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

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Ordo Hirundinis Drachenwaldensis: Nicholas d'Estleche, called le Tardif


Wording reads, in plain English,

By The King and Queen, To all Persons that this present Letters shall see or hear:  It is so that many Persons moved of Noble courage purposing to exercise virtuous conditions and manners, by the abilities of which conditions and Noble conversations, with God's grace shall come to perfection of great honour and Worship.
And one in especial, intending to all Gentilesse, is come to Us, Lief and Morrigan, to convey upon Nicholas d'Estleche, dictus le Tardif, for the Craft and Fellowship of Upholder, the Ordo Hirundinis Drachenwaldensis,
And in considering the good disposition of the said Craft and Fellowship, and also the great honour and Worship that hereafter may fall to him, We avise, grant, and give to the aforementioned Nicholas for evermore, Arms, that is to say: Per chevron sable and vert, a tower argent and in base a garb Or,
the which Armes we king and queen aforesaid grant without empeachment of any Person.
Knowing the labours of our faithful servant Nicholas these ten years and more of upholding Flintheathshire, we hereby elect him as warden of the hundreds of Northstowe, Chesterton and Papworth, to preserve undiminished all the liberties granted by us to the same residents of the hundreds, that he will faithfully and diligently do all things pertaining to the office of warden in the aforesaid hundreds.
Further we grant to him the right to appoint a steward to a fair for the hundred of Northstowe, And that the fair of the same be held in the villauge green, where it was wont to be held in the time of our ancestors, and not to conflict with the established fairs, that is Raglan ffair, Sturbridge fair, & Michaelmas tournoi, nor may it cause persons to delay their holy pilgrimage to Winchester.
Witness of this Letter to the which we set the seal Elffin the Great our ancestor; written at our tournoi de succession the 7th day of the Month of April, the 3rd year of our reign, AS 52.

Design details

  • Oak gall ink on pergamenata, with a metal nib pen
  • A4 page, landscape orientation
  • Ruled in hardpoint and pencil, 3mm writing line and 4mm interline space, erasing pencil afterward
  • Seal cord by HG Allessandre Melusine, with the Great Seal of Elffin the first

To fit a dense text onto a small page, I used many contractions and short forms, advised by Baroness Arianhwy, and drawn from from The Handwriting of English Documents, L.C. Hector, 2nd ed, London, 1966.

Wording research

The Ordo hirundinis drachenwaldensis is the (submitted) name of Drachenwald's new grant-level award for service. As the name and badge are still uncertain, and the order is still very new to the kingdom, I felt it important that the recipient receive honours suited to his station, that recognised his service.i

I started with a grant of arms wording for the Upholders Company, dating to the 14th century.

Aside from titles, medieval honours are often supported by payments, in the form of revenues from farms, tariffs on speciality or luxury goods, or permits for events like fairs and markets. I consulted Lyonet Schwarzdrachen, Baroness Ari, Countess Ary and Lord Aodh for suggestions.ii

I recently found a great book called British Borough Charters, 1216-1307, eds Adolphus Ballard, James Tait. Cambridge University Press, 1923.iii It's a detailed survey of charters and outlines the standard types of revenues, tariffs and permits that royal charters issued to boroughs (distinct from cities or universities), and how they are worded. So several phrases about appointing a warden, getting permission to run a fair, and appointing a steward come from original sources.

East Anglia (as the real-world home of the shire of Flintheath) has a rich medieval history, and I'd hoped to tap that for inspiration for a monopoly on some good or service. Awkwardly for me, the best person to ask about this history was Nicholas himself, because he's a genealogist, and knows local history resources.

We chatted over one evening about what was available online, and he directed me to the Victoria County History, a superb resource for people interested in English local history. Reading up about the county Nicholas lived in, I found that '..Northstowe remained in the king's hands throughout the Middle Ages, being farmed and managed by the same bailiff as its neighbours Chesterton and Papworth hundreds from the 13th century.iv This arrangement seemed an excellent one to borrow for the writ. Because 'bailiff' has a very negative connotation in modern English, I chose the term 'warden' instead.

Running a fair (or rather, being able to delegate the work of running a fair) is an apt privilege, because Nicholas has long organised a Society presence at the summer fete in his village, outside of Cambridge. He's now earned the right to get someone else to look after it for him.

i These honours are in the spirit of 'as much land and as few sesterces as possible', the Roman emperors' preferred way to pension off soldiers.
ii Aodh had several examples of food monopolies, that I may call on in future texts.
iii https://archive.org/details/britishboroughch00balluoft is companion to the first volume about charters, which covers 1042-1216.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Writ for vigil, for Yannick of Normandy: simple and early English

Finished writ Yannick of Normandy

Writ by Genevieve la flechiere

Calligraphy - oak gall ink made by Lady Órlaíth, on parchment (flesh side), about A4 size.

Illumination - modern gouache.

Wording is courtesy Countess Aryanhwy, called Bona, modelled on her Britannic Majesty Elizabeth II's summons to parliament. This writ is to invite HE Yannick of Normandy to sit his vigil at Yule Ball, December AS 52.

Exemplar:  Bodleian Library, Hatton MS 38, 12th-13th c 

Based on an early English copy of the gospel of Mark, this example incorporates Old English letters including the West Saxon 'eth' (ð), runic thorn (ϸ) and wen (ƿ), yogh (ȝ) and Tironian 'et',  which looks like an Arabic numeral 7 (used 7 in the transcription).

Siridean by fauor of arms of Drachenƿald Šah 7 Jahanara by fauor of ƿisdom 7 inspiration of ϸe same realm Bambišn to our riȝt trusty 7 ƿell beloued Yannick of Normandy.
ƿhereas by ϸe advice of our peers for certain arduous 7 urgent 7 serious affairs concerning ϸe strengðening of our kingdom ƿe are minded to surround ourselues ƿið such persons as shall give us counsel in ðese affairs
ƿe strictly enioining command you upon ye alleȝiance by ƿich you are bound to us ϸat ϸe ƿeiȝtiness of ϸe said affairs 7 imminent perils considered, ƿaiving all excuses, you place
personally yourself before us so ϸat you may consider ioining our Pelican council, so ϸat ƿið ϸe said prelates, great persons 7 peers you treat 7 give your counsel upon ϸe affairs aforesaid.
And ϸis as you regard us 7 our honour 7 the safety 7 prosperity of ϸe said Kingdom 7 dispatch of ϸe said affairs in noƿise do you omit yourself from our counsel.
ƿitness ourselves at Yule Ball in Flintheaðshire at Martinmass, ðe 52nd year of ϸe society.


Yannick was called up in court 2 weeks earlier, and invited to sit vigil to consider joining the order of the Pelican, at Yule Ball.

With short notice, I wasn't able to create a peerage scroll, but I offered to make a writ so he would have something to mark the day. Master Yannick and I are working on the details of his finished Pelican scroll for delivery next year.

Design brief

I wanted something simple, and relatively early period, and preferably of English origin, to reflect Yannick's origins in the north of England.

Flipping through J Roberts 'Guide to Scripts used in English Writings up to 1500' I found colour plate 8. I'd never seen a manuscript that included all the Old English letters before, in an early form of English (I'm not a scholar so do not know if this is Old or Middle English - I think it's somewhere on the line between them).

For this text, I used the thorn for most 'th' sounds, using the 'eth' only occasionally, following the exemplar's distribution. Yogh is typically described as 'used for some forms of g or y', so I used it for the 'gh' sound, as in 'right' and for the soft g in 'allegiance' - a word of French origin.

Not only that, the scribe used two different forms of 'h', two different 'd' shapes, and two different 's' shapes. The 'f'' sits very low on the baseline, and the 'r' is similarly low with a descender. 

I'd encountered 'long' s and terminal s before, but not variations for the other letters.

For something that is so clearly early gothic, it includes a lot of varied letterforms. I was enchanted.

Colour plate of Bodleian Hatton MS 38

I made a ductus and did a practice piece on pergamenata to ensure the text would fit on the parchment I had available.

My main difficulty was in starting the piece on the flesh side, rather than the hair side. I'd handled both and initially thought the flesh side was smoother, but was regretting it by the second line when my pen wasn't gliding the way it normally does over parchment.

Labour tally

Wording: 1 hr, aided by Countess Ary's prior research
Calligraphy research: 1 hr
Ductus and practice: 3 hrs
Layout and calligraphy: 2 hrs
Painting and finishing: 1 hr

Total: 8 hrs


Roberts, J. Guide to Scripts used in English Writings up to 1500. British Library, 2005.

Hector, L.C. The handwriting of English documents. 2nd ed. Edward Arnold Publishers Ltd, 1966.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Less is more: Dragon's Bowle for Pan Vitus Polonius

Dragon's Bowle for Pan Vitus Polonius

Finished piece with 'Great Seal' of Elffin I, called the Great. Official seal on reverse (not shown). Text by Genevieve, Latin translation by Arianhwy Wen, called Mala. Iron gall ink by Órlaíth, on parchment. Photo courtesy Isabel Peregrinus.

Dragon's Bowle Vitus Polonius

Closeup of text, while on the slope. I used a pencil topline and indented baseline (using a hard point tool), and erased the topline.


Ductus, taken from the exemplar, and sample line height tests, plus the capital letters from the original.

Latin version
Omnibus paribus nobilibus gentilibus haec praesentia audiendibus aut videndibus, Siridean magnissimus potentissimus Jahanaraque serenissima bellissima reges silvae draconis, salutem.
Vobis probamus Vitum Polonium equitem fidelissimum nostrem qui nos iuvabat decoriter in castro alicubique. Amat hospitalitatum; nemo suum castrum linquit sine absconscione aut sine auxilium. Suae mensae cum cibo gemunt; suae cupae vino propriae cellae suae. Exemplar liberalitate est.
Sic eidem Vitum agnoscemus; eum damus sciphum draconis. Unus paucibus exemplaribus qui incarnit spiritum cordemque silvae draconis.
Fit manibus nostris anno societatis (quin-qua-gesimus secundus).lij. intra nonas augusti apud aula Raglani.

English version

Unto all peers, nobles, gentlemen and gentlewomen seeing or hearing these our presents, greatest and most powerful Siridean, and most serene Jahanara, paragon of beauty, Sah and Bambisn of the draconic wood, greetings.
We present to you Vitus Polonius, our most faithful knight, who serves us with grace both in camp and elsewhere. He loves hospitality; no one leaves his camp without being offered shelter and succour. His tables groan with food; his casks with wine, all from his own cellars. He is an exemplar of liberality.
Thus we acknowledge that same Vitus and give unto him the dragon’s bowl. He is one of a very few who embody/personate the spirit and heart of Drachenwald.
Done by our hands AS 52 in the nones of august, in the inner court of Raglan Castle.


The Dragon's Bowle is a rare honour in Drachenwald, 'awarded at the discretion of the Crown to those who have displayed notable attention to authenticity'.

As I've travelled and camped with Pan Vitus and household many times, I wanted to emphasise his love of good medieval food and drink, and the hospitality of his beautiful and functional encampment in particular.

Design choices

This writ is based on a 12th c letter at the British Library, now called Add Ch 54148.

Description: Letter of Pope Alexander III (b. c. 1100/05, d. 1181; reg. 1159-1181) to Geoffrey, Dean of Rouen, the archdeacons and the Chapter of Rouen, confirming the moiety of the manor of Kilham, Yorkshire, granted to them by King Henry II (b. 1133, d. 1189; reg. 1154-1189). At Tours, 5th Kalends of December (27 November 1162).
So it's an uncomplicated business letter.

However, because it comes from the pope's office, it's written in a beautiful 'Protogothic documentary script' (according to the BL website), which I fell in love with immediately. The spaciousness and airiness of the hand amazed me, considering this piece is described as 195x205mm, or about 8" square. So the x-height (height of the average letter) is tiny, with apparently enormous spaces allowed between lines.

One reason our Society texts don't 'look' like medieval exemplars is that we typically write in English, while the original manuscripts are in Latin.

In Insulae Draconis we have an embarrassment of riches of Latin-literate scribes. I tapped HE Arianhwy Wen for a translation of a short text into Latin, so the text would look more like the original.

In doing the practice piece, I counted words and line spaces and realised I would struggle fitting my text into my A5 piece of parchment.

So I dug out L.C. Hector's The handwriting of English Documents, which includes a fine chapter on medieval abbreviations in Latin (just because they're English documents doesn't mean they're in English).

I then annotated my working text to remind myself where I had to substitute an abbreviation for the full text.

So my working text that I copied from looked like this - the letters in brackets were omitted in favour of short forms. You can see the result in the closeup picture.
Om(n)ib--(us) parib(us)z nobilib(us)z gentilib(us)z haec praesentia audiendib(us)z aut videndib(us)z, Siridean magni(ssimu)--s potenti(ssimu)--s Jahanaraque sereni--(ssima) belli--(ssima) reges silvae drac(onis)--, salutem.
Vob/(is) probam9(us) Vitum Polonium equitem fidelis--(simum) nos--(trem) qui nos iuvabat decoriter in castro alicubiq;(ue). Amat hospitalitat--(um); nemo suum castrum linquit sine absconscione aut sine auxil(ium). Suae mensae cum cibo gemunt; suae cupae vino /pro/priae cellae suae. Exemplar liberalitate est.
Sic eidem Vitum agnoscem9(us); eum dam9(us) sciphum draconis. Unus paucibz(us) exemplaribz(us) qui incarnit spirit--(um) cordemq;(ue) silvae draconis.
Fit manibz(us) nos--(tris) anno societatis (quin-qua-gesimus secundus).lij. intra nonas aug--(usti) apud aula Raglani.


Parchment, ruled with hardpoint tool and pencil
Oak gall ink made by Lady Órlaíth
Metal nib dip pen


The original exemplar is sealed with a lead papal bull - the images show both sides of it. I was intrigued that the silk wasn't braided, but simply threaded through the parchment. Having a large seal hung from the piece, to me, is an important part of the whole design. I thank Lady Constanza for the use of her red silk to complement my yellow, to follow the original as closely as possible.

HLady Lyonet Schwarzdrachen herald lent me her pan of beeswax and resin, and the 'Great Seal' of Elffin I, as well as one of the official Drachenwald seals. 

Heating the wax in a pan of water over a gas ring at Raglan, to pour the seal, was tricky. There might have been a small victory dance when it worked.

Good stuff

I love working with parchment and oak gall ink, and this was a lovely hand to learn. I intend to use it again.

Stuff to work on

The line spacing of the original is broader than my version, so I need to keep working on very small letters in a generous space. 

Labour tally

Research: 3 hrs
Text: 1 hr
Translation: unknown
Layout: 2 hrs
Practice and calligraphy: 3 hrs total
Sealing: a rather fraught 20 minutes

Friday, August 25, 2017

Order of the Panache: Baroness Rikissa Apilgaard

A great charter that gives history and background to an order:  that’s more interesting than just saying ‘all the rights and privileges’ isn’t it? 

I think so.  So I set out to write a writ for the lovely Baroness Rikissa that sets out what the Order of the Panache is and why she ought to be a part of it.
Order of the Panache:  Writ for Baroness Rikissa Apilgaard

So I set about using my favourite 100% rag paper, Strathmore Bristol 400, and my favourite ink, Blot’s Iron Gall Ink, and my favourite reed pen; and I started writing in one of my favourite Latin scripts:  Gothic textura quadrata.  My aim was to write something 16th Century, so in addition to using rag paper and iron gall ink, I used an exemplar who would give me some nice capitals (I used his capital U unchanged save for the addition of a little black dragon), but also nice versals for what we now think of as capital letters.  I used the excellent Gregorius Bock, with the addition (for emphasis) of a script  from 
the Opera di Frate Vespasiano Amphiareo da Ferrara of 1554 that I call ‘dot-matrix Gothic’:  a hand with very few lines and just the distinctive diamond-shaped pen strokes that usually just start and finish textura quadrata minims.  

What astonished me was that as I kept writing, the writ kept moving further and further down the page, taking up more and more space.  So I kept writing until the page was full.  I then folded the bottom up (covering my own signature) so that it could be sealed.  This is why there is more white space at the top of the page than at the bottom (the white space at the top needs trimming, but I think the king and queen endorsed it there).

I sealed it at the event (using a cord in my household's colours).  Apologies for not photographing it with the seal.

The text follows, with all abbreviations expanded:

Unto the dukes, earls, bishops, barons, nobles and the gentles of the kingdome of Drakenweald do William and Isabetta by right of arms lawful king and queen of Drachenwald, suzerains over the Isles and the North Mark, overlords of the Knight’s Crossing and the Forest Primeval, rulers of all the lands to the east of the Ocean Sea send good greeting.   
Forasmuch as our royal ancestors Prince Jahn and Princess Turien of blessed memory, during the reign of Gavin the King and Tamora the Queen of the great and ancient Laurel Kingdom of the East in the xviiijo year of the Society instituted a worshipful celebrated company which raiseth the noble artists and artisans of this realm who excel head and shoulders above the others, and who have attained an exalted degree of skill and scholarship which maketh their works higher and better than those works of others,
And forasmuch as the xo chapter of the lawes of this Realm establisheth this selfsame company for those who have distinguished themselves by long and consistent excellence in the arts and who have likewise constantly made their expertise available to the various members of the Kingdom,  
And forasmuch as of old our forbears the rulers of this kingdome have been royal patrons and sovereigns over this order and have maintained the same company in honour and have exalted and raised it up and granted unto it privileges and liveries and bearings of honour,  
And forasmuch as the companions of this order have since that day maintained this our kingdom in glory and honour with grace and beauty aplenty,
And forasmuch as each member of this company is ensigned and marked for their excellence by feathers of geules and or and sable, likewise to the tinctures of our right royal coat of armes, which feathers are to be affixed by a roundel of reid called torteau which hath within it a golden bezant through which is pierced a pellet of sable, and these feathers and this roundel are together called the pinnash or otherwise pennacchio which is to say a little wing, 
And forasmuch as in law and in equity this company is called after this ensign the right noble Order of the Pinnash, an order of nobility in our Realm of Drakenweald these many years past,
And forasmuch as numerous of our subjects, nobles of our court, hath communicated to us in many wise that notwithstanding the excellence and ensample of this company of the Pinnash there is one who is not now a companion of the order aforesaid, but who nonetheless is shewn to be equal of the companions of the order aforesaid in honour, in grace, in standing and in skill, 
And forasmuch as is our will to grant honour where honour is due and justice where justice is meet, as in holy writ scripsit, thus shal be done to the one whom the king delighteth to honour,
And forasmuch as our right honourable cousin and welbeloved friend the most excellent Baroness Rikissa Apilgaard, lately Baroness of Aarnimetsä, companion of the Dragon’s Bowle these many years past, is known to us and our court for that her raiment is alwaies tylered, cut, sewn and fashioned of the best, and for that she is a greate scholar of the cutting of the cote and the tylering of the gown, and that she will alwaies glady teche of her great learning to all those who would learn.  
Therefore by these presents do we the aforesaid sovereigns of Drakenweald constitute and appoint the same Baroness Rikissa Apilgaard to be a companion of the right noble Order of the Pinnash from this day forward so long as she shall live, and we do command her to bear the ensign of the order upon her bodie that all may know her for a companion of this Order forever and aye. 
We the aforesaid William and Isabetta call to witness this act all those nobles who attend us at the Double Wars:  the Lady Linnet Swartdraken, the Countess Cecelia Seneschale, Dame Ailitha Chancellor, and the Lady Tova Seneschale, which act is done this present Moneth of May in the lijo year of the Society sitting in state in the land of Attemark. 
Authored and Scrivened by Lyonet de Covenham

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 downfall 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 and 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 arms 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 she did profit.
She wore the silver martlet robe and badge;
This honour she had got with her quill’s edge.  
Heralds of arms named her very handy
for she could at once both sit and speak.  
Lo, on holy days and church festivals,
she sheared sheep of their excellents and nobles* 
by curious use of trumps and of plays.  
She was a potentate known always 
For potent potations 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 however, 
She was ever sober and sure and seemly.  
She was vulgar among the vulgar, but 
Always great among the great, God knows.  
All who met her were lifted up, 
and none has 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 the 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.