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Scribal Extravaganza

September 22, 2016

Well, it’s been a while and this has been nagging at me for quite some time.  So, since I don’t feel like working on actual work for a change, here’s a post!

While there haven’t been many local courts this summer, I have managed to do a fair amount of scribal work.  Baroness Hannah, a friend of mine in Cynnabar, has been working on a scribal challenge – getting the scribes of the group to make as many scroll blanks as possible to donate to the kingdom.  To encourage this, she’s hosted several workdays at her house where scribes can get together to work and share ideas and comradeship.

I was able to attend one of the workdays back in July and had a fun time (how could I not?) hanging out with friends and fellow scribes.

blank-1-2016I completed one blank with a large capital L and some whitework of the style done in the 14th century.  I also shared one of my scribal “cheats” – a page I’d made with a bunch of whitework patterns collected from a variety of manuscript sources.  Having them all in one place makes it easy to pick patterns to put on a scroll, rather than having to take the time to leaf through a book to find different designs.

Even though the whitework is not as neat as I might like, the overall effect is nice and the bright colors always stand out.

blank-2-2016I also started a second blank in a style that would be appropriate for and early medieval persona with a border design based on some Celtic carving.  Though I got the border finished, I thought the rest of the scroll looked a little plain, so I brought it home with me to add a large capital to start things off.

I kind of like the simplicity of this one, with just green and gold colors.  The gold here (and on all of these scrolls) is done with Holbein “pearl gold” gouache, which makes a decent substitute for shell gold (finely ground gold in a pellet that can be used like paint) but is relatively quick and easy to use.  I always put an undercoat of yellow or yellow ochre paint down before applying the gold gouache.  This helps give better coverage since I don’t have to apply as much of the gold paint to get a good look.

With that, we were off to Pennsic for two weeks and then there were only two weeks afterward for me to get ready to start the fall semester, so things kind of hit a lag for a while.  However, at a local event last weekend, there was a “Five Hour Challenge” competition.  Entrants were given five hours to work on a project of their choosing and at the end of the time judging was done on the scope of the project, success of completion, and quality of work.  I decided that bringing my scribal supplies along would give me something to do throughout the day and I could see how many blanks I could do in that time.  The answer is three!

blank-4-2016First I made another scroll inspired by Celtic illuminated manuscript work, using a large illuminated letter and completing the top line with enlarged text surrounded by rubrication (tiny red dots) that are typical of this style.

As is often the case, I’m not really satisfied with the way the rubrication turned out.  I always have a hard time getting the dots evenly spaced and regular in size and shape.

Still, I happened on a blog entry from the British Library the other day on this exact topic that has some really great closeup images of a page from the 7th century Lindisfarne Gospel.  I was amazed to see that the historic dots aren’t even either!

So I feel a little better about my dots now, but I think I still need to work on getting them a little more consistent.

blank-3-2016Then, I made a scroll with an initial done in the style of Ottonian manuscripts from about the 10th century.  The Ottonian style is kind of a combination of some leftover Celtic interlace bits and a more vegetal, less geometric style.  What’s also interesting about these letters is their typically red details and outline, which stands out from the more standard black or dark brown used in most other forms.

The gold here should really be gold leaf rather than paint.  You can see the shine of real gold on the historic manuscripts, but for this purpose and given the short amount of time I had to work, the gold paint fit the bill.

This is the scroll I’m most happy with of the three I made.  I was able to use a fine liner brush to fill in the red details and especially the overall outline of the letter and I think really achieved the look of the original forms.  I may add a small border to the opposite corner of this scroll, but it’s on a smaller piece of paper (about 6×9″) so I don’t want to limit the space for calligraphy too much.

blank-5-2016Finally, I made a blank in the style known as Italian white vine, which was popular in Italy in the 15th century.  This style is always fun and is actually relatively simple – there’s no shading or complicated patterning, just large block areas of color.

What’s fun about this style is again the dots – white dots on the blue and red areas and gold dots on the green areas.  Here again the gold of the letter should be done in gold leaf, but for practical purposes the gold paint works well.

I also used another scribal cheat on this one and used Micron pens in black and brown for the outlines.  These fine point pens are a quick and easy way to outline when you don’t want to mess with a tiny nib.

So now I’m all stocked up and ready for some future courts!

Meanwhile, I did do one complete scroll for an event in the region.  While I had kind of hoped for something I could apply to one of my existing blanks, I ended up with an assignment for a Japanese persona.  Still, I like doing these scrolls that are outside the standard European model.  It’s a nice opportunity to break out of the regular forms.

I had a strip of Pergamenata about 6×37″ left over from cutting down a large sheet.  It’s an odd size, but this kind of thing often works for a non-traditional scroll like this since I could do something in the style of a Japanese hand scroll.  After doing a little research on different forms in the recipient’s time period, I also discovered that her name translates to “maple” and so settled on a design of a maple branch extending along the length of the scroll with a block of text at one end.

waterhorse-cavendish-16Here, the scroll is still taped to my work table in the basement (hence the odd shadows).  The ink and paint I used for this were very liquid, and I didn’t want the Perg to buckle from the moisture.

The text is written from right to left and vertically, as with traditional Japanese calligraphy.  I used a faux hand with the English alphabet altered to emulate the look of Japanese calligraphy.  While the text blocks here are a bit larger than you might find on a traditional hand scroll, I’m happy with the way the blocks of text balance out that end of the scroll against the more sparse look but intense color of the branch and leaves across the rest of the space.

Unfortunately, the intended recipient wasn’t at the event, and I don’t know if it’s been delivered to her yet.  Still, I was really gratified at the gasp that came from the audience when it was displayed in court.  It’s always nice to get a reaction like that!

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