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

Sunday, September 20, 2015

An indenture for Genevieve and Aodh

I entered this in the Michaelmas muster A&S display, so I wrote up some documentation for it.

Document research and calligraphy: an indenture between a peer and a dependent for Society use

Full indenture

Some pics on Flickr of the top half of the indenture: it was written out twice then cut in half, at our ceremony at Raglan.

Medieval originals

An indenture is a legal agreement between 2 people, written in duplicate, and cut in 2 pieces so each person gets a copy. The earliest form of this type of document is a chirograph, where the space between the two copied texts has 'CIROGRAPHUM' written in large letters, then cut through, showing that any 1 piece was 1 of 2 copies.i The earliest surviving English example dates to 9th century.

The British Library has a cirograph example from 13th century, and indentures continued throughout the period of Society studyii. There's a copy of a chirograph viewable online (an irony, since the point of a chirograph is that the 2 people concerned have their own copies...)

The 2 copies are sometimes cut with a wavy or 'indented' edge to deter forgery, hence the term 'indenture'.

Text research

This indenture is a contract between 2 Society members covering the conditions of service and patronage between a Pelican and a dependent. Robert de Canterbury drafted a very similar document for a knight and squire, which served as modeliii.

The original sources for the text are:
  • a 14th c indentureiv between 2 noblemen that covered their term of services, rate of pay, and benefits - essentially their terms and conditions for going to war.
  • a late 14th c statutev that controlled who can give livery (clothing identifying their followers), in an attempt to prevent certain nobles raising private armies; and requiring that those dependents would not then pursue nuisance court cases against their patron's opponents.
  • a 14th c gild ordinancevi that states that gild brothers and sisters must admonish each other charitably (possibly suggesting they keep internal grievances between themselves rather than going to the courts).

Tailoring text to recipients

While based on medieval examples, the terms and conditions of work for a Society peer and dependent accommodate the kinds of work Genevieve and Aodh do. The details written for them include:
  • 'dalta' is an Old Irish term for 'student of the bard' chosen as suitable for Aodh's early Irish persona. A dalta might (or might not) eventually become a bard, but at minimum got a solid education.
  • 'in peace and in war' means that Genevieve expects Aodh to continue to shoot, and to authorise in armoured combat, for the defense of the principality, just as she trains in art of defence
  • 'charity and hospitality' refers to the typical work of a Pelican: making people welcome, ensuring everyone is fed and clothed, organising activities, building community
  • 'admonishing charitably' refers to the role Genevieve plays as the patron for Aodh

Indenture text

This indenture being made between Genevieve la flechiere, Viscountess and peer of Drachenwald by letters patent on the one part and Lord Aodh O Siadhail on the other part, testifies that the said Lord Aodh stall stand in service to the said viscountess for peace and for war for the term of one year and one day following the date of this document
The lord Aodh having the estate of dalta, and being retained with the said viscountess of the ancient house of Sylveaston for the said term by indenture without fraud or evil device, shall be accorded all the customary rights and privileges, vis of livery, maintenance, counsel, instruction, advancement and defense against unjust harm.
The lord Aodh shall in turn accord the said visountess with service in matters of charity and hospitality at such occasions and tourneys as they shall be mutually conveniently present therat.
The lord Aodh shall also afford the viscountess Genevieve support in matters touching court, law and custom, and the management of her estate as are within his normal competence.
He is bound not to be a maintainor, instigator, barrator, procuror or embraceor of quarrels and inquests in the country in any manner, and shall not know or understand of any manner thing to be attempted, done or spoken against Viscountess Genevieve's person or honour but he shall let and withstand the same to the uttermost of his power.
Should the lord Aodh be in any error or found in any detestable crime, as soon as Viscountess Genevieve knows it she must admonish the lord Aodh charitably that he may gain from it.
Done before noble witnesses this nones of August AS 50, at ffair Raglan.

Document and calligraphy

  • Base: heavy pergamenata, 10”x14”, landscape orientation, pounced with cuttlefish bone, gum sandarac, and pumice powder, then ruled 3mm writing line & 4mm spacing.
  • Ink: Roberson's logwood black
  • Pen: dip pen with gold plated nib, sized for the line height
  • Hand: proto-Gothic, known in England from 11th to 14th c, the hand I find easy and fast for long texts.
The pergamenata, pounce, ink and pen are my typical choices for Society writs and all produce reliable results for me.

I buy pergamenata in large sheets, and then cut it to standard paper sizes, to make them easy to frame.

The biggest challenge of this project was spacing, because it was a long text I had to write twice. I'm accustomed to long texts, but usually only write them once. I'm so used to this that I didn't do a test piece to measure my spacing.

A careful calligrapher takes a small test piece, rules it with the selected spacing and sees how many words fit into a few lines, and then calculates how many lines the text will take. In this case I needed 2 copies of text plus a large space in the middle for the indented cut.

Without a test piece, I made 2 false starts before choosing the spacing that would allow all the text and a space for the indent.

Lesson learned: don't be lazy. Do a test piece and save time.


i. Lowe, K.A., 'Lay Literacy in Anglo-Saxon England: the Development of the Chirograph' in Anglo Saxon Manuscripts and their Heritage, ed. by P. Pulsiano and E. Treharne (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1997), pp. 161–204. Courtesy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chirograph

ii Brown, M.P., A Guide To Western Historical Scripts From Antiquity to 1600, British Library, 1990, pp. 78-9.

iii Indenture by Robert de Canterbury: http://forsooth.pbworks.com/w/page/34953753/Vitus%20and%20Katherine
From Clifford J. Rogers (ed.), The Wars of Edward III: Sources and Interpretations (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1999).

v Statute of maintenance and liveries, dating 1390. Select documents of English constitutional history; by Adams, George Burton; Stephens, H. Morse, McMillan & Co, 1901.

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