A place for Drachenwald's scribes to hang out, learn, discuss and critique each others work.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Baronesses Tale: Sun and Chalice Scroll for Baroness Arianhwy Wen

This piece is based on the conceit that a folio was lost from the Ellesmere Chaucer (Huntingdon Library MSS EL26 C 9), with a missing Canterbury Tale.  The tale of the Baronesse of Oxenford is based on the scroll commission which detailed Arianhwy’s assistance to Yannick and Alana, particularly in their first weeks in post.  The Tale is written in Middle English, imitating Chaucer's southern English dialect.  

The Ellesmere Chaucer is a significant secular illuminated codex of the early 15th Century.  It includes the full text of the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.  It is written in a Gothic littera bastarda hand, painted largely in lapis and crimson, with gilt illumination.  The folios are about 284mm wide by 400mm high, and of 232 originally inscribed pages (of 240 folio pages), of which 71 have foliated borders, of which 23 have equestrian portraits of Chaucer’s pilgrims painted apparently by at least two artists.

Ellesmere Chaucer f 72r

Ellesmere Chaucer f72 v

This piece represents a verso page and the following recto page, inspired by one of the 23 pages which include a foliated border and an equestrian portrait (cf f 72r, f 47r), and by one of the comparatively undecorated following pages (eg f 24r or f 61r).  In this piece the Baroness of Oxenford is dressed very much like the Wife of Bath, with a similar horse, tack and clothing.  Notably she is wearing a pair of loose riding boots which cover much of her skirts, and she is wearing an SCA baroness’s coronet on her broad-brimmed hat.  Her horse is at the charge, and as her weapon she bears a quill.  
Detail from Ellesmere Chaucer f 72r

The pages are about 80%  larger (at 500mm wide and 700mm high) than the original (284mm wide by 400mm high) to provide enough room for 80 lines of the 84-line tale), and the foliated border is proportionately larger.  The hand is a version of my usual bâtarde which pays homage to the original.  The pages are folded at the binding line and pricked for stitching.  The deleted lines (struck out in the text below) are written on the verso of the second page along with a colophon.  


The piece is made on Pedroni white Pergamenata 230gsm laminated pulp paper in place of parchment, with minium in place of crimson.  The gesso is made of rabbit skin glue, whiting and a very little bit of titanium white (in place of white lead).  The blue pigments are ground lapis, the violet is ultramarine with alizarin lake, and the illustrations are drawn in walnut ink.  The gilding is 23.5ct gold transfer leaf, laid down over Roberson’s size (gum arabic and Armenian bole).  I made up the blue and red (lapis and minium respectively) pigments from dry using (Roberson’s) gum arabic water.  The original was written with quills using iron gall ink.  For convenience this piece is written with a steel pen using Rotring calligraphy ink.  

The Text

The Prologue of the Baronesses tale of Oxenford 

In the daies of Yannick the mightious archier-prince 
And Alana, the wise-handed ladie of same province, 
Thei didde bet fos soe manie
wilen taken the Dragouniles destine
thei didde looken eche atte thother
for what thei next must do conned never-nother
So long had thei made red and wagen war 
shenden theiren fos when they had more
than cumpassen the ruine of the former 
archier-princes Pol and Caitriona 
thei had not a thoughte for hou governen 
this land or manie iles, bothe wiled and roten, 
bountevous and verray poverisht
(for not everie principate florisht).  
So didde princes counseul wiseli wot
to swch onother of that folk of shot, 
wizsnid Arianhwy, Baronesse, 
learned ladi wise with anrednesse.  

Here endeth the Baroness hire prologue and beginneth hire tale

Now Arianhwy Wen, which signifien 
Arianhwy Whit for pal her skin. 
She lerned was in gramarie and logiqe, 
a pratie honde she wrote hire rethoriqe.
With a eu-boue, she was right well sharp
thei say that in hire youth she pleied the scarp 
with a sworde and bucclere as wel righte  
when in armour she was samendighte.
Fro Outremer had she ones cume awai, 
bitimen hire voix were harsk they sei
and certes rhotiqe even with the wide
of the land biyonde se-occeans tide.  
Biforen yore she held armes aword 
ful yore agone thei did their will accord,
Dragounwold princes. By graunt in fee 
later souveraigns maked her their feffe; 
They maked her of the Pinnash a felaue,
her lindquist ring recorded in escrowe
her Silverenward made up the bigge thre 
‘the dragoun’s hat-tric’ clept in this contre.
Felau she was of Holi Ffraid’s covent
and of the vox’s order did provent.
She wore the silveren martlet robe and bagge
swch honour she had geten with quilles egge.  
Heraulds of armes named hende eke
for ontime she couthe tweie sitte and speke.  
Lo on holi daies and semidoubles,
sheren shep of excellents and nobles 
by curiouste use of trumpes and of pleies.  
She were a potentat known alweies 
For potaciouns potent whiche roum-honded doled,
When her licour’s botel was forgoled
But whiche nevere touched herouen lippes.  
Somme seie that this had ought to do 
with hire at Baronetti winnen so.  
Wher sitte she at the loue table shouest
able of maken hir the very louest  
Wher above the salt sat she was ever 
sad and seur and semeli hoasever.
She vulgar was amonges the vulgar, but 
alwaies grete amonges the grete, goddut.  
All who meten hire were liften up, 
and non hath evermor ben shamed therup.
A baronesse is called excellence 
bi force of hire estat, a recompense.
but the princes of thiles had founden 
that Arianhwy excellence abounden
in all she did, and that she was an exaumple 
to queinte princes’ nobles ever ample.
Bitimes ther were five-and-twenti noblesse 
of thiles joigned togederes by the princess
and princes of the Dragouniles
for excellence and for exaumple otherwiles.

So at Raglanfeire in the country of Monmouth  
the feste of halwe Ust, ad diem four nere
thides of aoust, in twoscore and twelfth yere
didde Yannick and Alana, Prince and Princesse
sumoun close this Arianhwy, Baronesse,
bifor theim and didde commaunde hire 
to accompaignie theires noble ensaumplere
and beren ther bagge of the sunne and chalice 
so that all might know hire for the wise  
and craftful womman she was.  And so 
it was preched to theires court, lo,
all wist Arianhwy Wen participat 
of the heighest menske in the principat. 

The Baroness’s Tale in Modern English


In the days of Yannick the mighty archer-prince, 
And Alana, the wise-handed lady of the same province, 
They did beat foes so many
while taking the Dragouniles dynasty
they did look each at the other
for what they next must do neither knew
So long had they made plans and waged war,
destroying their foes when they had more
than achieved the ruin of the former 
archer-princes Pol and Caitriona 
they had not a thought for how to govern 
this land of many isles, both wild and settled,
bountiful and truly impoverished
(for not every principality flourishes).  
So did princes’ counsel wisely know
to turn to another who could shoot a bow, 
wizened Arianhwy, Baroness, 
learned lady well-advised.  

Here ends the Baroness’s prologue and begins her tale

Now Arianhwy Wen, which signifies
Arianhwy the White for pale was her skin. 
She was learned in grammar her rhetoric.
With a yew bow she was right well sharp
they say that in her youth she played the sharp 
with a sword and bcukler and was not afraid  
when in her armour she was arrayed.
From Outremer had she once come away, 
long ago her voice was harsh they say
and certainly rhotic even with the accent
of the land beyond the ocean’s tide.  
Years ago she held armes by award 
long ago they agreed their will, 
Dragounwold’s princes. By grant in fee 
later sovereigns made her their foeffee; 
They made her of the Panache a fellow,
her Lindquist ring recorded in escrow
her Silver Guard made up the big three 
‘the dragon’s hat-trick’ called in this country.
Fellow she was of Holy Ffraid’s convent
and of the Fox’s order did profit.
She wore the silver martlet robe and badge
such honour she had got with her quill’s edge.  
Heralds of armes named her very handy
for at once she could both sit and speak.  
Lo, on holy days and church festivals,
she shore sheep of their excellents and nobles* 
by curious use of trumps and of plays.  
She was a potentate known always 
For potatiouns potent which she generously doled,
When her liquor bottle was uncorked,
But which never touched her own lips.  
Some say that this had something to do 
with her winning so at Baronetti.  
Where she sat at the low table she showed
she could make herself the very lowest
When she was sat above the salt, ever
sober and sure and seemly was however.  
She vulgar was amongst the vulgar, but 
always grete among great, God knows.  
All who met hire were lifted up, 
and none have evermore been ashamed of it.
A baronesse is called ‘excellence’ 
by force of her estate, a recompense.
but the princes of the Isles had found 
that in Arianhwy excellence abounds
in all she did, and that she was an example 
to quaint princes’ nobles, ever ample.
Betimes there were five-and-twenty nobles 
of the Isles joined together by the princesses
and princes of the Dragouniles
for excellence and otherwise for example.

So at Raglan Fair in the county of Monmouth  
the feast of St Just, four days before
the Ides of August, in the twoscore and twelfth year
did Yannick and Alana, Prince and Princess,
summon close this Arianhwy, Baroness,
before them and did command her 
to join the company of their noble examples
and bear their badge of the sun and chalice 
so that all might know her for the wise  
and craftful woman she was.  And so 
it was preached to their court, lo,
all knew Arianhwy Wen was a participant 
in the principality’s highest honour. 

*Excellents and nobles were types of mediaeval coin.  Here there is a double meaning, ‘shearing sheep of their coins’ and ‘shearing sheep who were excellencies and nobles’.  

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Laurel Scroll: Ya'akov Hamizrachi, Atlantia

This is a scroll made for a Jewish persona, and for a Jewish person who has reasonable facility with Hebrew and an understanding of traditional sources.  The text and textuality of the scroll has, as he put it, ‘Easter eggs' for people with this understanding.  

The text is a classic piyyut, a model that emerges in the Geonic period (6-11th Centuries CE) but which becomes a standard (if controversial) format for new prayers composed in the Eleventh Century and which continues through the Sixteenth Century.  It is in its early forms a distinctly eastern (Mediterranean) form, which I considered appropriate for the recipient (whose name means Jacob the Easterner, that is not someone from the Maghreb or al-Andalus in the West of the Islamic world).  

It is a rhymed form, but because Hebrew is an easy language to rhyme, the payyetan (piyyut-poet) displays textual virtuosity by encoding text as an acrostic.  In this case the lines all end with the phoneme qamatz-yod-vav which is pronounced ‘ahv’.  It is this sort of crude rhyme scheme (among other things) that caused Iberian Hebrew poets to despair at the vulgarity of early versions of this verse form.

The text encoded in the acrostic is the recipient’s name as a double acrostic (each letter repeated, so that the lines begin י, י,ע, ע etc.), followed by the blessing חי (live, vivat), also in double acrostic.

The particular inspiration for the forms of this poem is the classic piyyut ‘Akdamut Milin’, written in Aramaic with four feet per line and a single rhyme for each of its 90 lines.  Akdamut is a double alphabetical acrostic with a single signature acrostic with the name of the poet.  Akdamut Milin stretches the definition of piyyut in that it is written in Aramaic rather than Hebrew, but is otherwise a clear model to follow.  When my poem was first performed at Atlantian Court, Pennsic War, it was chanted to the traditional trope assigned to Akdamut Milin, a tune which can be dated to the same time and place as the text (Macy Nulman, Concepts of Jewish Music and Prayer (New York: Cantorial Council of America, 1985), 44 and 54; and Jonathan Friedmann, Synagogue Song: An Introduction to Concepts, Theories and Customs (Jefferson, NC: MacFarland, 2012), 121-123, adduced in L Lieber, ‘The Piyyut (Poem) Akdamut Milin, The Enigma and Perseverance of Tradition, http://thetorah.com/akdamut-milin/, accessed 14 August 2017.).

Appropriately for a piyyut, the text includes both straightforward text and elliptical references to textual and religious concepts.  For instance, it cites three elements (king, queen and the Order of the Laurel), and refers to them as a threefold thread that does not quickly fray which is a reference to the Book of Ecclesiastes 4:12; and there is an oblique reference connecting earthly kingship to the notion of Divine providence without actually naming God.

The text closes with a brief coda in Aramaic which echoes the traditional phrases exclaimed when celebrating the completion of a tractate of Talmud.  Afterwards, in smaller writing, is a patent of arms written in words which echo the language used in the Book of Esther to describe royal documents.  (All texts in Hebrew and English are reproduced below.)

The text refers to the Order of the Laurel as a foundax (pundaq in Hebrew, funduq in Arabic), referring to the merchant companies which were granted privileges by the Byzantine emperors including keeping their own accommodation (see, inter alia, OR Constable, Housing the Stranger in the Mediterranean World:  Lodging, Trade, and Travel in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2009; p. 204).  I considered an imperial grant of foundax a persona-appropriate model for the recipient who is a 14th Century merchant from Fustat near Cairo.

The text refers to the recipient as ‘muqaddam’ based on the term used in the mediaeval Arabic-speaking world (including Egypt, of course) for a communal leader (see inter alia MR Cohen, Jewish Self-Government in Medieval Egypt:  The Origins of the Office of the Head of the Jews, ca. 1065-1126, Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 1981, p. 310).  The term is documented to Fustat in SD Goitein, A Mediterranean Society:  The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Genizah, vol II, The Community'; London:  University of California Press, 1971, pp 68-75.  

The Society year, 52, is rendered as the gematriyaחמ״ד’ which adds up to 52 and which means ‘beauty’ in Hebrew.   Rendering dates (or other numbers) as words, and indeed mathematically manupulating the numerical values of words according to the principles of gematriya was a common mediaeval Jewish practice.  

The hand for the piyyut and the grant-of-arms text, as well as the micrography, is based on that of the Leningrad Codex (National Library of Russia Firkovich B 19 A), an early 11th Century document which was almost certainly transcribed in Cairo.  

The decoration on the scroll is composed of micrography:  the practice of avoiding violating Jewish and Islamic prohibitions on figurative art by writing rather than drawing shapes.  In this work the micrographs are between 3mm and 4mm high not including ascenders and descenders.

The forms of micrography on this scroll are based to some extent on some French/German examples in the British Library including BL Additional MS 21160, on Yemenite documents BL Oriental 2349 (a 15th Century pentateuch), National Library of Israel 5840, but largely on the 15th Century Sa’ana Pentateuch (BL Oriental 2348), notably ff. 38v-39r.  

The micrography spells out various Biblical verses, as do the comparable texts in the exemplars.  The outer frame of the piece consists of Psalm 145, ‘I will extol thee, my God, O king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever’, which runs from the top centre, around the left side, bottom and around almost all the large laurel wreath; and Psalm 150, ‘Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.’  The inner circles of the empty cartouches and the seahorse cartouche spell out Psalm 30, ‘I will extol thee, O LORD; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me.’  

Throughout, references to God are kept except for the Tetragrammaton which is replaced with the word השם, ‘the Name’.  

The Laurel Wreath

This text from Esther 6:6-11 is about the Persian emperor seeking to honour the hero of the book, one Moredecai.  
And the king said unto him, What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour? Now Haman thought in his heart, To whom would the king delight to do honour more than to myself? And Haman answered the king, For the man whom the king delighteth to honour, Let the royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head:  And let this apparel and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king's most noble princes, that they may array the man withal whom the king delighteth to honour, and bring him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour.  Then the king said to Haman, Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse, as thou hast said, and do even so to Mordecai the Jew, that sitteth at the king's gate: let nothing fail of all that thou hast spoken.  (All biblical verses are quoted from the Authorised Version in English and the Leningrad Codex in Hebrew.)
The Unicornate Seahorse, fishes and scallops

Atlantia’s symbols are based on sea-creatures which happen to be ritually impure under Jewish law.  Hence, in this scroll, the seahorse and the scallop shells are rendered using the words from Leviticus 11 which set out which sea creatures are clean, and which are unclean.  

The right-hand fish is made up of Jonah 1:17 in which God prepares a great fish to swallow Jonah.  The left-hand fish is made up of Isaiah 27:1, ‘In that day the LORD with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.’ 

The Asses and Vallary Crown

The recipient’s arms are a demi-ass contourny.  Here there are two asses, one facing each way, which are made up of the story of Balaam and his ass in Numbers 22-23.

The distinctively Atlantian vallary crown in the top centre is Psalm 19:1-2, ‘To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.  Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.’

The Arms of Atlantia
The vallary crown in the arms of Atlantia is the blessing in Deuteronomy 28:3 and 28:6.  The laurel wreath and the edge of the shield are from Psalm 37:35-40,

I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree.  Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.  Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.

The document was written on paper (as were the Yemenite exemplars), in this case Strathmore 400 series Bristol Smooth Surface, a 100% cotton paper designed for fine ink work.  The exemplars would have been written with reed pens; I have used a steel pen for speed. The exemplars will have been written with ink made of lampblack and gum arabic.   I have used Rotring calligraphy ink for convenience.  The lines were ruled by incision.  

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Chancery Scrawl: Writ of summons to parliament as earl and countess for William of Richwood and Isabetta del Verde

In the Middle Ages a man was made an English earl through a few processes, inclduing being belted with the sword of the earldom (hence the term 'belted earl' that you sometimes see) and being summoned to parliament as an earl.  Often the only record we have of the beginning of an earldom is the first summons to parliament of the first earl.

Writs of summons from William's period (late 14th Century) tend to be written very briskly in very small writing on very small pieces of parchment.  The file copies were written into great rolls of parchment kept in the offices of the Lord Chancellor.  Isabetta tends to wear later stuff, and tends to the Italianate, so I've combined the two concepts of High Mediaeval utility and Renaissance display.

I've created a writ that is based on 16th Century antiquarian hands which date to the 14th Century.  In this case I've used exemplars of both hand and capital from the scribal pattern book of Gregorius Bock (Yale University Beinecke MS 439).  This book, dated to 1510-1517, has exemplars both of contemporary hands and archaic hands, and of both contemporary and archaic capitals.  All are illustrated in pen and ink, which was artistically sophisticated in 1510, but workaday practice for chancery scribes in 1375.

The capital U is from f. 24r and the 14th-15th Century secretary hand is from f. 9v.  (You can download the entire book as a PDF from the Beinecke library for free at http://brbl-dl.library.yale.edu/vufind/Record/3593605 .

The writ is scrivened in Blot's Iron Gall ink using a reed pen.  It's written onto paper (another 16th Century practice).  I have used my favourite calligraphy paper, Strathmore Bristol 400 two-ply.  It reminds me of surviving 16th and 17th Century paper, it's 100% cotton (rather than the linen fibre that would be used in the 16th Century) with a hard finish that takes ink very well.  I used a modern steel crowquill for part of the capital.

I ruled the lines with a stylus, and you can see that the ink tends to run into the ruling lines.  I find this rather elegant in this version.  I wrote downward from the top of the line because I'm used to doing that from Hebrew calligraphy.

Copyright 2017 Lynette Nusbacher.  All rights reserved.
Writ of summons to parliament as an earl and countess, William of Richwood and Isabetta del Verde
The writ is sealed with wax made according to the recipe that matches most of the mediaeval seals in the National Archives, Kew:  'True Sealing Wax'.  True Sealing Wax was made of 2/3 beeswax and 1/3 resin.  In this case I've used white beeswax and pine rosin.  The seal is in a 'skippet' made of turned hardwood.   Skippet is a diminutive of skep, which is a word for a basketwork beehive that comes from the Old Norse word 'skeppa'.  Early skippets were basketwork, later ones wood and still later ones metal.

The seal is attached with a silk plaited cord in black, yellow and scarlet.  The pattern of suspending the seal is based on an illustration on p. 17 of Hilary Jenkinson, Guide to Seals in the Public Record Office London:  HMSO, 1954.  Jenkinson is also the source of the sealing wax recipe.

The page is folded as a letter patent:  that is it is made to be read without breaking the seal.  (Writs that are sealed shut are called letters close.)

The text:

Unto the dukes, erles, vicecounts, barons, likewise duchesses, countesses, vicecountesses, baronesses, nobles and gent[le]s doe wee siridean rex dracosylvaniae & iahanara regina dracosylvaniae, recognisant [tha]t guilhelm off richewoode, kt. & isabetta del verde, vicecount & vicecountess, quondam rulers of [thi]s blessed royaume hight draconwald, did rightly & justlie rule from midwinter until midsomer, wee doe by [the]se p[re]sent lettres p[aten]t invest and create [the] aforesaid wilhelm & isabetta resp[ect]ivelie earl & countess from [thi]s instant daye forthe so longe as [th]ey eche schal live, & inn token of w[hi]ch estate wee do graunt unto [the] af[ore]said william & ysabetta alle [the] customarie revenues w[hi]ch [the] erles of draconwald doe enjoieby right & lawe, & soe doe wee by roy[al]l commaund [tha]t when arduous & urgent affaires concerning us & [th]e state & defence of owre royaume and owre societie cause owre c[ou]rt or curia regis [the] af[ore]men[tione]d erle william & countess isabetha give due consideration to attending in estate & dignitie, & when summoned to warre [th]ey attend with a retinue befitting [thei]r comital estate.  Done under owre great seal a.d. xvj calends mensis julii, an. soc. lij, sitting owre thrones on owre isle off lough devnarie.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Parchment and shell gold: QoC for Duncan Kerr and Lindquistringes for Jasper Rose

Finished pieces, before trimming off excess parchment. Click to embiggen, or go to the Flickr album for more process pictures.

Queen's order of Courtesy: Duncan Kerr


From Adamastor to the south, and north
To Aarnimetsa, there is no virtue
Valued more than courtesy. Go ye forth,
Proclaim it to the mountains and seek you
One who hath this in greater measure than
Lord Duncan Kerr. You will find not one, nor
Any who come close. Since our lands began
The Queen has marked out courtesy, a corps
Of honoured folk who have this virtue strong.
And to it now, we add this Duncan Kerr.
Let now ye all rise up, and call it long,
His name, and celebrate him, without bar,
Nor let, nor yet surcease. Make sure he knows
That's known about his duties how he goes.
So says Isabetta, the red queen of Drachenwald, this 18 of June, AS LII from Nova Grangia in Dun in Mara.

Lindquistringes: Jasper Rose


Come one, come all, and heed these words!
Let the trumpets sound their call!
For Lindquistringes set forth thy birds,
Stand forth ye, of service all!
Spare him now no blush or stutter,
Spare him now no dark shadow.
He'll demur or quiet mutter,
Just as soon his fame let go.
Now bring ye forth that Jasper Rose,
Despite that he be nervous.
Let him stand forth among all those
Who do good loyal service!
So say We Siridean Šah (SHAH) and Jahanara Bambišn (BAMBISHN) of Drachenwald this 18 of June, AS 52 from our ancient seat of Nova Grangia.
These pieces were both commissioned with less than a week's notice (kingdom signet lost some messages to email hacking).

While I'd hoped to tailor each writ more, in the end I chose to do both in the same style to save myself time and performance stress. They were handed out by 2 different sets of royals over 2 days.

Design choices

I went hunting for late 15th to early 16th c styles in small format (good for both recipients), to suit A6 or smaller pieces of parchment.
I settled on the Hastings Hours, c 1480: Add MS 54782 in the British Library (whole book).

Why A6? because I'm keen on recipients being able to find a standard frame and put their writs on a wall, rather than storing them waiting for a custom frame. So I've marked all my parchment for standard sizes, use the excess to test paint and ink, and trim it off before handing the work in.

The features I wanted to copy:
- small size, where original is 16.5 x 12cm - A6 format is 14.8 x 10.5 cm
- layout w/ broad margins and calligraphy 'floating' between scored lines (rather than 'sat' on bottom line)
- modest illumination with an unusual colour scheme of gray/white capitals on red-brown ocher background
- batarde hand

Sample image from original to show colour scheme and hand.

Hastings Hours f24v

Text source

Both texts are courtesy of Lord Aodh O Siadhail, who rose to the challenge of composition on short notice. One is a sonnet, a known renaissance format. The other is is 3 verses of 8/7 syllables, which 'just seemed to work', says Aodh.


Parchment, scored with a hardpoint tool
Oak gall ink with metal nib dip pen for calligraphy
Gouache and watercolour with watercolour brushes
Shell gold (appears in first photo)

Illumination sequence:
- paint capital blocks a plain red ocher
- paint in the letters with a middle gray
- highlight the letters with permanent white, using my finest brush - I did not manage to copy the rich variations of white on these letters
- dot and outline the letter background with shell gold
- outline letters gently with black watercolour

White highlights and black outlining require the same steps:
- start with a dry blob of pigment (see first photo)
- wet a fine brush with clean water and 'roll out' most of the water: unlike usual process, do not add water to the pigment
- run the damp brush over the surface of the pigment til it picks up a very concentrated dose of colour
- test, and apply to the piece

Keeping the pigment dry except for contact with the damp brush means you avoid flooding an already-painted surface with water and making the pigment run.

Good stuff

I love parchment: love prepping it, laying it out, writing on it, painting it. 'Nuff said.

I was pleased with getting the calligraphy to 'float' between the lines. This is always a work in progress but has been a long-term goal of mine, to get closer to the original calligraphy layout for most of our time period.

I got to try shell gold for the first time, and it's always cool to play with new matreials.

The two pieces were presented well. In Drachenwald, the Queen's order of courtesy comes with its own tale. Master Alexandre d'Avigne told it with flair, which built the tension before the recipient heard his name and approached her Majesty Isabetta.

In the first court of Siridean and Jahanara, Siridean Šah made a point of asking the recipient to close his eyes to hear the acclaim of the court, which promptly cheered for him. Lyonet Schwarzdrachen then read the verses boldly giving them the charming emphasis they needed.

Lessons learned

I wanted a small exemplar. I think I tried to make it too small for my own skill level. To get the look right, I need to try it slightly larger than original, and work my way down to the original's size.

Calligraphy: the batarde hand I do is ok, though it's not exactly like this one. This fine a hand with the crispness of the hairlines still eludes me, and I think I need to return to cutting quills, a lot, to get it right.

Shell gold is a funny thing. It's real gold pressed into a tiny block and held together with gum arabic. You add a drop of water and wait for it to penetrate the block, and then mix while you have a window of opportunity. Wait too long and the water is fully absorbed and your gold goes hard again. SIGH.

It's fussier to work with than the Schminke gold gouache and will definitely take more practice.

Labour tally

As I did both pieces at the same time, this count applies to both works.

Artwork by Genevieve:
Research: 3 hr
Layout: 2 hr
Practice: 2 hr
Calligraphy: 1 hr
Illumination: 4 hr incl drying time

Wording by Aodh:
QoC 1 hour
Lindquistringe: inspired 1/2 hour