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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.

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