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

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Scrolls for Yule Ball

Been a busy couple of weeks.
First - an A0A I'm really pleased with, because the colour scheme is very close to the (digitised printout of the) original; the ink is a matching brown (walnut ink, from

Cornelissens); and the hand is a fairly good match to the exemplar as well.
The original is a 12th c MS of Augustine's writings, from NW France, and is in the British Library - Harley 3107.
There aren't many images of this MS, but the ones included are very colourful.
I also did a backlog for TRM to take to Adamastor. It's not a new style to me - I've done several based on the same 15th c. MS of a translation of Roman de la Rose, but it's still attractive.

I did a couple more PCS scrolls too, on spec - same 15th c. style (not shown).
What made these special for me was that they were the first scrolls I'd done entirely with quills.
I've tried quills in the past, but not gotten much result from them, and I'd given up in favour of the good results with metal nibs. I got especially exasperated with the trimming - not being able to control the trimming closely enough.
Though I'm still a ways from knocking out a few sharpened quills like a Dickensian clerk at the start of a workday, I have improved sufficiently that I can get two quills to a similar width, and produce recogniseable results on the page.
A really, really sharp knife made all the difference in the world - that, and deciding that I was going to get a handle on this quill business, even if it meant going through my entire supply of swan feathers.
After trimming, the biggest struggle was controlling ink flow - I could write a very inky entire sentence on scrap, before setting to the scroll to write a line or so, in the remaining ink, and when you ran out, you ran out completely - from visible to nothing in the space of one letter. This excess of flow seemed wasteful.
Following these scrolls, Robert provided some expert bodging, by cutting me some reservoirs that fit inside the quills. Edward Johnston recommends a strip of tin for a reservoir, though he didn't specify the cheap beer tins we used.
Somewhere I've read of a technique of using a portion of the quill as a self-reservoir, but I cannot find the reference now.

I was motivated to tackle quills again, because I wanted to do my very best, most medieval work on my last item: Sir Alaric's Laurel scroll.
Mistress Nerissa donated a 11x14" piece of real parchment for the project - a boon I might not have invested in, on my own.
I had a couple of ideas for design and text, but in the end went with a very simple presentation - aiming for the look of a 15th c charter (it now has a seal and seal cord at the bottom, through a folded edge), and a text based on 16th c Grant of Arms, sourced by Lady Arianrhod o Gymru.
It was my first real parchment scroll, and now I can agree with everyone who has ever said 'there's nothing else like it' for scribing. It had a wonderful smooth glossy feel under the pen; almost like it was greased or oiled, but without a greasy feel at all.
Even her Majesty, when she was signing, noticed immediately and said, 'This is what the pen has been waiting for!' which was a great description.
Nerissa included a test scrap, for trying pens on. And after a couple of test scritches with a quill, I decided it was smartest to go with a tried-and-true metal nib that I knew would give me the best result.
Overall, Yule Ball was a scribing-rich event: scriptorium was busy with people, I did one additional A0A text on the day, I got to spend some time with folk talking shop, and a couple of ladies took a stab at some lettering. It was very satisfying.


Merlyn Gabriel said...

It's a wonderful thing to watch the evolution of someone learning to do this stuff. Your journey has been a treat to watch and this is a scroll I wish I could have seen in person.


Anonymous said...

WRT reservoirs in quills: I remember reading somewhere that you take the bit you cut off the tip, and use it (upside down?) as a reservoir.