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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.

1 comment:

Sara L. Uckelman said...

I continue to be in awe of your calligraphy.