using this for inspiration, I crafted two octagonal basins depicting the arms of the 20 SCA Kingdoms and the 4 peerages topped with a column supported bowl shaped basin.” You can learn more about his entry here.
Sugar soteltie by THLord Ian O’Kennavain. Photo by Mistress Rowena ni Dhonnchaidh.
Closeup of THLord Ian’s rosewater fountain soteltie. Photo by Mistress Rowena ni Dhonnchaidh.
THLord Kieran MacRae of the Barony-Marche of the Debatable Lands designed an ornate calligraphed page based on folio 67 of the 16th century Mira Calligraphiae Monumenta. The capitals are created to function as an H, N, and R. There was no illumination as the entry focused on the calligraphy of the original artist, Georg Bocskay, imperial secretary to the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I. The scroll was a tiny 6.5″ x 4.75″ in size. To learn more, click here.
Calligraphy by THLord Kieran MacRae. Photo by Lord Kieran.
Closeup of THL Kieran’s scroll. Photo by THL Kieran.
Baroness Betha Symonds of the Barony-Marche of the Debatable Lands created wire wrapped hooks. These are based on items from archeological finds ranging from Viking age to Tudor English. These hooks could have been used for a variety of purposes; one set was found near the legs in a Viking burial, leading scholars to believe they might have been used to fasten wrapped leggings. You can read Her Excellency’s documentation here.
Viking wire weaving clasps by Baroness Betha Symonds. Photo by Mistress Rowena ni Dhonnchaidh.
Viscountess Rosalinde Ashworthe created a piece of tablet-woven trim based on a band found among the relics of Chelles Abbey. Chelles Abbey was founded in 658 by Queen Bathilde, wife of Clovis II, on the ruins of an old chapel belonging to Queen Clothtilde, wife of Clovis I in 511. Her Excellency says in her documentation, “I wanted something in a warp float technique (also known as Snartemo style) for its high level of complexity, and because I enjoy weaving this technique.” Viscountess Rosalinde is an Æthelmearc treaty subject who has lived in Nithgaard and Thescorre, and soon will be moving to the Debatable Lands. More information about her entry is available here.
Tablet weaving by Viscountess Rosalinde Ashworth. Photo by Mistress Rowena ni Dhonnchaidh.
Lady Sumayya al Ghaziyah of the Barony-Marche of the Debatable Lands was an alternate champion. She crafted 16th c. Ottoman Turkish leather slippers with inlaid designs, along with wood and leather nalin, which were used by women in bathhouses to keep the wearer above the soap and water of the bathhouse floor. You can read more about her entry here.
Leather slippers and wood and leather nalins by Lady Sumayya al Ghaziyah. Photo by Mistress Rowena ni Dhonnchaidh.
Of course, these are just the Æthelmearc Champions. The East and Middle had their own champions, and they did win the War Point. But we’ll let their Kingdoms tell their stories.
Both aspiring and experienced scribes can learn a lot from looking at actual period manuscripts. Every day more and more medieval books are digitized and made available online, and many websites offer the ability to zoom in and see fine detail close up. Here are some wonderful sites for seeing a wide array of medieval and renaissance manuscripts that can provide scribal inspiration for years to come.
The British Library site offers not only complete manuscripts, but also detailed information on the time, place, artistic style, and provenance of each manuscript, along with a very robust search function that lets you narrow your results with great precision. Want to find Arabic medical manuscripts from 1000-1100, or Italian Books of Hours dating to the early 15th century? This is your site.
British Library Manuscript collection
DMMapp is the granddaddy of manuscript sites. It offers a map of the world with links to specific libraries’ or museums’ collections. Click a link to browse the selected location’s offerings. Bonus: it’s also the home of the “Sexy Codicology” Blog, with a link to their Facebook page. Its weakness is that each site is distinct and separate, so there’s no way to search all of them by keyword from DMMapp. The quality and ease of navigation of the sites is also highly variable.
Digitized Medieval Manuscripts site
The Getty Museum recently made many of its books available as free PDF downloads, including several about its collection of medieval manuscripts. Examples include Elizabeth C. Teviotdale’s “The Stammheim Missal” and “Flemish Manuscript Painting in Context: Recent Research,” edited by Elizabeth Morrison and Thomas Kren.
Medieval Writing has a huge amount of information about medieval paleography (the study of writing) including snippets of calligraphy from many different manuscripts. Use its Index of Scripts to take a guided tour of styles ranging from 4th century Roman to 16th century Humanistic. One of its best features is the ability to mouse over samples from period manuscripts and see the words printed in modern text as shown below, which is tremendously helpful in figuring out unusual or hard-to-read letter forms.
The Medieval Writing site shows you the words when you mouse over the calligraphed text
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, like the Getty, offers some of its books on medieval art as free downloads. Use the search categories on the left to narrow the list of options. Examples include “The Art of Illumination: The Limbourg Brothers and the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry” by Timothy Bates Husband, and “The Art of Medieval Spain, A.D. 500–1200” by the Museum.
The National Library of Wales has a small collection, but it’s one of the few places to find Welsh manuscripts like the Book of Llandaff, the Laws of Hywel Dda, and the Black Book of Carmarthen, which is one of the earliest manuscripts written in Welsh.
Trinity College of Dublin has a number of period manuscripts, but none more famous than the magnificent Book of Kells; a portion of folio 2r is shown below zoomed in close. Use the “By Dates” search feature to find manuscripts at Trinity College dating to SCA period.
Closeup of a page from the Book of Kells, housed at the Trinity College of Dublin
The Vatican Library recently announced that they will be vastly expanding their collection of digital manuscripts over the next few years, so this is a space to watch! Use its Advanced Search feature to search by elements like Beginning and Ending dates, though navigation is a little clunky and sometimes frustrating. When you find a manuscript, click the book icon next to its name to see the actual pages. Clicking the manuscript’s name displays a very brief description of the manuscript including its date, size, and name.
Is there a site for scribal inspiration that you love which isn’t on our list? Post a link in the comments!