The Florilegium is a collection of files assembled by The Honorable Lord Stefan li Rous. The information hails from various sources, starting from when Stefan first joined the SCA in 1989. This includes files from various mail lists, posts in various Facebook groups, as well as articles submitted directly to Stefan by their authors. Be aware of “rabbit holes”… many an artisan found more than they were looking for after finding their way to the Florilegium research vaults!
What’s a “Florilegium”? Literally, it means “a gathering of flowers.” Florilegia were collections of choice tidbits (from Ovid, Aristotle, various popes, church scholars, etc), arranged by topic. Typically, a florilegium is huge, encyclopedic, and contains only choice selections from particular works. For example, Ovid’s Metamorphoses would be too long to include in its entirety and might suggest some of the wrong ideas (from a Church viewpoint), so only those works that offer clear exegetic or moralistic examples would likely be included.
Stefan, on the other hand, is interested in the whole of what the SCA has to offer, and is always on the look out for new articles. If you have written an article that would be of interest to others in the SCA, please send it to him for possible inclusion in the Florilegium. A&S documentation and class handouts often work well, and he is especially interested in research papers submitted as A&S entries.
I hope you find these files useful, interesting, amusing – or all three.
Honorable Lord Stefan li Rous (Mark S. Harris)
The Passing of the Ice Dragon Arts & Sciences Pentathlon has released the judging criteria for its second category, and just in the nick of time! The literary deadline listed for the Ice Dragon Pent, originally scheduled for February 1, 2020, was recently extended to February 14th as the judging criteria were not available ahead of time for this category. The Pent Organizers apologies for this delay, and are happy to share them with you now. To download your own pdf copy, please click here.
If you have not yet sent in your entry, you are welcome to utilize the judging criteria to self-score your work and tweak any areas you feel might benefit. And if you have, not to worry, you can resend – and we promise next year they’ll be out on schedule now the heavy lifting is done.
Hard copy of the research paper Black Parchment – displayed at the AS 53 Pent. Make sure to come and check out the literary art entries, as well as the general A&S entries!
Entries may be sent electronically or via hard copy in the mail. If you do not receive a confirmation email that an electronically submitted entry has been received within 24 hours of sending it, contact the Pent coordinator. Please also contact us in advance if you are sending hard copy.
Research Papers are part of the Literary Arts Category, which may include, but is not limited to: Musical arrangement & composition, Poetry & prose and Research paper. A research paper may be written in any style which the entrant chooses (e.g. Chicago, ALA, etc.). The entrant is strongly encouraged to be consistent in the use of the style they choose. The judging of the research paper is to be focused on the research presented, and any theories or conclusions presented. You can read more on the different types of research papers, like the argumentative paper, the analytical paper, the compare and contrast paper, &c., on the A&S Pent/researchpaper webpage.
In the next week or two we will add the remaining judging criteria for Live Performance and Youth entries. Keep an eye on our website and on social media to see all we’re up to. The end of March is creeping up fast, and that pesky Ice Dragon sure is in need of some slaying!
Looking forward to your entries.
Kingdom Event page on the AS 54 Festival of the Passing of the Ice Dragon. Home page of the Festival of the Passing of the Ice Dragon. Home page of the Passing of the Ice Dragon Pentathlon.
The Florilegium is a collection of files assembled by The Honorable Lord Stefan li Rous. The information hails from various sources, starting from when Stefan first joined the SCA in 1989. This includes files from the Rialto newsgroup (rec.org.sca), from the old fidonet medieval echo conferance area, from various mail lists, posts in various Facebook groups, as well as articles submitted directly to Stefan by their authors. Be aware of “rabbit holes”… many an artisan found more than they were looking for after finding their way to the Florilegium research vaults!
What’s a “Florilegium”? Literally, it means “a gathering of flowers.” Florilegia were collections of choice tidbits (from Ovid, Aristotle, various popes, church scholars, etc), arranged topically.
A “Florilegivm Insulæ Sanctorvm” from 1624
Typically, a florilegium is huge, encyclopedic, and contains only choice selections from particular works. For example, Ovid’s Metamorphoses would be too long to include in its entirety and might suggest some of the wrong ideas (from a Church viewpoint), so only those works that offer clear exegetic or moralistic examples would likely be included. Thus, a florilegium would probably *not* include Nestor’s account of the battle of the Lapiths — the tale pokes fun at Nestor, at old men attempting to claim wisdom solely based upon age, and (less directly) at Homer. A florilegium probably *would* contain the tales of Midas, however, because they provide lessons on the evils of greed, pride, and gossip.
Stefan, on the other hand, is interested in the whole of what the SCA has to offer, and is always on the look out for new articles. If you have written an article that would be of interest to others in the SCA, please send it to him for possible inclusion in the Florilegium. A&S documentation and class handouts often work well, and he is especially interested in research papers submitted as A&S entries.
I hope you find these files useful, interesting, amusing or all three.
Honorable Lord Stefan li Rous (Mark S. Harris)
With the Arabella Stuart doll entry I continue the journey of researching and recreating various period inspired toys, which have inspired me over the past decade. Though by far, my personal favorite has been spending time making dolls. Re-stepping in familiar territory, each project presents new challenges and skills never before attempted. This was one of my first projects in the SCA and its been a joy to finally recreate one as close as possible from a period masterpiece of art. The series of research is meant to be in-depth with the known depictions of dolls in 16th century art. Then it is to be meticulously recreated in period materials and methods. This is the third in a series of 10 dolls from these depictions.
In this article we shall discuss the layers of 16th century court clothing worn in 1577; comparing the portrait image represented to the construction of on the extant doll as previously researched. Observing the creative process and material choices for this project. Plus, discovering more representations of other fashion dolls in art around the world in the 16th century.
Extant Fashion Doll: The only extent one that physically survived the centuries supplies the core research on which all my other depictions are based. The extant doll is housed in the Livrustkammaren Museum (Royal Armory) in Stockholm, Sweden (see image). She is not a display item at this time and would most likely be in storage. So, with a little luck and the internet, I was able to locate some closeup images of the doll from “Isis Wardrobe” a personal internet blog. Some of these images are displayed on other sites like Pinterest, following the trail back to the museum website (see source 3 for the web address). I noticed this doll while turning the pages of my copy of “Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe Unlock’d” over a decade ago. This little doll is depicted in black and white, saddened there wasn’t a color picture in the book. Color pictures were not found untill recently on a persona blog “Isis Wardrobe” and subsequently on the Livrustkammaren Museum website.
Looking at the Livrustkammaren Museum Facebook page there is a small reference of the traveling of Fashion dolls “This modedocka, or pandora as they were called after the first woman in Greek mythology, must have been manufactured by Maria of Palatinate, Duchess of Södermanland, married to Duke Karl which eventually became Karl IX. Fashion Dolls were common in the business of fashion until the end of the 17th century and was a way to spread new trends before fashion journalism took its place. “Pandora traveled by horseback (?) to different countries and not just royalty and nobility was reached.” This is also referenced in the Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe Unlock’d about how the mode of fashion that traveled with the tailor’s trade. Later in this article the changing mode of fashion is discussed; how these did become a feature in art of children, an eventual evolution as a plaything and found in later inventory of the affluent.
The website of the museum supplied many useful pictures and much information. The recently added full color photos of this doll show at least 19 images in total. I also was able to obtain a list of the materials that the doll is made from, though it is difficult to locate some of them. Since either the type of material is no longer made, it called something else in modern times, or for the sheer translation issues into English. I was able to decipher as much as possible and through looking at prior inventory lists was able to figure out a reasonable kind of material. The doll has a steel wire armature body wrapped in silk and silk thread. (source 3) The extant doll has an elaborately embroidered muff with silver gold threads lined in gold silk. (source 3) Painstakingly detailed gold lace decorates the outer dress of lavender silk, including 3 petticoats; one pink silk lined, one gold velvet lined with silver lace, and an outer gown of purple silk lined gold lace trimmed and blue silk hem. (source 3) (See image illustrating the visible silk fabric, 3 petticoats with decoration and linings, also visible are the thread wrapped wire feet.)
From personal observation it is clear the feet are visible in one of the close-up photos on the blog “Isis Wardrobe”, and they look to be silk thread wrapped; unfortunately, closer inspection blurs the images. Her hands are not visible from any angle due to the muff; I tried blowing up the blog images to see if I could see a peek of something, but to not avail. The face seems to be an off-white or tan colored silk, the face is embroidered on and stretched over the stuffing base with some defining features for the chin and nose, I found by studying the 19 images from the museum website. (source 3)
Portrait of Arabella Stuart: From all this information about the extant doll as a basis then form a real object. Now we also have the portrait painting of Arabella Stuart from 1577 for our fashions for this doll (see close up of the portrait of Arabella Stuart age 23 months. The fashion doll held in left hand seems similar to images of Queen Elizabeth I of the time.) Looking at the image I think the portrait dolls is taller than the extant doll. Therefore, I made my replica about 10” tall. With all the details, I was able to begin the long process of project planning. This entails sourcing materials, pricing and budgeting. Though I also needed to look at the making process of this, how it was going to be done. So also follows; thread wrapping, running stitch, back stitch, couching stitch, whip stitch (wig).
Various techniques like gold-work, wire-work, sewing, and mild embroidery were implemented in constructing my replica. I sourced some handmade bobbin lace in a small enough scale without making miniature bobbin lace. Which I am in the process of learning the skill of making regular size lace. I just gained a book on making miniature versions for dolls. Which during the process would be an undertaking more than I could execute in the current time frame to have the project completed, at least at a semi respectable level. Although it is on the list of learning as my SCA journey continues to develop.
English 16th Century Court Clothing Features: After seeing the extant doll, I knew there needed to be proper preparation for such an undertaking. I noted a few items with major similarity with the extant doll, as the style of the sleeves, gown and fitting of the clothing. I also observed some features that would have been standard in the 16th century, like hair covering and neck ruff, which were not featured on the doll at all. So I made a small survey of the images similarly dressed to the extant doll including the layers that would be proper for the time period. Some of these images were more difficult to find as identifications changed when persons were identified as different individuals contemporary to the time. I identified as many from court life as possible. When I narrowed it down to a 30-year window, a regional trend in fashion became evident. I discovered similarities of a bedecked headdress, neck ruff, and decorated cuffs that were all in the versions of the portrait paintings I located.
I noted all the examples have a fitted bodice, most likely corseted, with metallic trim decoration and flowing pleated skirt. All the gowns are voluminous due to under layers, some split front some closed. All the clothing has decorated long sleeves; some with embroidery. The portraits show a decorated head covering, neck ruff, all have a lace decorated cuff at the end of the long sleeves. This small survey of court fashion over a period of time in the same country, shows there are some similarities between the decoration, style, and accessories about the time the doll would have been made. With such detail as seen in the extant doll photos, there is no way someone would have rushed in putting this together and achieve such quality. Plus, similar court fashion seems to have travelled to other countries similar to the fashions on the Arabella Stuart doll in England at about the same time from 1570’s (see image of Queen Elizabeth I- Pelican Portrait of circa 1575).
The layers of clothing would been as follows: shift (linen); corset (reed/whale bone); outer (silk fabric); petticoats ( silk); padded roll (bumroll); outer gown (red silk taffeta, gold silk slashed sleeves); neck ruff (starched linen); head covering (silk-net, pearls, gold wire); shoes (thread wrapped silk). This is based on the doll and based on the above English court wardrobe and layers of 16th century court dress.
Preparation Materials selection: When making selections for this project, I looked at the material list from the museum website. They are listed on the website as follows: taffeta, wire taffeta, silver wire (tip), silk (embroidery), silk on silk-embroidery, velvet-uncut, pearl velvet, lace, and gold thread. (source 3) Not sure if all of it is translated well enough in detail from Swedish, though it gave me a starting point.
I also looked at the colors and textures from the portrait doll and those influenced my choices: steel wire, twine, air dry clay, red dupioni silk fabric, burgundy tablet woven silk trim, red silk velvet ribbon, off white- silk organza, gold-silk chine, white, red, gold- silk thread, gold gilt wire-hard, smooth purl gold gilt no.8, rough purl gold gilt no. 8, gilt o’s 6mm size, seed pearls, gold embroidery twist, hide glue, gesso and gauche paint, wooden plague, linen fabric, cotton batting, wood and glass display case, doll stand. I looked at the prices and over the first three months of the year (2019) budgeted $300 for the materials, shipping, and sheer cost of some of the materials. I wanted it to really look like something for royalty and using as close as possible materials and not shy away from the precious metals.
And I wanted to address the color choices for this project, compared to the portrait doll. I wanted a deep red silk that had some body to it as based on the pictures. Plus, it needed to address the burgundy tones observed on the photos from the internet. I preferred to use a dupioni silk fabric since it has texture. This one is a very smooth weave, more than normally found easily. I wanted to show which bright colors the doll would have displayed as a new creation in the 16th Century.
The hide glue, also known as gelatin glue, I discovered a medieval recipe in The Compleat Anachronist issue 134 by Maya Heath. I needed glue not to just to secure the hairstyle, the hair needed to be dirty of sorts to behave correctly. I knew this information from having done this hairstyle many times and hair needs some oil and unwashed consistency to stick to itself. This glue was used on the washed human hair procured from a beauty supply store. It could maintain the hairstyle and also protect it from being snagged when sewing the silk hairnet with woven gold wire in it and securing the braids.
The Tudor Child pattern for dolls was used on this project. (source 2) I wanted to try this version, to give a nod to more peg like doll features that represent some earlier styles of fashion dolls. In this pattern there aren’t legs on this doll. Therefore, no stockings, shoes or garters are needed for her. Since I modeled after the Tudor Child doll pattern, this doll uses a wood round base inside the linen lining along with the cotton stuffing to hold everything upright instead. (source 2) Studying the portrait, I wanted to maintain the round conical shape of the skirts. I think there is something more sturdy there than two stuffed wired doll appendages. So that is a distinct difference than the extant in Sweden.
Crafting Process: I began with the accessories first, since they would be smaller and easier to travel with me. I kept the doll itself as a project at home most of the time, although towards the end I took it to work on breaks, lunch, and after work. I found this to be relaxing as well as another way of directing my thoughts to a better place. A therapy of sorts during the day at work.
My process of making the replica doll is as follows:
The body is made of linen fabric, stuffed with cotton batting (see image showing construction). The head and hands are hand sculpted from air-dry clay sealed with gesso (from hide glue and white gauche). The miniature bust is then painted with gauche paint to a natural skin-tone and features. The wig is a strawberry blonde human hair wig made from hair purchased at a beauty supply shop. Although I am still collecting my hair for future dolls.
The hair is styled carefully in a rounded rolled-form with a large netted bun in back, and gold silk twist along with coiled gilt gold wire woven into the head-covering. This took some of the longest to get right like the portrait image. Hide glue attached the wig to the clay head, needing lots of drying time at home. The image to the left shows the process before any accessories were added to the doll, you can see the linen arms wired to the body, and the wig drying. Great to see that the scale was working for the accessories created while at work. This can be problematic and I kept making sure it was still fitting to proportions.
The smaller parts were easy to transport in my purse. I assembled the ruff and cuffs first, then the miniature silk clothing. Added trims and decoration as much as could be done before sewing the clothing to the doll. The under-layers first, the shift, corset, padded roll and embroidered petticoat. From there I sewed the outer gown with back and running stitch, while taking care to not loosen the hair that had been styled so carefully.
The image (image on left with black dress & ruffs) shows the doll before the outer layer gown was added. You see the styled hair, the sleeves, accessories and under-layers. It is all set for the over dress and all the detail for completing the doll. It was a real joy to see all the pieces coming together to form a good quality replica doll. And knowing it is dressed from the skin out properly, even if you cannot see it. This kind of detail makes a good representation of 16th century fashion for the time, and adds to the overall purpose of the dolls as traveling fashion news for that time in history.
The image (image on right of red dress) shows the base decoration of the outer-gown. With beading on the bodice belted accessories, beaded hanging sleeves. You can see the decorated petticoat underneath. The gold silk slashed sleeves show behind the bobbin lace cuffs.
This became a very eye-catching piece, just like the inspirational portrait. Although this is not the end of the journey for me. On the portrait image of the doll there seemed to be a lozenge pattern laid gold-work, beading in those lozenges, and all this seemed metallic gold thread. There was difficulty finding a good quality image from the internet that had clearer details on the outer gown decoration. Recently obtained images show the gold-plated details of o’s that will have pearls centered inside. Also, rows of O’s of 6 mm hammered gold sewed on the skirt, shine when light hits from all directions. The pearl work will be done soon and will be freshwater versions since those are the easiest to obtain in the scale size needed.
I am working on a good laid gold-work twist that will help with the lozenge pattern. The laid work on the petticoat was troublesome in the smaller gauge so I am looking at something in a thicker composition that would be appropriate.
So far so good, and a sturdy based doll with shiny bedazzled gown, appropriate for court of Queen Elizabeth I in the 1570’s has been created. A fashion doll that could make a journey to a distant land to convey fashion, as ordered by Helena Von Snakenborg for her sister (source 1)
Lessons Learned: I definitely plan on many other projects like this again. There were challenges around every turn, I filled many pages of notes, including drawings, scale considerations, materials choices, technique notes, sources, picture details from limited sources. I also need to learn to make a more miniature lace version for future dolls. Although the learning process takes time, I don’t want to make a project without proper techniques represented well, even if not my own. I am happy with the basics I have learned in lace making and will strive to make an ever finer finished product. Luckily period artisans didn’t make every step by their own hand, so sourcing is not out of bounds.
If I had to do it all again, I would like to go to Hardwick Hall and take images of the actual painting instead of relying on the internet. Along with the V&A in London and other museums to see the paintings in person, firsthand accounts are ideal. At some-point in the future a visit to the Livrustkammaren Museum in Stockholm, Sweden is warranted. I looking forward to making the many versions of the dolls as seen on the other period paintings.
The Honorable Lady Mairin O’Cadhla explaining all about her elaborate Arabella Stuart Doll project at the Kingdom A&S Championship.
This article is an abbreviated version. For the complete Documentation please visit Mairin’s blog and click the link “Arabella Stuart Doll” under 16th century Documentation.
Arnold, Janet. “Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe Unlock’d”. Maney, London, England United Kingdom. 1988. Pages 107, 157-158, 248-fig 248 and fig 248A.
Huggett, Jane and Mikhaila, Ninya. “The Tudor Child- Clothing and Culture 1485-1625” Quite Specific Media Los Angeles, Ca-USA and London, England United Kingdom. 2013. Pages 49-50, 150-151.
“Costume Doll “Pandora”. Inventory# 77 (56:15) 260, 2016. Livrustkammaren Och Skoklosters. Slott Med Stiftelsen Hallway ska Museet.
Quince Bread, also known as Quittenbrot, Chare de Quences, or Pâte de Coing, is a confection made from quince apples or quinces. Quince trees, Cydonia oblonga, are small fruit trees in the Rosaceae family. They are closely related to apples and pears. Quinces were grown in West Asia and around the Mediterranean since antiquity. Quinces remained popular fruit trees throughout medieval times.
Image: Roman painting of a quince tree in the Casa die Livia, probably 30BC
Like other pomefruits, quinces do not do not come true from seed. Desirable genotypes need to be propagated by grafting. Grafting was well known to the Romans. At the time of Gaius Plinius Secundus, AD 23–79, better known as Pliny the Elder, many different varieties were grown, several of which Pliny mentions by name in his natural history:
Chapter. 10. (11.)—The Quince. Four Kinds of Cydonia, and Four Varieties of the Struthea: Next in size after these are the fruit called by us “cotonea,” by the Greeks “Cydonia,” and first introduced from the island of Crete. These fruits bend the branches with their weight, and so tend to impede the growth of the parent tree. The varieties are numerous. The chrysomelum is marked with indentations down it, and has a colour inclining to gold; the one that is known as the “Italian” quince, is of a paler complexion, and has a most exquisite smell: the quinces of Neapolis, too, are held in high esteem. The smaller varieties of the quince which are known as the “struthea,” have a more pungent smell, but ripen later than the others; that called the “musteum,” ripens the soonest of all. The cotoneum engrafted on the strutheum, has produced a peculiar variety, known as the “Mulvianum,” the only one of them all that is eaten raw. At the present day all these varieties are kept shut up in the antechambers of great men, where they receive the visits of their courtiers; they are hung, too, upon the statues that pass the night with us in our chambers. There is a small wild quince also, the smell of which, next to that of the strutheum, is the most powerful; it grows in the hedges. (Pliny)
In modern times, various named quince varieties propagated by grafting are available to the gardener. However, quinces also serve commonly as dwarfing rootstock for pears, resulting in the mature pear tree reaching only about 40-60% of the natural mature height. (Elkins, Bell, Einhorn, 2012, Journal of the American Pomological Society 66(3):153-163). These quince rootstocks along with occasional chance seedlings are the source of feral quinces found in the Dominion of Myrkfaelinn. In the work presented here, I compare quince bread made from fruits of a named cultivar, ‘Orange,’ with quince bread made from feral quinces and a third variety that attempts to combine the benefits of both.
Quinces are considerably more heat tolerant than apples, hence their historic popularity in Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean. However, many varieties are cold hardy to USDA zone 5 and thus can be grown successfully in Myrkfaelinn and neighboring Baronies. Quinces do well in sun and partial shade. Unfortunately, Quinces are plagued by two pests. Quinces are extremely vulnerable to Fireblight, caused by the bacterium Erwinia amylovora. Fireblight is the main reason quinces are no longer widely grown. A local apple and pear grower (Ian Merwin of Black Diamond Farm) explained to me that he was avoiding quinces to prevent the likely fireblight infections jumping over onto his pear trees. The round headed stem borer (Saperda Candida) also causes damage to trees. Both of these diseases have caused loss of quince trees in my garden.
Quinces tend to flower later than apples, in my garden at the end of May, which usually protects them from damage by late frosts. Quinces also tend to ripen later than apples. Unlike apples and pears, quinces are self-fruitful. There is no need to grow second variety for pollination. According to the Trinity Encyclopedia compiled by an anonymous writer in the 1400s in England, the quince season starts at Michaelmas (September 29th) and lasts till Martinmas (November 11th).
§62 Chare de quences. Forto make chare de quences. Take þfayre quences in tyme of yeer, as between Mihelmasse and Martynmasse… (Clarke 2016)
In my garden, quinces ripen around Halloween. I found that quinces harvested but not quite ripe yet, can ripen a bit while being stored indoors. However, since quinces can’t be stored much longer than a month, only so much post-harvest ripening can be had. I would advise any quince grower to leave the fruit on the tree, until they have fully changed to yellow/orange color, unless a severe frost is threatening the harvest.
Image: Late medieval rendering of a quince tree, probably 1300-1400, in the Tacuinum sanitatis, by Ibn Butlân
As Pliny the Elder described, the Romans valued quinces particularly for their smell. A single quince can easily fill a small room with its fragrance. Most quince fruits are hard and sour and not delightful, when eaten raw. ‘Aayvay yemek’ or ‘to eat quince’ is a Turkish expression used to describe unpleasant situations. The Mulvanium is a rarity for being enjoyable in raw form. Even today, there are very few quince varieties available that can be enjoyed raw, the best known one is the Russian variety Aromatnaya. I found that after storing Orange quince for three weeks, the pectin in the fruit broke down enough to make the fruit edible raw. The texture was then like a radish and the level of acidity not unpleasant. Attempting to eat feral quince raw was an experience similar to biting into a very hard lemon.
In my kitchen freshly harvested quince last for about a month, before eventually they go bad. The feral quinces appear wrinkled after this time of storage, which makes them harder to peel. The Orange quinces tend not to wrinkle, but the fruit flesh softens and they turn brownish on the inside. Making quinces last longer requires some sort of preservation. Apicius lists two recipes featuring quince in his book De Re Coquinaria Liber. The first one is in the first book and is concerned with the preservation of quinces for future use:
Ut mala Cydonia diu serventur: Eligis mala sine vitio cum ramulis et foliis, et condes in vas, et suffundes mel et defritum, et diu servabis. (Apicius 21)
How quinces might be served later: Select apples without blemish with stems and leaves, and put them in a vessel, submerge them in honey and concentrated spiced white wine (=defruitum), and you will serve them in a long time later.
This recipe is solely about the preservation of quince, not a dessert in itself. Note that the quince is not heated or cored. The emphasis on the stem and leaves still intact is to ensure that no air enters the fruit that could lead to fermentation. Even with the sometimes – from modern perspective – rather strange culinary customs of the Romans, it is unlikely, they would have actually eaten the cores and leaves. It is in a section of the book that describes how to preserve various fruits for later use. (the previous recipe suggests to steep pomegranates in sea-water and hang them to dry for preservation, the following one advises to place a variety of fruits again intact with the stems in honey for preservation.) However, if the fruits were cored, relieved of stems and leaves and actually boiled in honey and spiced wine, this would make for a delicious dessert. If such a concoction were dried, it would pretty much be quince bread. Apicius’ second recipe suggests that quinces might have been boiled in honey for preservation. This recipe is a savory one:
Patina de cydoniis: Mala cydonia cum porris melle liquamine oleo defricato coques et inferes vel elixata ex melle. (Apicius 163)
A Dish of Quinces: Cook quinces with leek, honey, fish sauce, rubbed (?) oil or threw in thoroughly boiled in honey.
The recipe offers two versions to prepare the same dish, either cooking the fresh quinces together with the other ingredients or throwing in the already honey cooked quinces later. The second part of this savory recipe, ‘or throw in [quinces] thoroughly boiled in honey’ might be a reference to conserving quince by boiling them in honey. Potentially this was done to preserve quinces not quite free of blemish. From quinces boiled in honey for preservation to quince bread is only a small step.
Quinces remained popular in Europe into medieval times. Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) mentions quinces in her book ‘Physica’ both as food source and for medical use as a remedy for gout, excessive saliva and badly healing wounds.
IV. Quince Tree
The quince tree is very cold and of a subtlety which is assimilated, sometimes usefully, other times not. Its wood and leaves are not of much use for human beings. Its fruit is hot and dry and has good balance in it. When it is ripe and eaten raw, it harms neither a sick nor a healthy person. It is useful, cooked or roasted, for a sick person to eat. One who is virgichtiget (=suffering of gout) should frequently eat this fruit, either cooked or roasted, and it will check the gicht (=gout) in him, so that it does not blunt his senses, nor break his limbs nor leave the person helpless. One who produces much saliva should eat this fruit frequently, cooked or roasted. It will dry him up internally and diminish his saliva. Where there are ulcers or foulness on a person, one should cook or roast this fruit and place it, with other spices, over the wounds, and he will be cured. (Bingen)
The Trinity Encyclopedia from the second half of the 14th century lists a very detailed recipe for quince bread, called ‘chare de quences’, translated as ‘pâte de coing’ or ‘pâte de coing’.
§62 Pâte de coing
To make pâte de coing. Take nice quinces in season, that is between Michaelmas and Martinmas, and cut them equally in two in the middle, and take away the pips with a knife, and the core of them as well, and if there is any part of them that is rotten, pare it away with a knife as well. Then when you have as many as you want to work up at once, cleaned and prepared like that, then put them all in a nice clean pan and add clean water to it so that they lie all submerged and somewhat more, so that they can be seethed well in it. Then set your pan with your quinces over the fire and seethe them well until they are tender enough to be strained. Then when they are tender enough, take down the pan off the fire, and take out your seethed quinces from the water with a dish or with a platter and lay them in a sieve or else on a nice clean table and let the water run out from them; let them lie like that on that table or in a sieve all night still, without stirring. (Clarke 2018 – for the rest of this lengthy recipe, please check the reference)
Like the Roman recipes, this medieval recipe uses honey to preserve quinces. The recipe is from a time when sugar was just about to become available in Europe and therefore had not yet taken a crucial role in food preservation. In the quince breads presented here, I used sugar instead of honey, as the only honey I had available was brown honey from goldenrod and Japanese knotweed, which has a much stronger flavor, than a ‘nice white honey’ asked for in the recipe.
Images: Smooth skinned feral quinces to the left. Fuzzy skinned Orange quinces to the right. Orange quince cut open. The slight browning of the fruit flesh indicates that the pectin is breaking down, making the quince softer.
The first step is to core the quinces and remove all the seeds. Quince seeds – like most seeds in the Rosaceae family – contain some cyanide, so removing the seeds before cooking is a good idea. The cores themselves are very hard. After cooking, quinces were passed through a sieve, thereby removing the hard leftovers of the cores and the skin. When working with feral quinces, I followed the first cooking-then sieving approach, because these quinces proved very tedious to core and peel. With the much larger and softer Orange quinces I found it easier to simply peel and thoroughly core the quinces, before I cooked them and omitted the sieving step. The cooked peeled quince is very soft and can easily be mashed with a potato stomper like applesauce or potato mash, or run through a sieve.
Image: Quince puree ready to be sweetened. At this point it is still yellow.
It is surprising that in this recipe the boiling water is simply discarded. The water, in which quinces are boiled, is very aromatic and pleasantly fragrant. In many modern quince gelée recipes, the main focus is on the boiling water, which then gets sweetened (occasionally acidified) and thickened, while the use of the remaining pulp for the making of quince bread is treated more as an afterthought – some modern cooks apparently simply discard the pulp. This is quite a change in attitude from medieval times. Not wanting to waste the flavor in the boiling water I opted for a change in the recipe, boiling the quinces in much less water, similar to the amount one would use for applesauce and omitting the drip off stage. I found this approach frequently mentioned in German Internet publications, generally citing Hildegard from Bingen as source for the recipe. Unfortunately, none of these Internet publications provide a citation of a recipe written by the Abbess herself.
Image: Quince puree ready to be dried. The color is now orange.
Having omitted the drip-off step, my quince pulp was presumably much moister than the pulp the medieval confectioner, so therefore I only added 1/2 of the pulp weight in sugar. Initially, I followed the recipe evaporating water from the sweetened quince puree on the stove top. However, I found that the sweetened pulp is quick to stick to the pot bottom and burn, even while being stirred. Therefore, I opted for a different approach to dry the quince puree. Once all the sugar was dissolved in the quince puree, I spread the quince puree about 1/2inch deep on a backing sheet and dried it in the oven. The quince puree was still orange/yellowish in color, when I spread it onto the sheet.
I dried the feral quince puree at 220° F. Upon tasting it, I felt I might have heated it too much and therefore dried the other two purees at 180° F. By the time the puree had sufficiently dried out it had taken a red color and a somewhat glassy consistency. The drying process took about two days at the given temperatures.
Following the advice of the medieval recipe I made sure to use nice clean cookware at every step of the process.
The three quince breads presented:
Quince bread made exclusively from feral quinces. This bread has a fair level of acidity to it. The texture is leathery and chewy.
Quince bread made from Orange quince. The bread is very mild with strong quince flavor. The texture is soft, smooth and almost creamy.
Quince bread made from a combination of feral and Orange quince (ratio roughly 1:2). The texture and aroma resemble the quince bread from Orange quinces; however, the color is darker and there is a bit more acidity.
I did not use spices in this work to prevent them from overpowering the flavor differences caused by the quince varieties.
Image: Eadgytha enjoys sharing her yummy samples with the general populace present during the Kingdom A&S Championship.
Apicius Book I; 21. De Re Coquinaria Liber I. Epimeles (about honey, translation mine)
Apicius Book II; 163 Patinae Piscium, Holerum & Pomorum (Dishes of Fish, Vegetables and Apple-Fruit, translation mine)
Hildegard von Bingen’s Physica, The Complete English Translation of Her Classic Work on Health and Healing, (Translated from Latin by Priscilla Throop, 1998, Healing Arts Press, Rochester, Vermont.)
Mark Clarke, The Crafte of Lymmyng and the Manner of Staynyng, Early English Text Society, 2016
Mark Clarke, Tricks of the Medieval Trades, The Trinity Encyclopedia: A Collection of Fourteenth-Century English Craft Recipes. Archetype Publications Ltd., London, 2018
Pliny the Elder, The Natural History (John Bostock, M.D., F.R.S., H.T. Riley, Esq., B.A., Ed Red Lion Court, Fleet Street. 1855.
Exemplar at Villa di livia, affreschi di giardino, parete corta meridionale. From here.
Quince; from the Theatrum Sanitatis, Library Casanatense, Rome. From here.
Process photos by Eadgytha scripsit
Kingdom A&S Championship entry photos by Elska á Fjárfelli
For those research-oriented people who are going to Ædult Swim, we will have a Browsing Library available there, allowing everyone to examine and make notes from the books during the entire day.
All attendees — especially those joining in the A&S activities — are invited to bring their favorite research books to Ædult Swim to share them with others.
We are a Society that believes in researching and in recreating our findings to the best of our ability. Collectively, we have built up an amazing collection of private libraries in our homes. We invite all of you to bring out some of these books to share with a wider audience so that other researchers (especially those who may be new to research in a particular field) can become aware of all of the resources that are around them. Bring out your favorite sources so we all can benefit from them!
If you are interested in participating, please contact Baroness Fiadnata ahead of time (either via Private Message on Facebook or email) so we can have some idea of the space we will need for all of the books. And if you are bringing books and happen to have SCA business cards, please bring along a small stack. We want to connect those who are interested in a particular book with the owner of the book, if possible.
Baroness Fiadnata ó Gleann Àlainn
Royal University of the Midrealm Librarian
How easy it is to “know” something, to know something so well that you grew up knowing that that is the way it is.
But what happens when popular thought turns out not to be so cut and dried, when other alternatives are more appropriate in a different situation?
Myrica pensylvanica, Northern bayberry or wax berry (hence the waxy-grey coating).
Listen to the tale of bayberry, an innocuous shrub from the Myricacaea family and native to American soil. Most familiar to those here is the Northern bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica), especially to Colonial re-enactors and homesteaders, because of the wax coating on the outside of the fruit that can be boiled off and used to make candles. (Combs)
And listen to the tale of bayberries, used by European medieval and Renaissance cooks, brewers, and physicians for their flavor and mild antiseptic qualities.
Now for the Million Dollar Question: what’s with this name?
Take, for instance, the following recipe by William Harrison in his 1577 Description of Elizabethan England. It mentions both “arras” and “bayberries” as botanical ingredients.
[much detail on the different steps of (partigyle) mashing…] Finally, when she setteth her drink together, she addeth to her brackwoort or charwoort half an ounce of arras, and half a quarter of an ounce of bayberries, finely powdered, and then, putting the same into her woort, with a handful of wheat flour, she proceedeth in such usual order as common brewing requireth. Some, instead of arras and bays, add so much long pepper only, but, in her opinion and my liking, it is not so good as the first, and hereof we make three hogsheads of good beer.
Neither ingredient is normally found in a modern kitchen, so more research is prudent.
A quick post in a SCAdian cooking forum came up with the suggestion for the first mystery of orris root, by way of the 1872 A Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words “a kind of powder, probably made of the orris-root.”
Other Google hits confirmed this possibility, but also that not even academics know its identification for sure. As the characteristics of orris root (Iris sp.) fit within the function in this recipe − the roots contain myristic acid (Grieve) making the powder mildly antiseptic and thus promote the durability of the concentrated malt syrup (called brackwoort or charwoort) − orris root is a plausible answer.
A similar post in this forum asking about the definition of the second mystery, bayberries, found a different response.
To my surprise, bayberry turns out to be a common shrub in the United States, and to my even larger surprise, it is part of the Myrica family.
I should explain: I recently finished a Compleat Anachronist on the Low Country herbal ale called gruit, which includes both Myrica gale and the berries of the Laurel nobilis, or the berries of the bay, called in Dutch and German bakelaar. The forum discussion suggested that all bayberries like wax berries are shrubs of the genus Myrica, and thus in the case of European sources, the European Myrica, which is Myrica gale, also known as sweet gale and bog myrtle. When I questioned this interpretation because of inconsistencies with contemporary sources, no one in the forum was able to provide further help. It was only because I had just spent a year researching the historic European side of a similar story that my curiosity was piqued.
So, if nothing else, let my ‘obsession’ be a point of learning for you! In the rest of this story, I will walk you step by step through my thought process, which led me to the appropriate answer.
Myrica gale, sweet gale catkins.
Question one: What are the medieval descriptors for the term in question?
When tackling a challenging botanical identification like this I have a found a number of useful sources to check. Since I want to know what the medieval European definition is − not the modern and often American definition given on Wikipedia − I like to proceed in this manner:
The search query ‘bayberr*’ found 45 records in EEBO, a combination of husbandry (veterinarian), chemistry, and medicinal manuals, with a few brewing and household entries. Checking one by one uncovered the following hints regarding its identity:
The 1653 Pharmacopœia Londinensis mentions: “Oyl of Bays. Take of Bay-berries ripe, and newly gathered…” and “Unguentum Laurinum commune. Take of Bay leaves bruised, … Bay berries bruised …”
The 1578 (?) Orders, thought meete by her Maiestie mentions: “An excellent Medicine made without charges.: Take of the powder of good Bayberries, the huske taken awaye from them, before they be dried, a spooneful.”
Pliny the Elder (1634 edition) mentions that “Oliues, Bayberries, Walnuts and Almonds, haue a fattie liquor in them.”
The charitable physitian with the Charitable apothecary of 1633 mentions: “Bayberries the pound 006 Mirtle Berries the pound 010.”
At first, I thought mirtle to mean bog myrtle fruit, although I was confused as to why those would be called berries (they are more akin to seeds or cones). Then I realized another mirtle was meant, the Myrtus from the Bible, with berries quite similar to those of the laurel.
Myrtus communis, Mirtle berries
Conclusion one: This rough check of easily available literature indicates that United Kingdom bayberries are associated with bay (leaves), can be husked before they are dried, contain a fatty liquid, and are listed next to myrtle berries, indicating a probable visual similarity.
Bog myrtle fruits (Myrica gale) are technically not a berry, they are catkins of ingrown flower petals and seed, and cannot be husked. They come pretty much dried right off the bush, do not contain a waxy nor a fatty substance, and have no visual similarity to myrtle berries. On the other hand, the berries of the Laurel fit all these descriptors.
An observation: while the shrub is called bayberry (singular) and many of the herbal ingredients are listed as singular botanicals, bayberries are invariably listed as plural. Linguistically, this suggests it is not a generic term (the bayberry), but indicates a specific part of the plant (the berries of the bay; bay berries). The spelling also varies, from bayberries to bay-berries and bay berries.
Interestingly, when this information was shared with the medieval cooking forum many of the participants were not convinced. The information was found interesting, but bayberry is bayberry, and while I thought the contemporary information was quite convincing, it did not change their opinion. It was time to dig even deeper.
Step two: Check a dictionary. When researching English language words, the Medieval English Dictionary or MED, hosted by the University of Michigan, has proven very useful.
The MED lookups had no hits with “bayberry” or variants, and no hits for sweet gale or variants, but it did have an entry for “laurel.”
(a) The European laurel tree, bay tree (Laurus nobilis); ~ tre; beries of ~, ~ baies, fruit of the laurel, laurel berries; […]
bai(e (n.) Also (error) boi-.
The berry-like fruit of various plants, trees, or shrubs (including the laurel, olive, rose, nightshade).
(a) Specif., the fruit of the laurel tree (Laurus nobilis); ~ berie; (b) the laurel tree; ~ tre; ~ leves, laurel leaves; (c) oil de bai(es [see quot.: a1500]; (d) pouder of baies.
Conclusion two: According to the MED, bai(e) berie is the fruit of the laurel tree. Apparently, bayberry means “berry berry.”
Laurus nobilis, Laurel berries.
Step three: Check the etymology of the word. Etymology Online is a good place to start, and if you have access, the Oxford English Dictionary is even better.
“fruit of the bay tree,” 1570s, from bay (n.4) + berry. In Jamaica, the name given to a type of myrtle (Pimenta acris), 1680s, from which bay-rum (1832) is made.
laurel shrub (Laurus nobilis, source of the bay-leaf), late 14c., but meaning originally only the berry, from Old French baie (12c.) “berry, seed,” from Latin baca, bacca “berry, fruit of a tree or shrub, nut” (source also of Spanish baya, Old Spanish bacca, Italian bacca “a berry”), a word of uncertain origin. Extension of the word to the shrub itself is from 1520s. The leaves or sprigs were woven as wreaths for conquerors or poets, hence “honorary crown or garland bestowed as a prize for victory or excellence” (1560s). Bay-leaf is from 1630s. Bay-berry (1570s) was coined after the sense of the original word had shifted to the tree.
The OED gives a little bit more historic background:
Bayberry: (ˈbeɪˌbɛrɪ) [f. bay n.1 2]
1.1 The fruit of the bay-tree.
1578 Lyte Dodoens 688 Called in Latine Lauri baccæ, in English Bay berries. 1747 Gentl. Mag. XVII. 409 Take of aniseed‥bay-berries, myrrh‥of each half an ounce.
2.2 In U.S., the fruit of the Wax-myrtle (Myrica cerifera), and the plant itself, an American shrub that bears a berry covered with a wax-like coating.
1687 in Manchester (Mass.) Rec. 32 The sd. tree being near Vincsons baiberry medow. 1769 Massachusetts Gaz. 21 Dec., Advt. (Th.), Bayberry-wax candles. 1792 J. Belknap New Hampsh. III. 123 The bay berry (myrica cerifera), the leaves of which yield an agreeable perfume, and the fruit a delicate green wax, which is made into candles. 1860 Bartlett Dict. Amer. s.v., The berries when boiled in water yield a fragrant green wax, known as bayberry tallow, used for making candles, etc. 1878 R. Thompson Gard. Assist. (Moore) 657/1 Myrica cerifera, candleberry, bay-berry, or wax-myrtle.—Very near the sweet-gale.
3.3 In Jamaica, the fruit of the ‘Bayberry Tree,’ Eugenia acris, a species of Pimento.
1756 P. Browne Jamaica 247 The Bayberry Tree‥The berries resemble our cloves, both in form and flavour.
Conclusion three: Both etymological dictionaries link the word bayberry to laurel berries (Laurus nobilis) first, followed by the Jamaican bayberry tree (Eugenia acris). The OED indicates a separation of definition by giving a US-specific definition for the fruit of the Wax-myrtle (Myrica cerifera), bringing us back to the Myrica family. And while it indicates the bayberry is “very near the sweet gale,” it does not list it as identical. This connection to Myrica gives rise to my second question.
Question two: What is this connection between bayberry and sweet gale?
When I looked at the easily available sources, such as Wikipedia (Wiki/Myrica), the information seems to be pretty clear:
Myrica /mɪˈraɪkə/ is a genus of about 35–50 species of small trees and shrubs in the family Myricaceae, order Fagales. The genus has a wide distribution, including Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America, and missing only from Australia. Some botanists split the genus into two genera on the basis of the catkin and fruit structure, restricting Myrica to a few species, and treating the others in Morella. Common names include bayberry, bay-rum tree, candleberry, sweet gale, and wax-myrtle.
At first glance, this seems to indicate a connection between bayberry and sweet gale (Myrica gale). But when the specific Wikipedia page for Myrica gale (Wiki/Myrica_gale) was checked, no such connection was found.
Something that caught my eye was that most, if not all, of the Myrica species with bayberry as a common name are native to the US. And I wondered, maybe those botanists listed in the Wiki/Myrica page are not that far off, splitting the genus on basis of the catkin (a.i. Myrica gale) and fruit (a.i. Myrica cerifera and M. pensylvanica); it seems the name bayberry is not only connected to the US natives but also to the species bearing fruit. In Europe, the only Myrica used in brewing is Myrica gale or sweet gale, which has catkins.
To check American plants, I find the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to be helpful. This database also divides the family Myricacea, the family of bayberries, into Morella and Myrica. It only lists two Myricas, Myrica hartwegii as Sierra bayberry (US) and Myrica gale (US & EU) as sweet gale, with no bayberry variants. This matches the Wiki/Myrica_gale information, which lists sweet gale as the US term and bog myrtle as the UK term for Myrica gale, with no bayberry variants.
Conclusion two: In modern US English, bayberry indicates several species of the bayberry family Myricacea native to the US. US bayberries mostly bear fruit, not catkins. While Myrica gale is part of the bayberry family, even in the US, the term bayberry does not apply to Myrica gale. Only Myrica gale was used in European brewing. Myrica gale is called sweet gale in the US and bog myrtle in the UK, and many other names in other countries. In languages such as Dutch and German, there is no confusion in terminology. For instance, in Dutch, gagel is bog myrtle, and bakelaar (historic; from baccae lauri) and laurierbessen (modern) are the berries of the laurel.
Question three: Would bayberry therefore mean something else in modern US than it would in medieval UK?
The information points to a double meaning for the word bayberry. In modern US, the term bayberry indicates several species of Myrica (or Morella) shrubs. In medieval UK, the term bayberries points to the berries of the bay laurel tree.
Another way to check this theory would be to look at the same term (bayberry), in the same era (16th c) used in the same context (the brewing of beer) but in a different language. From my research into medieval gruit ale, I had already come across both ingredients bog myrtle and laurel berries and found that within the Dutch and German sources these ingredients would be indicated with non-matching terms.
Variants for Bog myrtle in Latin, Dutch and German include: custum, costus, Herba Myrti Rabanitini, Gale palustris, gagel, gaghel, Myrtus Brabantica, Brabantsche mirt, myrtenheide (myrtle heather), mirtedoorn, post, possem.
Variants for Laurel berries in Latin, French, Dutch and German include: Bacca laureus, baca lauri, Lauri baccæ, bakeleers, baekelaers, bakelaar, Beckeler, laurus, laurusboom, lauwerbessie, bayes de Laurier, graines de Laurier, laurier, Lorbeerbaum, Lorbeeren.
For instance, Eenen Nyeuwen Coock Boeck (1511) mentions the following ingredients in the recipe To make gruit and gruitbeer: “Neemt tegen eenen pot een koren bakelaer (laurel berries), ende alsoo veel aipoys (much resin), ende wat haveren doppen (some oatbran), ende twee saykens van gagel (two bog myrtle catkins).”
Conclusion: In Dutch and German medieval brewing, both ingredients, bog myrtle and laurel berries, were used side by side; they were both found to have preservative properties in the brewing of beer. It thus makes sense from a technical point of view that the UK word bayberries, used in the same time and in the same context, also is appropriate as the berries of the bay laurel.
The final step: Check the contemporary herbals.
Dioscorides — whose first century De Materia Medica was the basis for all European herbals until the 17th century — seems to be talking about Laurel bay: “Laurus nobilis — Sweet Bay, Laurel, Roman Laurel. L aurinum is made from overripe bay berries (which are ready to fall from the tree) […]”
Bald’s Leechbook, also known as Medicinale Anglicum, is an old English medical text written in Latin and probably compiled in the ninth century. There are various manuscripts of the original text, using various terms and spellings for the different ingredients. The berries of the bay laurel tree are mentioned several times, both as ‘laurescroppan,’ which in Old English could mean either the fruit, or a bunch or cluster (of leaves), and as ‘baccas lauri‘ (as well as baccae lauri, baccarum lauri). The latter term means ‘berries [of the] laurel’ and is the genesis of the middle Dutch and German term bakelaar, and the English bay berries.
Gerard Dewes, in his A Nievve Herball or Historie of Plantes from 1578, has the following to say about the bay laurel:
The bay is called … in Latine, Laurus; in high Douche (High German) lorbeerbaum: in base Almaigne (Low German, Dutch), Laurus boom: in Englishe, Bay or Laurel tree.
The fruit is called in Latine, Lauri baccae; in English, Bay beries; in French Bayes or Graines de Laurier: in high Douche, Lorbeeren: in base Almaigne Bakeleers.
This is also found verbatim in John Gerard’s The herball or Generall historie of plantes, 1597.
Conclusion: In 16th century England, the term bayberries indicated the fruit of the bay laurel.
In modern US context, the term bayberry means several species of the Myricacaea family, including Myrica cerifera and Myrica pensylvanica.
In medieval UK context, the term bayberries meant the berries of the bay laurel (Laurus nobilis).
It is my suspicion, and the dates of the etymology of the term seem to support this, that European immigrants to America brought the term bayberries with them. With the absence of local laurel berries the term transferred to the next best thing, a native aromatic shrub with berries visually similar and of similar household qualities.
A side note: the juice of the Chinese Myrica rubra is fermented into alcoholic beverages, among other uses. It is not clear to me if, apart from Myrica gale, any of the other Myrica’s are or have been used in brewing beer.
Myrica rubra, also known as Yumberry™
So… what should we take from all this?
I think it is good to be reminded that language is fluid, it changes with the times, and words and definitions change with it.
It was only because of my previous research and my European background that I questioned the definition of this term. While bog myrtle and laurel berries are used for similar preservative properties in brewing, they both have unique flavors which could change the outcome of the final brew.
In our efforts to emulate pre-1600 recipes it would be a shame if our modern assumptions got in the way of our experimental cooking & brewing!
Thank you, Baroness Katja Davidova Orlova Khazarina, for double-checking my findings, and finding even more sources.
This article was written for a class to be presented at the Known World Heralds and Scribes Symposium, but then I came down with the flu and couldn’t be there. So I’m posting it here in hopes someone may find it useful. It’s aimed at scribal research but the concepts apply to any discipline. – Arianna of Wynthrope
You just gotten a scroll assignment. What to do next? Search online for a design, right? So let’s say you search on “French renaissance illuminated manuscript” and select Images. Jackpot!
You click an image you like.
You can now check Related Images to see if there’s anything similar that you like better. When you find the image you want, look below the name of the page. Here we can see it says… Uh, oh. Pinterest!
We know that Pinterest is NOT a good source. Yes, there’s some great stuff there, but many of the images you find there will be scrolls created by SCA scribes. DON’T USE THESE. They might be fine, based on good research, but there’s no easy way to tell. They might just as well be somebody’s fantasy mishmosh, and either way they constitute tertiary sources with no documentation.
Many other links on Pinterest might look like period manuscripts, but won’t reliably connect you to the original source document. Plus, some styles are hard to pin down on time period. I went looking for 16th century Persian manuscripts one time and found 19th century Malaysian ones that looked very, very similar in style. You need to keep digging!
Even with Pinterest, all is not lost! Let’s dive into the bowels of Pinterest, shall we? Click the link for Visit, NOT Save. You need to explore the image to find its source, time period, etc.
And here we are, on someone’s lovely Pinterest page. She’s been kind enough to label her images with their actual sources, yay!
But we can’t just take her word for it. After scrolling down to find the image we want, we click it to see if we can get to the source.
Hmm, not much help here. Let’s click the image again.
A website for a University! This looks promising. After a little filtering on renaissance art and images of the Virgin Mary, we scroll down to find our page – and it includes attribution to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England! Bingo!
Ideally, however, we’re not done yet. Let’s Google the Fitzwilliam Museum and search their website. It took a little clicking around, but finally under their Collections Explorer, we hit gold – Illuminated Manuscripts!
Clicking that link brings us to a page with links to lots of illuminated manuscripts including information on their time and place of origin. Which one contains the page we liked? Honestly, do we care? Because this is such a treasure trove, it’s time to just bookmark the whole collection!
As it happens, we can use the options under Refine your results by to filter the search to just French manuscripts and hopefully find the actual source for the image. However, sometimes we won’t find it, maybe because the image has been removed since it was posted to that Pinterest page, which appears to be the case for this lovely page.
Why is it so important to get to the original source? The word you want is Provenance.
Provenance is a list of who had possession of the manuscript from the time it was (purportedly) created until now. Good sources have a complete provenance with no gaps, so we know they aren’t fakes.
If you never get to a source that lists the manuscript’s time, place, and provenance, you cannot rely on it to be an actual period document. If you want to use it anyway, that’s fine, but if you’re entering it in an A&S competition where documentation is important, or you just really want to be sure you’re basing your scroll on a good source, you need to be a little picky.
Reverse Image Searching
If Pinterest is stubbornly taking you around in circles, here’s a way to break out of Pinterest Hell – reverse image search.
Reverse image searching lets you tell the internet “Go find me other web pages with images that look like this one.” There are several ways to perform a reverse image search.
1. In Google Chrome, on any image, right-click the image and select Search Google for image.
2. Ta-da! It shows us that the original of this image probably came from the Morgan Library.
3. But that’s not enough. We need to verify the actual manuscript. Click the thumbnail of the picture.
4. Now we’re in a funhouse of multiple copies of the same image. As you hover your cursor over each copy of the image, a hint as to its origin displays. For example, with the cursor over the image on the far right, we can see that this one is stored at… Pinterest. OK, we know to skip that one!
As it happens, ALL of them are from Pinterest… except this one:
5. Hmm, let’s click it.
6. Aha! The Morgan Library! So we click Visit, and… woohoo, the real thing!
7. Clicking the See more information link gets us tons of information about this manuscript, including a detailed description and the manuscript’s Provenance!
We did it! We found the actual period manuscript from which this image came, and all of the information about it! Exhausting, wasn’t it?
If you don’t have Google Chrome, you can still do a reverse image search
1. Right-click the image and select Copy link address.
2. Go to Google.com and, in the upper-right corner, select Images.
3. In the Google search bar, click the camera icon to search by image.
4. Press Ctrl-V to paste the image’s address into the Paste Image URL field and click Search by Image.
5. This gets us to the same place as step 2 in the search using Google Chrome as discussed above. This is why you should probably just use Chrome.
Note: there are other websites that perform reverse image searches using the address of the image, like www.tineye.com. Each of them may produce different results. Use whichever one you like.
A Better Way
Instead of searching through random stuff on the web, a better bet is to use sites with lots of manuscripts that you know are legitimate, like universities, libraries, and museums. Then, bookmark them! Here are a few great ones:
Keep in mind that the location of a museum or library is not necessarily related to the place of origin of the books in its collection; e.g. the Welsh National Library has mostly French & English mss., while the British Library has an extensive collection of Hebrew manuscripts.
Some cultures just didn’t have their own distinctive styles. The Scots and Welsh mostly borrowed from England, while Belgium borrowed from France and Germany. Some cultures didn’t create a lot of manuscripts at all – we don’t have much from the Scandanavian countries, for instance, so for someone with a Viking persona you probably want to look for something Anglo-Saxon instead.
Using the image you just found
Now that you’ve got a good source, how to use it? Save the images so you can access them offline later. You may want to print them out, in color if possible, to have on hand while painting your scroll (though if you have a tablet, accessing them directly online works, too).
If the image is just a single page with no zoom options, you can use your trusty right-click to invoke the menu and then either select Save image as and give it a name and location where you want to save it, or choose Copy image and then paste it into a Word document. When there are multiple pages of a manuscript that I like, I prefer the latter, since I can then have a single document with all of the images from a single manuscript.
When I’m on a page with zoom features, I prefer to zoom into the parts I want and then take screenshots. The [Prnt Scrn] button works for that, but for better control, on a PC I prefer the Snipping Tool.
Access the Snipping Tool from a Windows computer’s Start menu under WindowsAccessories to take screenshots.
Zoom in for closeups of the detailed areas before taking your screenshots.
Paste them into a Word document.
Type the URL and a name and description of each ms. into the Word doc for later reference, so you know where you got them.
If you want to be able to trace an image onto your scroll paper, use Word’s Format Picture feature to change your image to black and white. If necessary, fiddle with the Brightness and Contrast to make the image easier to see. Resize the image to the size you need, print it, and trace.
Bookmark and, if possible, download any facsimiles recommended to you that you think might be useful or interesting. Create folders on your hard drive for the Word docs you created – you can re-use images for multiple scrolls.
Lots of people from all over the SCA are on various scribal Facebook groups, posting photos of their work, links to manuscripts, questions, and advice. People who are especially good sources of info on these sites who I know pretty well include: Master Giles from Lochac, aka Mark Calderwood; Master Ranthulfr from the Middle, aka Randy Asplund, Lord Ian TheGreen from the Middle, Mistress Tetchubah from Caid, aka Carolyn Richardson, and Mistress Katarina Helene from the Middle, aka Helen Schultz. Folks on these groups are generally kind, helpful, and will not critique a scroll posted on the group unless the poster explicitly asks for it.
Please don’t run away! I know that Research & Documentation may scare many of you. No need to fear, I know it is a bit frightening… like a young child coming face to face with a junkyard dog. But if you give me a chance, perhaps we might be able to make this journey less intimidating and more enjoyable. Believe me, this dog will not bite.
Take a deep breath. You alright? Ready to take your first step? No need to worry, I’m here beside you to help you on your way.
I cannot recall how many times I might see something and think to myself “That is so amazing, I wish I could learn how to….”. We are very fortunate in the current modern age that we have so much information at our disposal. Sometimes it is too much information, and we don’t know where to start. The purpose of this article is to offer guidelines, suggestions really, on where you might start your own research journey and how to document it to a desired audience (e.g. classroom notes, newsletter articles, competition documentation for judges).
Research vs. Documentation
What is the difference between Research and Documentation? Research is the investigation of a subject to discover or revise information on the subject. Documentation is an artifact that is derived from the research. Research can include looking at primary, secondary and tertiary sources of information including expert analysis and opinion as well as practical hands-on experience. Examples of research may include the following:
Online articles and pictures
Personal attempt to create an item that is the subject of your research
Books, Magazines and Periodicals (Printed and Online)
Viewing a painting contemporary to the time period of an item (secondary source)
Archaeological notes from a university publication (expert analysis & opinion)
Examining an item on display at a museum (primary source)
Many of us are not fortunate to have access to many primary & secondary sources of information, but most of us have access to online articles and pictures as well as our own personal experience in attempting to create an item.
How far you go with your research is completely a personal choice, but sometimes when you start following the breadcrumbs of information, you might not anticipate where that journey might lead you.
Now that we have made the decision to start researching a subject, where to begin? There are several starting points at your disposal.
Do you recall where you first heard or saw something about the subject you want to research? Perhaps it was at a class? Perhaps you saw someone wearing or working with the subject? Go to these individuals, and strike up a conversation about the subject. I can tell you that people really do enjoy talking about subjects that are of interest to them. Ask them if they have any information of how you can learn more about the subject and get their contact information.
Perhaps the subject was something you learned about while watching a TV show, movie, or some other video. Perhaps it was an article online or in a magazine.
You had to learn about the existence of the subject somewhere; if you can. make a note of where you first learned about it.
Additional starting points may be:
Search engine (i.e. Google)
Online Communities for the Subject (i.e. Facebook or Email Groups)
SCA Arts & Sciences Websites
Personal websites by Amateur Scholars
As you begin your research you also want to make sure you are keeping some sort of notes of your research. These notes are to help you keep a record of the sources you investigated and the information you learned from these sources. Pick a method of keeping notes that is most comfortable for you. Some methods that may be used are:
A blog or personal website
A notebook or journal
An electronic notepad (Word Document, One Note)
Idea board (Pinterest)
Below are some samples of a note entries:
Harvest of the Cold Months
Ice was used to cool wine in Italy during the 16th century.
The garden was specifically embellished with an inner sanctum – a smaller garden – meant to hold a flower-garden, uniquely kept to provide olfactory and visual pleasures
How to Crack Honey without Thermometer
June 14, 2017
I was finally able to get the honey to get hot enough that in cracked like peanut brittle when the nucato was cooled. You will get a whiff of smoke as the honey is boiling, and then immediately take it off the heat. Reminder, not to put the nuts nor spices into the honey while it is being heated, otherwise the spices and nuts will burn.
Documentation can be as simple as taking all your notes and putting them together in a manner that is directed for a specific audience. There are several different types of documentation you can create based on your research. Examples of documentation can include the following:
An article for a newsletter or a blog
An article for a magazine
A periodical issue
Documentation for a competition
Knowing your audience can help you determine the type of documentation to create. There are templates available for creating documentation. I also suggest having someone not knowledgeable in the subject matter review your documentation so anything that might not be clear can be identified and addressed.
Some of the details you might consider discussing in your documentation are as follows:
Introduce the reader to the subject and set their expectations for what they might gain or learn from the document
What about this subject has inspired you to research it?
Tell the reader about the subject and how it relates in context to a time period or through several time periods
Materials, Processes, Tools & Techniques
If the subject is an item that can be crafted, discuss the materials, processes, tools and techniques used to make the item.
Discuss any differences between historical practices and how you made the item.
Supporting your Research
For further information – Give the reader information on where they could learn more, this could include your contact information.
Footnotes or Endnotes – Give credit where credit is due by supporting what you have learned by where you learned it from.
Bibliography – Now you have all your notes, you can create a bibliography based on all the information you have gather.
Thank you for taking the time to let me guide you on these first steps to Research and Documentation. I have only scratched the surface on these topics. Hopefully it is not as scary as it was once before. If you would like to learn more, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. For your convenience, I have many links on various articles on research and documentation on my website at:
A treasure trove of online original resources can be found at Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook site here. Spend some time clicking through the sections in the left navigation bar. Here are a few of the delights in store:
Anglo Saxon Dooms (laws) from 560-975. Read the laws of Æthelbehrt (560-616) to discover the fines to be paid for various injuries to others – everything from pierced nostrils, to different prices for various teeth, to bruises: 59. If the bruise be black in a part not covered by the clothes, let bot be made with thirty scaetts. 60. If it be covered by the clothes, let bot for each be made with twenty scaetts. (Hint: Scroll down and print out the glossary first.)