In the last year, I've come up with a number of reasons, all of which I've been working at addressing one step at a time:
- Paper. My first illuminated pieces were done on watercolor paper, which works for thank-you cards, but doesn't really work for scrolls. So my next scroll I did on parchment, which was amazing; not only did the end product look so much nicer, it was so much nicer to work with! Unfortunately, I cannot afford real parchment for every scroll, but pergamenta isn't so bad.
- Whitework. The presence or absence of whitework really makes a tremendous difference. My first forays left me with much to be desired. And then I started looking more closely at digitized MSs online where you can really zoom in, and realized, you know, when you look that closely, it doesn't look that much different than mine. So if it's a choice between bad whitework and no whitework, definitely go for the former, if you want the medieval look.
- Layout. Every single grant or confirmation of arms that I saw at the London Guildhall Library two weeks ago was oriented in landscape. Funnily enough, even before I saw all those examples and I'd decided to make all future AoA scrolls in layout format, I'd already done my most recent scroll in that format.
- Text. Calligraphy is definitely my strong point; there are some hands that I feel very comfortable with and feel like I can mimic my exemplars quite closely. But even when I use those, the overall visual effect doesn't seem right. I figured out the reason some years ago: the visual effect of a text is based on the distribution of the letters used, and that distribution is simply different if the text is in Latin vs. if it is in English; we see so many medieval MSs that are done in Latin, but we make so many of our own in English. So I've started doing my scroll texts in Latin.
I do the latter partly for the visual affect, and partly because it allows me to make more authentic scrolls for people who have non-English personas (since Latin is appropriate for most of the period and locations that the SCA covers, and it's the only non-English language I have any comfort translating into). One of the things I enjoy most about Latin-language scroll texts is something that excites the herald, not the scribe, in me, and that's getting the right Latin form of the recipient's and bestowers' names. In most cases this is fairly straight forward, but sometimes in developing the right Latin form of the name I find out something I didn't know before, which allows me to be sure that my choice of Latinization is authentic. Normally if the wording I'm using contains a blazon, either of the recipient's arms or of the badge of the order/award, I leave the blazon in "blazonese" rather than translating it, but when I was doing my translation for the Lindquistringes scroll, I found that keeping the blazon in there untranslated really looked poor, in part because the Lindquistringe's badge isn't really a badge, it's an actual piece of regalia and the blazon reflects this. So it seemed natural to also describe the physical ring in Latin terms, rather than putting the blazon in.
My most recent scroll takes into account all of these things that I've learned, and I'm really pretty happy with how it turned out. I'm constantly looking out for more points where what I'm doing differs from what is in my exemplars, in hopes that eventually I can do something about them as well.
What about the rest of you? What are the things that you've isolated and changed about your own work to make it look more medieval?