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By Elska á Fjárfelli.
Inspired by the Scarlet Apron subtleties contest at Æthelmearc War Practice, I delved into the challenge of sculpting with food. And what’s better to play with than sugarpaste and marzipan!
As a traditional sweet at our Dutch Saint Nickolas celebrations and as filling of our traditional Christmas Stollen bread, marzipan (sweetened and finely pureed almondpaste) symbolizes home and the year’s end to me. For years, the store Aldi’s supported my seasonal habit… until a few years ago they stopped carrying German marzipan. Luckily, my best friend Angelika Rumsberger, originally from Hamburg and with a similar seasonal sweet tooth, gets a holiday package filled with German goodies. The marzipan from Lübeck is highly prized! As Angelika grew up on Lübeck marzipan, considered to be the best marzipan in Germany (and probably the world), she was able to give me great feedback on what good marzipan should taste and feel like.
Even though modern marzipan is typically seen as a German sweet, it originated in the Orient (where almonds and sugar also originated). A Persian doctor, Rhazes, praised the curative qualities of almond and sugarpaste as far back as the 9th century. When the Crusaders returned from the Orient, they brought marzipan with them. Thirteenth century philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas reflected upon the indulgence of eating marzipan, reassuring his anxious clerics: “Marzipan does not break the fast.” And in his novels, 14th century poet and author Boccaccio clearly noted a correlation between passion and marzipan.
In 13th century Italy, confectionery and spices were generally traded in tiny boxes. One theory is that the Italian word, mataban, for “small box,” gradually came to be used for the sweetmeat contents of the box: mazapane (Italian), massepain (French), marzipan (German, recently also English), marsepein (Dutch), and marchpane (English). The Latin form of marzipan appears as martiapanis in Johann Burchard’s Diarium curiae romanae (1483–1492), and Minshæu defines the word as Martius panis, or bread of Mars, for the elaborate towers, castles, and other subtleties made of this confectioner’s art sweetmeat.
For my subtlety entry, I choose to use marzipan as a filling and sugarpaste on the outside, since sugarpaste has a much finer definition of detail and would help keep the marzipan moist during display. As suggested in my period source, I wanted to use a mold and was lucky to find a good deal on a vintage Dutch candy mold. Even though this mold is obviously not period, the use of molds to shape food is period.
I based my marzipan on recipes in A Closet for Ladies and Gentlewomen, 1602:
To make a Marchpane, to ice it, and garnish it after the Art of Comfit-making.
Take two pound of small Almonds blanched, and beaten into perfect Past, with a pound of suger finely searsed, putting in now and then a spoonfull or two of Rose water, to keepe it from oyling, and when it is beaten to perfect Past, rowle it thin, and cut it round by a charger, then set an edge on it, as you doe on a tart, then drie it in an Ouen, or a backing pan, then yce it with Rose water and suger, made as thicke as batter for fritters, when it is iced garnish it with conceits, and sticke long comfits in it, and so guild it, and serue it.
To make all sorts of banqueting conceits of Marchpane stuffe, some like Pyes, Birds, Baskets, and such like, and some to print with moulds.
TAke a pound of Almond past, made for the Marchpane, and drye it on a Chafindish of coales, till you see it waxe white, then you may print some with moulds, and make some with hands, and so guild them, then stoue them and you may keepe them all the yere. They bee excellent good to please children.
Blessed with a local health food store, I was able to pick up two pounds of raw almonds. Then I looked up the word “blanched” simce I was unfamiliar with the process. Properly educated, I thought, I poured boiling water over the almonds so that the skins would loosen enough to be removed, since the skins are bitter and would darken the almond paste a brown color (rather than a very light beige). Since I do not own a large mortar and pestle (yet), I chose to run the blanched almonds through my food processor and came to the first hurdle: the almonds would crumble but not stick together as a paste! Maybe mixing in the sugar and rosewater would help it come together? But no… the period recipe clearly does not mention processing it twice. However, it did not look right, so I ran a small sample again and behold: marzipan! Apparently, modern almonds need to be processed twice?
This kept bugging me, and after some brainstorming with a fellow SCA cook, I learned about the difference between modern blanching and period blanching: in modern blanching, boiling water is used (a quick process) while in period blanching involved extended soaking in cold water (a slow process). And I wondered — would the extended soaking have a different effect? Soaking anything for extended periods hydrates tissue, and the same is true for soaking dried almonds: I suspected that grinding soaked almonds makes for perfect period marzipan.
Since historically marzipan is connected with both Christmas and with Easter celebrations, I choose a hen shape for the main mold. In Denmark and Norway, it is common to eat marzipan pigs for Christmas and marzipan eggs for Easter. And the English word marchpane might mean “march bread,” for marzipan shaped into a loaf. Inspired by the German tradition of Marzipankartoffeln, small potato-shaped marzipans dusted brown with Dutch cocoa, I shaped little egg marzipans. Instead of dusting with cocoa, as post-period kartoffeln are, I used spices available in period, including cinnamon, to give the “eggs” a beautiful brown glow (and a bit of a tartness in the first bite).
And what about the sugarpaste?
Sugar, by far the most important ingredient in confectionery, was first grown probably by the Persians and Arabs. Most importantly, they learned how to refine sugar from the raw cane plant. In Roman times, sugar (called saccharon) was available only as naturally exuded droplets from the cane. Before that time, honey was the world’s main sweetener; after this discovery, the cultivation of sugar cane spread slowly throughout the Arab world. A number of sugar-related words trace their heritage to Arabic origin, including sugar to sukkar, candy to qand, and syrup to sharab.
In medieval times, sugar was imported by the Venetians and Genoese from Arab-controlled areas until the 1420’s, when the Portugese started cultivating cane in the Azores. Not only would sugar quickly become indispensible in medicine, as a sweetener, and a preservative, it also became an artistic culinary ingredient of amazing flexibility: sugarpaste, which could be molded, formed, and dried into an array of edible items.
Although THL Lijsbet de Keukere quickly pointed me in the right direction to find a period sugarpaste recipe, unfortunately it was made with an ingredient not typically found in modern cooking supply stores or supermarkets: gum tragacanth. This period binding agent (also known by gumme and dragant) is a bit challenging to locate (and more expensive) than modern gum paste. If you have the time, order a couple of ounces if only to experience sugarpaste from scratch. (See URL for a vendor below.)
Against my cooking philosophy but up against deadline I used modern gum paste, which was available in the bridal section of my local Jo-Ann’s Fabrics Store.
The most complete period recipe for sugarpaste comes from Thomas Dawson’s The Second Part of the Good Hus-wives Jewell, 1597 (see http://www.cooksplaydough.html for a redacted recipe).
To make a past of Suger, whereof a man may make al manner of fruits, and other fine things with their forme, as Plates, Dishes, Cuppes and such like thinges, wherewith you may furnish a Table.
Take Gumme and dragant as much as you wil, and steep it in Rosewater til it be mollified, and for foure ounces of suger take of it the bigness of a beane, the iuyce of Lemon, a walnut shel ful, and a little of the white of an eg. But you must first take the gumme, and beat it so much with a pestell in a brasen morter, till it be come like water, then put to it the iuyce with the white of an egge, incorporating al these wel together, this done take four ounces of fine white suger wel beaten to powder, and cast it into the morter by a litle and a litle, until they be turned into the form of paste, then take it out of the said morter, and bray it upon the powder of suger, as it were meale or flower, untill it be like soft paste, to the end you may turn it, and fashion it which way you wil. When you have brought your paste to this fourme spread it abroad upon great or smal leaves as you shall thinke it good and so shal you form or make what things you wil, as is aforesaid, with such fine knackes as may serve a Table taking heede there stand no hotte thing nigh it. At the ende of the Banket they may eat all, and breake the Platters Dishes, Glasses Cuppes, and all other things, for this paste is very delicate and saverous. If you will make a Tarte of Almondes stamped with suger and Rosewater of this sorte that Marchpaines be made of, this shal you laye between two pastes of such vessels or fruits or some other things as you thinke good.
Modern sugarpaste is made by combining powdered sugar with gum paste and glucose. I used my trusted Kitchenaid mixer with the dough paddle attachment and followed the recipe on the gum paste’s can, and discovered that it made a fairly sticky dough (like thick peanut butter). To be able to sculpt I was expecting something more like bread dough, and since sometimes my bread dough is also similar to peanut butter when the liquid is off (that extra egg…) I did the same thing I’d do then and kept adding a dry ingredient. I added more powdered sugar slowly until the dough came together as a ball without sticking to the bowl, until it finally turned into something I felt comfortable sculpting with. According to the can’s instructions, I then rolled it into a loaf, wrapped it in plastic, and cured it at room temperature until the next day.
The sugarpaste was initially dry to the touch, but probably due to body heat handling it quickly became very sticky, which made sculpting rather frustrating. My solution was to keep my finger pads dusted with powdered sugar, which worked like a charm. To keep the sugarpaste from sticking to the mold (which would have made it impossible to unmold without losing the fine detail I wanted) I used a paper towel dipped in oil to grease the inside of the hen mold, and then liberally dusted both insides with powdered sugar. The sugarpaste hardly stuck to the walls and the hens were much easier to remove. I recommend keeping sugarpaste sculptures away from heat or moisture (including sunlight), and give it time to air dry until it becomes a beautiful chalky white.
While the sugarpaste I used was a modern substitute, I was able to make my marzipan with raw almonds and raw sugar. It therefore had a fairly course texture, which I really like. For a smoother marzipan, you could use finely ground almond flour and powdered sugar, which you can buy pre-made from a store. But never forget the rosewater – it’s the finishing touch of quality marzipan! The one feedback on my entry that is still with me is the remark that the “eggs” could have been made sweeter. I suspect cinnamon was at fault for this, as well as the influence of my Lübeck-trained friend who was very clear that good marzipan is never made with less than two-thirds almonds, to cater to a more refined European taste!
“A Closet for Ladies and Gentlevvomen, Or, the Art of Preseruing, Conseruing and Candying” (1602). Edited and Annotated by Johanna H. Holloway, 2011. www.Medievalcookery.com
http://www.mkcc.rhawn.com/MKCCfiles/cooksplaydough.html (Countess Alys Katherine’s how-to article, which inspired many of the sugarpaste subtleties across the SCA)
Thomas Dawson, “The Second Part of the Good Hus-wives Jewell” (1597)
Where to buy gum tragacanth:
Artisans! Do you have narrative documentation or a project diary of your recent A&S creation? Have you written a handout for a class? Share your knowledge and submit it to the Gazette at firstname.lastname@example.org! Our editors are happy to work with you to format it into an article.
We call upon all Lords and Ladies of Æthelmearc to take up the banners of the Kingdom and bring your fighting forces onto the Pennsic fields. Bring your Knights and footmen. Bring your archers and throwers. Bring your fencers and Masters of Defence. Bring your artisans, that we may win victory through displays of artistic prowess. Bring those gentles whose service allows Our army to seize victory and supports the Pennsic event.
At Pennsic, we defend our lands from the aggressive Midrealm armies, and we ally with our parent Kingdom of the East.
We are in need of good gentles, noble of heart and spirit, to stand beside Us as Retainers and Guards. If you would be at our side in this capacity, you would have the thanks of your King and Queen. Contact Our co-head retainers (elss.of.augsburg at gmail dot com or alaricmacconnal at gmail dot com) or Our guard captain (fredeburg at gmail dot com).
Our Court will be held on Tuesday night at 6pm in the new barn; We hope that you will be there to witness as we acknowledge some of the many gentles who make Our Kingdom great. Our Kingdom Party will be held on Monday at 8:30pm in the Royal encampment; the theme is Arthurian Legends.
Yours In Service to the Dream,
Byron and Ariella
King and Queen of Sylvan Æthelmearc
Are you a Pennsic “virgin” wondering what you are getting yourself into and how to prepare?
Wonder no more! Our series on Pennsic from last year has been updated for Pennsic 45! Click the links below to access each article.
Enjoy, and have a blast at Pennsic!
So, you’re going to Pennsic this year and want to fight or fence? Make sure your paperwork is in order before you leave by following these tips:
All current authorization forms can always be found on the Kingdom Authorizations Clerk Website.
Rules regarding authorizations and Pennsic can be found on the Pennsic Website.
This throwback episode goes back to an interview I did with Duke Felix (Scott Frappier).
It was a great time and our friendship has only flourished since then. In the image though is Duke Edmund and Duchess Katrina.
Greetings to all of the wonderful artisans who have offered to make favors for Her Majesty!
Over the course of the last three months I have handed out over 160 embroidery kits, and many more people have used the instructions that were posted on the Gazette to make favors in various media for Her Majesty to give out at Pennsic.
However, not a lot of those have been returned completed yet.
If you are planning to provide royal favors for Queen Ariella, please email me and give me your best estimate for the number you anticipate completing by Pennsic. That way we can ramp up production in other areas if it looks like we won’t have enough.
If you hadn’t thought about making favors before but would like to now, it’s not too late! Instructions are still available here. If you need fabric, let me know and I can provide some at Pax Interruptus this weekend or Bog 3-Day the following weekend.
Thank you all for your service to your Queen and Kingdom!
Mistress Arianna of Wynthrope
East Kingdom Curia will be held Saturday, 9 July 2016, 8:00 a.m. at Great Northeastern War in the Province of Malagentia (Hebron ME).
Following is the agenda, prepared 5 July 2016, 6:10 p.m.
EK Law Section III.I. The Agenda for the Curia Regis 1. Any items that The Crown chooses to add to the agenda after the Curia has been called will be added to the agenda under “New Business”. 2. If a Curia notice has been sent according to East Kingdom Law, but another Curia needs to be held before the previously announced one, any items of business held over from the earliest Curia will be automatically added to the agenda of the subsequent Curia under “Old Business”.
Filed under: Announcements, Law and Policy Tagged: curia
In June, the proprietors of Mystic Mail announced via Facebook that they would not be operating at Pennsic this year.
Instead, the Coopers have announced that they will create the Cooper’s Lake Internet Café, or CLIC, to be located near Penn Market and ice. The café will have WiFi and hardline internet available. You’ll also be able to charge your devices (phones, tablets, laptops) there.
The Chancellor of the Pennsic University, Captain Elias Gedney, issued the following statement:
All Pennsic University teachers and students should be advised of the following
There is a Staples ten minutes off site, one exit down I-79 at 2551 W State St., New Castle, PA 16101.
Thanks to Master Urho Waltterinen for this account of the archery tourney he ran at the SCA 50 Year Celebration.
On Tuesday, June 21st, despite the heat, the Kingdom of Æthelmearc sponsored an archery tournament created by Master Urho Waltterinen. Their Majesties of Æthelmearc, Byron and Ariella, attended and oversaw the entire tournament. Twenty-five archers, including Their Majesties’ son, Ian, participated.
In the first of three rounds, archers shot at a quartered section of the usual 60 cm target at twenty yards. They had to make a decision whether to aim at the center of this new target and risk not scoring enough points to advance or go for the gold and risk missing the target completely. In the end twelve scored high enough to advance to the next round. The high scorer was presented with a gift certificate for his achievement.
In the second, twelve archers were challenged to shoot at an unspecified target in the distance. THL Luceta di Cosimo painted a fantastical beast for them to aim at. The task to advance was to hit this target twice and the first eight to do so would advance to the final round. Archers began at about seventy yards away, fired two arrows in a coordinated mass launch and then advanced five paces forward for the next flight. The first seven archers were easily found, but three archers tied for the eighth position. His Majesty heard a suggestion from one of the archers that these three would fire two more arrows and the closest to a small escarbuncle on the target would advance and ruled that this would be the tiebreaker. The last archer advanced.
In the third and last, these elite archers returned to twenty yards and competed in a double-elimination round skillfully managed by Baroness Elizabeth Arrowsmyth as Mistress of the List. The target for this was a yin-yang in black and white merely eight inches across where each archer was assigned their color. After the pairings were determined by random draw, the rounds were shot. His Majesty was so caught up in the excitement shown by the skills of these archers that he personally assisted in the scoring of each match. At the level of prowess reached by these final competitors, mere millimeters determined success or failure.
In the last and final round, Cullen of the East and Treutvin of Calontir were matched. Cullen hit his color five of six times while Treutvin hit his color on six of six and so was declared the winner. Both finalists were awarded gift certificates and Treutvin was further presented with a scroll created by Mistress Fredeburg von Katzenellenbogen and read to the populace by Baroness Gwendolyn the Graceful.
All archers were then invited to join us again on the archery range at Pennsic.
The archers thank Their Majesties for Their attendance and for Their attention to our sport.
Their Majesties recently traveled to the Midrealm to celebrate the SCA’s 50 Year Anniversary celebration. They wished for us to share this missive of gratitude with the Kingdom.
The once-in-a-lifetime 50th anniversary of the birth of the Society is behind us. But before We turn Our thoughts to the Pennsic War, We would take a moment to thank those gentles who supported Us in this wonderful event.
First and foremost, Our thanks go to Countess Geneveive du Vent Argent. She was Our rock throughout this process, and helped in every stage of planning and execution. We thank our Jewel Herald, Gwendolyn the Graceful, for traveling to far lands with tasks as massive as reminding the Founders that Aethelmearc exists. We thank THL Rosalia for organizing the Aethelmearc camp – We were so glad that the populace and Royal camp were brought together, and we could all be a single Kingdom. We thank Lady Arsalan for her Crown support (literally) and her support of the Crown (figuratively) and for her willingness to play medieval strategy games with His Majesty. There were several gentles who created martial events for the glory of the Kingdom: Master Urho (archery), Master Illadore and Mistress Fredeburg (fencing), Duke Timothy and Don Clewin (heavy), Lady Melodia (thrown weapons), and the entire equestrian community (equestrian). And We would lastly draw the Kingdom’s attention to one who played a critical role for Us, despite not attending the event. Mistress Hrefna Úlfvarinnsdóttir was pivotal to Our success as a Kingdom and as Royals; she is an example of service for all to aspire to.
The hard work of these individuals, and everyone from Aethelmearc who attended the event, made Us look good to everyone in the known world. We thank you all.
In Service to the Dream,
Byron and Ariella, Rex et Regina AEthelmearc
Our tenth A&S Research Paper comes to us from Lady Rosina von Schaffhausen, of the Shire of Quintavia. She introduces us to a fascinating figure from the 13th century – the mathematician Leonardo of Pisa, known most familiarly to us as Fibonacci. (Prospective future contributors, please check out our original Call for Papers.)
Fibonacci – A Master By Any Name
Imagine being an Italian merchant in the early 13th century, traveling around the Mediterranean. You visit fascinating places, eat new and unusual foods, see many exotic sights, and trade many of the goods passing through the region.
However, you have a problem. The basic addition and subtraction you need to do to keep your account books you can handle, using the tools you have available, Roman numerals and an abacus. But doing any sort of multiplication or division is difficult. And you need to multiply, or divide, or sometimes both, to do all sorts of important things. You need them to determine how much cinnamon your pepper is worth, how much of your profits each of your investors should receive, how much your cut is, to calculate currency exchange, and to determine how much interest you have earned on the loan your city forced you to give them to build their navy. The methods you know seem much more difficult to deal with than the Arab merchants’ system.
On your next stop at home, a friend is raving about the new system of Hindu reckoning in a book written by one of your compatriots, and you resolve to find a copy and learn this new system…
As commerce began expanding in the Middle Ages in the Mediterranean, the Italian city-states vied for control of lucrative trade routes. Throwing off the control of the Holy Roman Empire, the northern cities began running their own governments and conducting trade. They built navies and were the first governments to go into debt to finance their expenditures, sometimes by forcing their citizens to loan them money. They established customs houses at home and in a number of ports abroad, as well as forming the first corporations. Many of the cities coined their own money, and the first banks started offering interest on deposits.
While the first universities were being founded at this time, they did not add algebra to their curricula until the middle of the 16th century [3, p. 107]. It was the needs of the merchants that drove the eventual revolution in European mathematics. The need for better and easier bookkeeping, computation, and problem-solving methods brought the Hindu-Arabic number system and Arabic algebra into use throughout Europe. Leonardo of Pisa, today known as Fibonacci, was a pivotal figure in the process of changing over from Roman numerals to the system we use today. The practical example problems he included in his best known work, Liber Abbaci, displayed the ability of the Hindu-Arabic number system and algebra to solve many of the pressing problems of the medieval merchants.
Fibonacci is best known today for his famous sequence, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, … where successive numbers are found by adding the previous two together. However, this sequence is not original to him. Since the concept of plagiarism did not exist in the form it does today, many of Fibonacci’s example problems, including this sequence, can be found in identical or similar versions in earlier texts from the Islamic world, India, and even China. The main purpose of Fibonacci’s writing was to educate merchants and surveyors on techniques that were largely unknown or forgotten in Europe. Thus he was influential in bringing in our modern number system, more so than other scholars of his day. In addition, he wrote some impressive original mathematics, which was unheard of in Western Europe at the time. Most of all, he left legacies of education and research in mathematics that lasted long after his death. While today we remember one sequence, in the middle ages and Renaissance, many math texts acknowledged a large debt to one Leonardo of Pisa.
Leonardo of Pisa, known today as Fibonacci, was born in Pisa around 1170. Around this time Pisa was a republic, one of many Italian city-states vying for control of trade in the Mediterranean. At sea, Pisa contended with the other maritime republics of Genoa, Amalfi, and Venice. On land, their main rivals were Florence and Lucca. Pisa is situated on the Arno River on the western coast of the Italian Peninsula, just south of the top of the “boot” of Italy. From Roman times until the 15th century, when the river silted up and Pisa lost its port, Pisa was a prime commercial center in Tuscany.
While other cities mostly concentrated on going east toward Constantinople and the Holy Land for their trade, at first Pisa mostly went west. The city established trading ports, conquered towns, and took over islands in places such as Corsica, Sardinia, and Carthage. During the First Crusade in 1099 Pisa was instrumental in the campaign, and used the opportunity to establish trading centers in the eastern Mediterranean. While other states did the same, using this advantage Pisa became a serious international power. For a time Pisa surpassed Venice as the foremost merchant and military ally of the Byzantine Empire.
At home, Pisa used her spoils to begin building a beautiful city center, including a cathedral and baptistery. As a very young child, Leonardo may have watched the first three floors of the famous bell tower being built and start to lean. Construction on the Leaning Tower, begun in 1173, was stopped in 1178 as the structure, built on unstable ground, began its famous tilt. The tower stayed at that height throughout Leonardo’s lifetime, as building would not resume for nearly 100 years and took nearly 200 to complete. In 1284, the Pisan navy was nearly completely destroyed by Genoa at the Battle Meloria, ending Pisa as a naval power. The city managed to keep up some independent trade until she came under the rule of Florence in 1406. Then the river silted up, ending Pisa’s ability to trade easily.
Fibonacci signs his name in Liber Abbaci as Leonardo of Pisa of the Family Bonaci, which might also be translated as Son of Bonaci. However, since his father’s name was Guglielmo, this translation is incorrect. Some scholars think that Bonaci or Bonacio was the name of an ancestor, as a reference to a famous ancestor was a common practice in Italy at this time. The name Fibonacci was first used in the 19th century and has become the most common one used for him today. He signed Liber Quadratorum as Leonardo Pisano, or Leonardo of Pisa. However, in his later work Flos (1225) and in a legal document (1241) [3, p. 149] his name is listed as Leonardo Pisano Bigollo. Some scholars think Bigollo means traveler, good-for-nothing, or absent-minded, while others think these translations are incorrect. Considering that the legal document is honoring Leonardo, Bigollo could not possibly have been meant as an insult.
Most of what we know about Leonardo’s life comes from the introduction to his book Liber Abbaci. When Leonardo was a boy, his father Guglielmo was working in the customs house of the Pisan trading port of Bugia (now Bejaïa) on the Barbary coast of Africa, east of Algiers. Guglielmo had young Leonardo sent over to Africa, most likely just after finishing grammar school, so the boy could learn mathematics. This was a trading center in a Muslim region, so Leonardo learned as much as he could from scholars visiting from many places. Modern scholars believe he learned to read and possibly write Arabic [5, pp. xviii-xx]. He studied a variety of mathematical systems and methods, and decided that the “Indian method”, as he called it, was superior to the rest. Leonardo continued his studies on business trips around the Mediterranean, including Egypt, Syria, Greece, Sicily, and Provence. He later wrote his first book, Liber Abbaci, or Book of Calculation, in 1202 to spread this method, which is our modern number system [6, p. 15-16].
Leonardo’s first book got him noticed not just in Pisa, but also by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. At this time Pisa was nominally part of the Holy Roman Empire, but had begun governing itself even before a previous emperor permitted the city to function under its own governance. Frederick II was known as the Wonder of the World. At this time, the first universities were still very new, and many scholars worked for wealthy patrons. Frederick encouraged scholarship in his court, and even wrote a treatise himself. Leonardo was introduced to Frederick’s court likely around 1225. Some scholars in the court posed Leonardo some challenge problems, another common practice of the day, used to determine the abilities of scholars. Leonardo was able to solve the challenges posed to him, and his writing on the solutions and related mathematics encompass a large portion of his original mathematics. In the 1220s Leonardo wrote most of his other works, including those on the challenge questions. He wrote a revision of his first book Liber Abacci, dedicating it to the scholar who first wrote about him to the court, Michael Scott. In 1241, at the end of his life, Leonardo was presented with an annual stipend from the city of Pisa [3, pp. 148-149] for his contributions to the city.
Leonardo wrote a number of impressive texts in the course of his career. The first and foremost is Liber Abbaci (1202; 1228), mentioned above , a compilation of arithmetic and the algebra that was known in his day. Next Leonardo wrote De Practica Geometriae (1220, meaning Practical Geometry), a book on a variety of geometry problems including practical ones on land area and surveying . Liber Quadratorum (1225, meaning Book of Squares), on advanced algebra and number theory, contains some impressive original mathematics . These three are available in English translation. Flos (1225, meaning flower) and Epistola ad Magistrum Theodorum (date unknown, meaning letter to Master Theodore), both on indeterminate equations like those in Liber Quadratorum, have not yet been translated into English. Two of Fibonacci’s works have been lost. One is a tract on Book X of Euclid’s Elements. The other is Libro di minor guisa (date unknown, meaning probably The Book of the Lesser Method) on commercial arithmetic. We will go into more details later on some of these books.
Fibonacci’s impressive texts come in two varieties. The first are texts designed to explain mathematics to the common person, as well as to show its usefulness. De Practica Geometrie, Liber Abbaci and Libro di minor guisa fall into this category. Liber Abaci is an encyclopedic work which, together with Euclid’s Elements, contains most of the mathematics known in the world at that time. The other two texts are shorter and focused more on application. The second group of texts contain Leonardo’s original mathematics. Flos, Liber Quadratorum, and Epistola ad Magistrum Theodorum contain his solutions to problems posed to him by masters in the court of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. In addition, in these books Leonardo expanded on the challenge questions and wrote original proofs of some ancient Greek knowledge as well as general solution methods for the types of problems posed. The tract on Book X of Euclid’s Elements was likely expanded from a chapter in Liber Abbaci. Leonardo’s popular works are more extensive than other European texts at this time, and no other European mathematician between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance has a body of original research.
Leonardo’s longest and most influential work was Liber Abaci, first written in 1202 and revised in 1228. The revised version is the one that was recently translated to English, and Leonardo not only made corrections but added some of his original mathematics at the end. In the introduction he stated that his goal was to bring the “Hindu numerals” to the Italian people. He succeeded, at least in planting the seed, since it took was not until after the invention of the printing press for that our modern number system to fully take took hold in Europe. At this time, Leonardo was not the only European familiar with Arab mathematics. Hindu Arabic numerals were known in Europe at least as far back as the 10th century. Gerbert d’Aurilac, later Pope Sylvester II, used them as number symbols but not in calculations. In the 12th century other scholars began translating Arab works into Latin, as well as writing their own texts. However, these translations and texts were aimed at other scholars. Leonardo was the first to deliberately focus on mathematics useful for everyday purposes. Soon after Liber Abbaci appeared, other popular arithmetics did also, but few approached the sheer magnitude of Leonardo’s compilation of arithmetic, algebra, geometric proofs, some of his original research, and a wide variety of practical and impractical examples.
While the goal of Liber Abbaci is to spread the Hindu Arabic number system, the book contains a wide variety of mathematics. The first chapter explains the basics of the number system. Chapters 2-5 deal with the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division while Chapters 6 and 7 concern operations with fractions. Chapters 8-12 deal with various “word” problems, many of which would naturally arise from business situations of the time. Other problems are abstract, intended to display different solution methods of a problem or to provide further examples on a solution method. Occasionally Leonardo throws in a whimsical problem. One of these is the famous “rabbit problem” from which we get the Fibonacci Sequence. Chapter 13 is on algebra, namely on methods for solving linear equations. Chapter 14 is on extracting roots and arithmetic operations on roots. The 15th chapter deals with geometry and some applications to algebra, namely quadratic equations. The last two chapters are material from Leonardo’s work Flos added in the revision.
Most of the mathematics in Liber Abbaci can be solved in terms of modern mathematics with elementary school arithmetic, basic first year high school algebra, and geometry. The main exception to this is that most schools no longer teach algorithms for square root extraction, and I have never heard of any that taught cube root extraction. Most of the application problems in the book can be modeled with linear equations, which in modern terms are equations that can be manipulated into the form Ax+B=C, where x represents the unknown in the problem and A, B, and C are numbers. However, variables as we know them today, as well as almost all modern math symbols, were not used until the late 16th/early 17th centuries. Because of this Leonardo’s solution methods vary from somewhat different to quite different from modern methods. The main methods he used for these problem types are formalized guess-and-check systems called single false position and double false position. In addition, Leonardo uses what he calls “the direct method” which is basically the same as our modern algebraic manipulation, only using words instead of symbols. Most of Leonardo’s paragraphs-long solutions could be condensed to a few lines using modern symbols.
While Leonardo displays a wide range of mathematics and shows a facility for original mathematics in other works, Liber Abbaci is a summary of the existing useful arithmetic and algebra of the time. Leonardo had a wide range of sources at his fingertips that he used liberally for this book. Plagiarism was not seen in the same light as today, so many of the example problems can be found elsewhere before Liber Abbaci was written. This includes the Fibonacci sequence, which appears in several Indian texts going back to at least 200 BC. In some cases Leonardo acknowledges that he obtained problems elsewhere, but does not always mention names. One example is “A Problem on the Same Thing Proposed to Us by A Master near Constantinople” [6, p. 290]. Other problems come from a variety of texts. Books that Leonardo used included al Khwārizmī’s Algebra text (the oldest known algebra text for which the subject was named) and Euclid’s Elements.
Given the massive scope of Liber Abaci, there are a number of interesting items within its pages. First, Fibonacci used a fraction system from North Africa where he went to school that seems bizarrely complicated. That is, until one notices that it is incredibly useful for old fashioned monetary and measuring systems that do not work as well with modern decimals. For example, using this fraction system with the current U.S. system of measurement, 1 yard, 2 feet and 3 inches could be expressed as
yards. In some problems with solutions that cannot be expressed as fractions, Leonardo found approximations using this fraction notation that are very much like our modern decimals.
Second, Leonardo partially ignored the existence of negative numbers and considers equations with negative solutions to have no solutions, unless they are part of a merchant account, in which case he considered them debits in the account. He did, however, give directions on how to operate with negative numbers [6, pp. 417-419]. Leonardo never admitted the possibility of square roots of negative numbers for any reason.
Third, Liber Abbaci contributed to the financial developments in Italy in multiple ways. Leonardo used a form of present value analysis in some problems, which is the foundational concept of modern financial calculations and decisions . This is the first known use of this method to compare two investments. In addition, the mathematics of minting precious metals into coins in Liber Abbaci may have contributed to the more consistent coinage available in subsequent centuries.
Fourth, Leonardo included an early version of the classic “two trains” problems that students love to hate. However, instead of having two trains leave different cities at the same time, he calculated when two ships would meet [6, p. 280]. One scholar examining a 15th century French arithmetic text claims that that text contains possibly the earliest known example of a “two trains” problem , but Leonardo’s is 200 years earlier.
While Liber Abbaci is an impressive book and has been admired by scholars throughout the centuries, its immense size would be overwhelming to a merchant who just wants to know what his goods are worth in the coin of the city he’s in that week. Most likely for this reason Leonardo wrote another book on the basics of our number system specifically for merchants. This is referred to elsewhere as di minor guisa (the minor work), which probably refers to the fact that the book was shorter or contained fewer topics. However, no known copies of this text survive. For a long time scholars wondered why many arithmetic textbooks in the Renaissance had an acknowledgement in them to Leonardo of Pisa, but the books were not similar to any of Leonardo’s surviving texts. Recent scholarship shows a plausible link between the missing Libro di minor guisa and the “abbacus” texts used for instruction in Italy in the 14th and 15th centuries [3, Ch. 8]. Recently found manuscripts from the late 13th century and early 14th centuries have some elements in common with later arithmetic texts and some with Liber Abbaci, providing the missing link between Leonardo’s work and the tradition of mathematics instruction in later medieval and Renaissance Italy.
The third of Leonardo’s explanatory texts is De Practica Geometrie, or Practical Geometry. Practical geometry was the term used at the time for surveying or land measurement. This profession had been very important and well-regarded in Roman times. The art declined during the so called Dark Ages, but began reviving on discovery and transcription of Roman surveyors’ tracts in the ninth and tenth centuries. These works then became common through the 11th century, but were more for teaching than for practical use. In addition to the duties of the Roman surveyors, medieval surveyors also verified weights and measures. 
Most other practical geometries of this period contained three sections on measuring heights, areas and volumes, while Hugh of St. Victor [5, p. xxv; 9] replaced the section on volumes with measurement of the heavens. Leonardo included all four of these topics [5, p. xxv], but one seems to have been largely lost between Leonardo’s time and when the existing manuscripts were copied. [5, p. xxv] The other thing that sets Leonardo’s text apart from prior practical geometry texts is his inclusion of the theory underlying the practice. Theoretical validation of surveying procedure became a goal in later texts, sometimes displacing the practice. De Practica Geometrie was translated into Italian a couple of times in period, as well as included in various compilations with other geometry texts in Italian.
For his surveying manual, Leonardo used a wide variety of geometry texts from the ancient Greeks and the Arab world. One text he used was Euclid’s On Division of Figures, which has since been lost. However, a century ago a scholar took an outline of Euclid’s text that still remained and found that Leonardo’s use of it matched very closely. This scholar then used Leonardo’s text to fill in the missing pieces and come up with a plausible reconstruction of Euclid’s missing text . The scholar who recently translated De Practica Geometrie into English opines that it is not only a useful compilation of Greek and Arabic geometry, but is a practical analog of Euclid’s Elements: a stand-alone text containing everything a surveyor would need to solve the mathematics problems inherent in their work.[Back to Top]
In addition to being an excellent explainer of mathematics to the masses, Leonardo of Pisa was also a research mathematician. Between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance, almost all of the writings left by European mathematicians were translations of Greek and Arabic works, expository texts like Leonardo’s Liber Abbaci, or textbooks or lists of problems to use in teaching students. Leonardo, however, solved some original mathematics problems and produced new solutions to some previously solved problems. While some of these texts are on other lines of inquiry, some of these were based on the challenge problems he was given in the court of Frederick II. One of these, Liber Quadratorum, or The Book of Squares, is currently in English translation .
Leonardo solved two of the challenge problems and later wrote Liber Quadratorum on the solutions and related problems, but never finished or published this book. It contains 24 propositions written in a style similar to Euclid’s Elements, which Leonardo references in the text. The text focuses on whole number and fraction solutions to indeterminate equations, or Diophantine equations, which are equations with multiple variables, and thus may have multiple solutions. The Greek mathematician Diophantus was the first to study these equations. For example, one of Leonardo’s challenge problems was equivalent to finding x,y,”and” z such that x2+5=y2 and y2+5=z2. In the process of finding a solution, Leonardo stated and proved a special case of Lagrange’s identity, although scholars argue over whether his proof is original or based on Arab material. Also, Leonardo wondered what other numbers besides 5 could be used in these equations and the equations would still have solutions. He proved some interesting facts about these numbers, called congruent numbers , based on the Latin word that Leonardo used for them. The mathematics scholars of the Tuscan school that arose from studying Leonardo’s works were very interested in congruent numbers. Modern mathematicians have not yet determined a general rule for which numbers are congruent numbers.
Another impressive result in Liber Quadratorum is that
for any whole numbers n and m where n > m. A conclusion Leonardo reaches in the proof is that no square can be a congruent number. This result is equivalent to the fact that the area of a Pythagorean triangle, a right triangle with whole number side lengths, cannot be a square. The proof about the Pythagorean triangle was one of Fermat’s greatest achievements.
Leonardo’s other higher level works, some of which include some original work, include Flos and Epistola ad Magistrum Theodorum, and a now lost text on Book X of Euclid’s Elements. Flos was included in the revision of Liber Abbaci as the last two chapters. The first of the two chapters is also a discussion on Book X of Euclid’s elements, and is basically a discussion on how to deal with numbers that can be expressed using square roots, among other things. Unfortunately we do not know how Leonardo’s lost text would have differed from Flos. The second chapter is on solving quadratic equations, which contain a square of the variable in them. Leonardo solved these using completing the square, since methods commonly taught in high school today such as the quadratic formula were not possible without the symbols we now use. He also proved some facts about squares and includes some of his challenge problems. Leonardo wrote Epistola ad Magistrum Theodorum, or Letter to Master Theodore, to one of the scholars offering challenge problems, with more material on those challenge problems. Leonardo’s works began traditions of scholarship in algebra and in investigating congruent numbers both in Tuscany and in Germany.
Leonardo of Pisa, today called Fibonacci, wrote a number of impressive texts containing the bulk of the practical mathematics known in his day, plus some original mathematics research. His goal in writing his most impressive text was to bring our modern number system to Europe. While other mathematicians were also writing and translating books about this system, the legacy of mathematics scholarship and education that sprang from Leonardo’s works testify to the influence he had in making this happen. His legacy of education continued in the arithmetic and algebra textbooks in Italy and nearby areas until the Renaissance. His legacy of scholarship continued through schools of mathematicians in his native Tuscany and in Germany. Even today mathematicians are studying questions that he pursued in his research. It is no wonder that Leonardo of Pisa is considered the greatest mathematician of the Middle Ages.
1. Archibald, Raymond Clare, Euclid’s book On divisions of figures…with a restoration based on Woepcke’s text and on the Practica geometriae of Leonardo Pisano, Cambridge University Press, 1915.
2. Berlinghoff, William P. and Fernando Q. Gouvea, Math through the Ages: A Gentle History for Teachers and Others, Oxton House Publishers and the Mathematical Association of America, 2004.
3. Devlin, Keith, The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci’s Arithmetic Revolution, Walker & Company, New York, 2011.
4. Fibonacci, Leonardo, The Book of Squares / Leonardo Pisano Fibonacci; an annotated translation into modern English by L.E. Sigler, Academic Press, Boston, 1987.
5. Fibonacci, Leonardo, Fibonacci’s De Practica Geometrie, ed. and tr. by Barnabas Hughes, Springer Science + Business Media, LLC, 2008.
6. Fibonacci, Leonardo, Fibonacci’s Liber abaci : a translation into modern English of Leonardo Pisano’s Book of calculation, tr. by L.E. Sigler, Springer-Verlag, New York 2002.
7. Gies, Frances and Joseph, Leonard of Pisa and the New Mathematics of the Middle Ages, Crowell, New York, 1969.
8. Goetzmann, William N., “Fibonacci and the Financial Revolution”, The Origins of Value: The Financial Innovations That Created Modern Capital Markets, Goetzmann and Rouwenhorst, eds., Oxford University Press, New York, 2005
9. Hugh of St. Victor, Practica Geometriae, tr. by Frederick A. Homann, Marquette University Press, Milwaukee, WI, 1991.
10. Menninger, Karl A., Number Words and Number Symbols, tr. by Paul Broneer, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
11. Mucillo, Maria, “Fibonacci, Leonardo”, Medieval Science, Technology, and Medicine: An Encyclopedia, 2005.
12. Pikulska, Anna, “Agrimensores”, Medieval Science, Technology, and Medicine: An Encyclopedia, 2005.
13. Schwartz, Randy K., “‘He Advanced Him 200 Lambs of Gold’: The Pamiers Manuscript,” Convergence (July 2012), DOI:10.4169/loci003888, http://www.maa.org/press/periodicals/convergence.
14. Suzuki, Jeff, A History of Mathematics, Prentice Hall, 2002 (ska Master William the Alchemist).
15. Swetz, Frank, Capitalism and Arithmetic, Open Court, La Salle, IL, 1987.
16. Swetz, Frank, Ed., The European Mathematical Awakening: A Journey Through the History of Mathematics from 1000 to 1800, Dover Publications, Mineola, NY, 2013.
Filed under: A&S Research Papers, Arts and Sciences Tagged: a&s, Arts and Sciences, mathematics
We are excited to announce that the Kingdom of AEthelmearc will be hosting a Tween/Teen party at Pennsic on Saturday, August 6th, 2016 from 7-9pm in AE Royal.
The evening will feature a roaring fire and a gourmet s’mores bar, and light refreshments. Bring your friends and family for an evening of s’more fun!
****Gourmet S’mores Menu****
If you can donate any of the ingredients for our Gourmet S’mores Bar or any other light refreshments or volunteer to help serve the kids during the party, please Contact Duchess Ilish at email@example.com or Dame Hrefna at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EDIT: Her Grace, Ilish will be in attendance at St. Swithin’s Bog’s Three Day Event on July 16, if you would like to donate at that time.
Comtesse Elena d’Artois reports on the completion of the Dragon Rose Challenge.
The Dragon Rose Challenge has ended, and our kingdom has done incredibly well for an out-of-kingdom program! Final scores were:
Top 3 Midrealmers (to be awarded prizes):
Top 3 Æthelmearcers:
Our kingdom scores individually were:
Great job, Æthelmearc fencers!! To put this in perspective,
So really, we kept up with them per active person average. We just needed more people, and more people reporting regularly!
Our folks were never eligible for any awards, but participated anyway. Some passionately.
It was a wonderful way to look back on each week to see exactly what we accomplished. Most of us just documented what we were already doing, but the extra challenges kept things fresh and provided a variety of ideas for ways to improve.
Duchess Dorinda maintained a constant energy level all year encouraging us to push that extra couple of bouts. She was inspirational.
The Barony of Thescorre is having a “garage sale” to benefit the scribes of the Kingdom. Anyone who has received an award scroll can see the time and effort put into each work of art. Supplies for our beautiful scrolls are expensive, and the money earned will allow more scribes to do their art for Æthelmearc.
Please bring your SCA-related items that you no longer use to Pax for the sale. Pre-pricing items is helpful. There will be a tent set up in the merchant area.
Need items for Pennsic? Then come and shop! You never know what kind of bargains you will find.
(And the favor of stopping by at the end to retrieve unsold items would be greatly appreciated.)
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly via Facebook (Pamela McDermott) message or email.
by Lady Elska á Fjárfelli
Using bar soap to make something else is a time-honored tradition. In the 16th century in Tudor times, grated soap could be bought from an apothecary as an ingredient for scented soap balls (and rather strange medicines). Intriguing recipes of that time exist with quite curious ingredients, such as oil of spike (a type of lavender) and civet (an excretion of the civet cat, used in perfumery). If it smelled nice, or otherwise helped a woman’s self-image by bleaching (white hands), scrubbing (calluses), coloring (rosy cheeks) or smoothing (wrinkles), pretty much anything went.
White soap was known for many centuries but it was not until the Middle Ages that it came into widespread use. White soap had two distinct advantages over soft soap, or black soap. Its basic ingredient, olive oil, was easy and pleasant to work with compared to animal fat of questionable age and hygiene. It also sets into solid bars and therefore can be shredded, which makes it possible for a customer to mold and scent soaps to the customers’ personal taste.
Despite the general modern belief that people back then did not bathe much at all, people of the Tudor age did keep themselves clean … by continuously changing and laundering their underclothes and by sponge bathing. Henry VIII and other royals had permanent plumbed-in bathrooms, like those built at Hampton Court and Whitehall. Of course, these magnificent bathrooms were great luxuries.
Bathing for the average person meant having to fill a wooden tub with water, which was time consuming without indoor plumbing or gas ranges and was not something they would bother to do regularly. An interest in personal cleanliness did develop around that time as Tudor-style clothes were tight fitting and often of not-easy-to-clean fabrics, as shown by various toiletry soaps and stain removal recipes that began to show up in various household instruction manuals of that time.
Sir Hugh Plat, in his Delightes for Ladies to adorne their Persons, Tables, Closets, and Distillatories with Beauties, Banquets, Perfumes & Water (1609), shares a great recipe for “a delicate washing bal”:
Take three ounces of Orace, half an ounce of Cypres, two ounces of Calamus Aromaticus, one ounce of Rose leaves, two ounces of Lavender flowres: beat all these together in a mortar, searching them thorow a fine Searce, then scrape some castill sope, and dissolve it with some Rose-water, then incorporate all your powders therewith, by labouring of them well in a mortar.
Another nice recipe comes from The secretes of the reuerende Maister Alexis of Piemount (1558) by Girolamo Ruscelli, on how to make “Vvhite musked Sope”:
Take Sope scraped or grated, as much as you will the whiche (when ye haue well stieped and tempered in rose water) leaue it eight dais in the sunne: Than you shall adde to it an vnce of the water or milk of Macaleb, twlue graines of Muske, and sixe graines of Ciuet, and reducinge all the whole into the fourme and maner of harde past, you shall make therof very excellent balles.
Making your own soap balls is easy, since all one needs to do is grate soap into slivers (by hand or with a kitchen machine), add a tiny bit of water or milk to make the slivers sticky, knead a bit by hand and then roll the sticky mass into a ball. Dry for a few days and the soap is ready to be used. Plain olive oil-based soap like Castile soap would be close to period.
This project also makes for quite a fun kid’s activity, especially when they get to hand-grind smelly botanicals to add to their own kid-sized shaped balls of soap. Check out your local Asian store for a coarse stone mortar and pestle, pick up some herbs and spices like cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves, lily flowers, or rose buds, and with the help of your energetic kids grind up a pinch of this and that, then knead into your sticky mass before shaping. The bits and pieces will also add scrubbing ability to your soap, along with an amazing handmade scent. Your kids might actually be inspired to wash their hands before dinner now they’ve made their own soap… a win-win situation if you ask me!
What are plausible ingredients for period washing balls?
You can try dried moss for a scrubbing soap; cedarwood, sandalwood, musk, and civet essential oils for a spicy woodsy scent; (distilled) rosewater, ground rose petals or buds, ground lavender buds, or lily flowers for a nice floral scent; dried herbs like mint, lemon balm, rosemary, or sage for that clean herbal scent. There are also some less usual but very period ingredients: Orace (orris, or Iris rhizome), Cypres (not cypress, but Aram or jack in the pulpit), Calamus Aromaticus (sweet sedge), amber grease (ambergris), Benjamin (benzoin), Macaleb (Prumus maheleb), Sandali citrini (yellow saunders wood), gum Oldanum (frankincense), Storax, and my personal favorite; oil of Spike (Lavendula spica essential oil).
So, the next time you are shopping online for kitchen spices or visiting an international market, check out the botanicals to see what unusual scrubs and scents they might have… and make yourself a set of scented balls the Tudor way!
Ashenburg K (2007) The Dirt on Clean, an unsanitized history, North Point Press, NY
Plat, Sir Hugh (1609) Delightes for Ladies to adorne their Persons, Tables, Closets, and Distillatories with Beauties, Banquets, Perfumes & Water EEBO
Ruscelli, Girolamo (1558) The secretes of the reuerende Maister Alexis of Piemount EEBO
My personal database of soap-related Materia Medica.
The SCA 50 Year Celebration continues in the Middle Kingdom with a variety of activities. Thanks to Viscountess Hodierna Miriglee of Lincludin, who was the second Princess of Æthelmearc, and to THLady Rachel Dalicieux for their reports and photos!
Alas, rain on Tuesday and Wednesday caused the closure of some venues including archery and siege, but participants enjoyed many other activities in the many buildings and arenas available on the fairground site. There were crafts in the arts building including pottery, fiber arts, and block printing, as well as numerous children’s activities.
One record already set by the 50 Year Celebration is that it currently holds the largest gathering of equestrians in the history of the Known World. There were mounted combat tournaments and other competitions over the course of the week.
The Queens of the Known World participated in one particularly unusual equestrian competition. They were driven in horse-drawn chariots and had to complete tasks much as in normal equestrian competitions, knocking over artificial “enemies” with beanbags. So of course the Æthelmearc contingent in the stands took the opportunity to cheer Queen Ariella on with chants of “Oh, No, Rock to the Face!” each time she struck a target. While our queen acquitted herself well, the winner of the competition was Queen Adrielle of Ealdormere.
One of the marvels on site was the “Great Machine.” Powered by dogs, it can do a variety of work. One of its creators, Master Sylard of Eagleshaven from Ealdormere, demonstrated using it to drive a Da Vinci Hammer and transform a bog iron bloom to iron that can be worked.Click to view slideshow.
Sir Stefan Ulfkelsson of Æthelmearc also spent some time working bog iron at 50 Year, though without the benefit of the machine. Instead, he had assistants working a bellows to heat a charcoal fire so he could smelt the bog ore into iron using a Viking-era bloom forge. He reports that he was able to achieve about 25% efficiency of product in to iron out, which is very good for this technique.
Photos by Master Fridrikr Tomasson.
Other indoor activities have included a Boat Battle, a Squire’s Tournament, a Known World Hafla, and Children’s A&S Day.
Of interest to both scribes and bards, SCA 50 Year marked the unveiling of a book that was created by a group of over 50 Midrealm artisans in a project called “Calf to Codex.” Spearheaded by Master Johannes von Narrenstein, they began five years ago with deer that were butchered by hand and their hides processed into parchment. The parchment was then distributed to numerous scribes who painted and calligraphed the text using handmade oak gall ink and period pigments, and in some cases even handmade paint brushes and of course, quill pens. The text includes Midrealm history, stories, and songs written by a score of bards of the Middle, including such luminaries as Mistress Marian of Heatherdale, Duke Finvarr de Taahe, and Duke Laurelen Darksbane. Once complete, the parchment pages were gathered into quires, sewn together to form a book, and bound using hand-planed quarter-sawn oak panels and a tooled leather cover with handmade metal reinforcements and clasps. The threads used to sew the book together were made from flax grown, harvested, combed, and spun by members of the Society. Even the tools used to line the leather cover were hand-made. At SCA 50 Year, Master Johannes presented the 112-page book at a performance area where bards performed music and stories from it.
Master Johannes says of the book’s purpose: “It will be used like a book should be – read from, to us, at events and gatherings. We will have a custodian to take care of it, and invite readers to read to us from it.”
The photos below, by Viscountess Elashava bas Riva, are stunning. Gentles interested in a closer look at the project can learn more on the group’s Facebook page.Click to view slideshow.
One of the more popular events of 50 Year was the “Founders Meet and Greet.” A group of five gentles who were present at the first tournament, including its hostess, Countess Diana Listmaker, told stories of the Society’s founding and early days and answered questions. They are undoubtedly the celebrities of the event and have graciously had their pictures taken with scores of people from all over the Known World.
Unto the artisans and scientists of Æthelmearc do Byron and Ariella, King and Queen, send Greetings.
We have returned from Our travels to Our beloved Shire of Ballachlagan (beloved particularly by the cicadas this year). We saw so many good artistic acts and thoughtful, insightful classes at the Æthelmearc. We extend Our thanks to all of the artisans and teachers who made the day so special, and to Mistress Alicia for organizing the Æcademy classes. We were pleased to witness the largest Cut and Thrust tournament ever sponsored in this Kingdom, and Our thanks go to Master Will Parris for organizing the tournament. Vivant to Don Clewin, who will soon become a Master of Defense, for winning the tournament.
THL Aelric and all the members of Ballachlagan should be very proud of the event; it went off beautifully and was an excellent showcase for martial and artistic pursuits. We attended many of the classes (at least in part) and were impressed with the quality and depth of the teaching. We also spent time in the Arts and Sciences display, where all of the entries were exceptional, and it was difficult to choose favorites. Furthermore, We thank everyone who made Ian Aetheling and Princess Leah welcome in their classes.
It is indeed a blessing to have Heirs who work so well with Us, and Our thanks go to Prince Marcus and Princess Margerite for their support in numerous ways.
In Service to the Dream,
Byron and Ariella, Rex et Regina Æthelmearc
Throwback Thursday – Duke Eliahu
Sprezzartura is performing everything with grace, if I recall correctly. Per the wikipedia article: “a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it”
This was a fantastic episode. Hope you enjoy it all again.
Documented from the Rolls and Files of the Coram Regibus of Thomas Byron and Ariella, Rex et Regina Æthelmearc: Being a True Record of the Business of Their Majesties’ Royal Court at the Æthelmearc Æcademy and War College, 28 May, Anno Societatis LI, in the Shire of Abhainn Ciach Ghlais, accompanied by Their Heirs, Prince Marcus and Princess Margerite. As recorded by Gwendolyn the Graceful, Brehyres, Jewel of Æthelmearc Herald, with the assistance of Lord Pavel Dudoladov.
In the morning. Their Majesties invited Mistress Alicia Langland to address the populace. She welcomed all to the event, especially those who gave of their time to teach throughout the day, and made a few announcements of changes to the classes. She also announced the inauguration of a new stipend in the memory and honor of the late Countess Aidan ni Lir, and named its first honoree: Lady Edana the Red.
Their Majesties next called before Them His Lordship Sionn the Lost, and Lady Lelija Barnasiewicz-Tancerka. His Majesty spoke of the singular joy that is dance, particularly when one’s partner is also one’s love. A couple so dedicated and so infectious in their love of their art does not escape the notice of others.
Thus, Their Majesties invited before Them Their Order of the Fleur d’Æthelmearc, who acclaimed Their Majesties’ will to induct The Honorable Lord Sionn and Lady Lelija into that company, and to Grant Lelija Arms. His Lordship’s scroll by Baroness Ekaterina Volkova; Her Ladyship’s scroll is a work in progress.
Next did Their Majesties desire words with Mistress Phiala O’Ceallaigh. She brought unto Their Majesties works of exquisite skill and artistry, woven not by her own hand, but that of her apprentice, Viscountess Rosalind Ashworthe. So greatly impressed were Their Majesties that Her Majesty was tempted to keep a sample for Herself, but instead chose to have Her Excellency brought before the Throne. Thereupon did Their Majesties seek the counsel of the Most Noble Order of the Laurel, and instructed Her Excellency to go forward with that Order and sit the remainder of the day in vigil to contemplate elevation into their company. Mistress Phiala asked Viscountess Rosalind to return her apprentice belt, that she might make her decision independently. Her Excellency was escorted to her Vigil, and Court was suspended.
Court resumed in the evening. Their Majesties asked the children forward and invited them to amuse themselves with activities provided by Princess Leia at the rear of the hall.
Then Their Majesties gave leave to The Honorable Lady Clarissa da Svizzera to address the populace. Her Ladyship invited all to Pax Interruptus in the Barony of Thescorre, and announced a scribal fundraiser to be held at the event. She encouraged all to help support the scribes by bringing “SCA Yard Sale” items to donate, and to shop the yard sale during the day.
Their Majesties next received Mistress Arianna of Wynthrope to install her as the Kingdom Youth Fighting Marshal. Although Sir Thorgrim Skullsplitter, outgoing Marshal, was not able to attend, Their Majesties thanked him in absentia for his service, and entrusted Mistress Arianna with the charge to continue training Their Kingdom’s youth.
Their Majesties invited the Silver Buccle, Kameshima Zentarou Umakai, forward. With Their Majesties’ permission, he inducted Maighstir Liam MacantSaoir as the new Sycamore Herald. He also sought applications for the position of Keystone Herald, in charge of education, to replace the late Baron Malcolm FitzWilliam.
Their Majesties gave leave to The Honorable Lord Aelric Ravenshaw, autocrat for the day’s event, to address the populace. His Lordship thanked his staff, the staff of the Æcademy, the teachers, the cooks, and all those who helped bring the event to success.
Mistress Alicia Langland was once again invited to offer her own thanks for the teachers and students. She particularly acknowledged those who taught at Æcademy for the first time, and those who had had their first-ever teaching experience. She further explained that in the teachers’ gift bags were Medieval-style candle-lighting tools, known in period as a “clue,” and that additional “clues” will go to teachers at future events. Thus, if one teaches sufficient classes at upcoming Æcademy sessions, one might be so lucky as to earn a “clue-by-four.” The next opportunity to amass more “clues” will be Æcademy in the fall, currently proposed for November 12.
Then Their Majesties called Master William Parris forward to name the winner of the cut-and-thrust tournament held that day. Master William explained that cut-and-thrust has long been a growing interest within the rapier community, and that the Masters of Defence have made it their particular brief to encourage and foster it. He announced the final placements: in third place, Master Annanias Fenne; in second, Countess Elena D’Artois; and the winner, Don Clewin Kupferhelbelinc. Don Clewin was called forward to receive his prize: a Royal favor to wear and pass on as additional sponsored cut-and-thrust tournaments are held in the Kingdom.
Their Majesties called before Them Fenna Rioux. They noted her willingness to retain, and spoke of the glowing reports They had received of her other efforts in her Shire and for her Household. This, along with Their first-hand knowledge of her courtesy and nobility, moved Them to Award her Arms. Scroll was a work in progress by Baroness Mahin Banu Tabrizi and Lady Raven Whitehart.
Their Majesties also summoned Jarngerd of Stormhaven to attend Them. Her Majesty said that She first took notice of Jarngerd in Her home, where she was hard at work in the kitchens, and later learned of this lady’s practices in her own home, including raising rabbits for food and fur, as well as her efforts retaining and serving her household. In recognition of these things and more, Their Majesties named her a Companion of the Order of the Keystone and further Awarded her Arms. Scroll by Lady Raven Whitehart with wording by Baroness Mahin Bany Tabrizi.
Their Majesties next sought Lady Elena de la Palma and complimented her on her splendid attire. Her Majesty noted that all who see this lady can be in no doubt of her skills as a clothier, but also her attention to the details of her presentation, as well as her other creative ability. Thus did Their Majesties proclaim Their mind to name her a Companion of the Order of the Sycamore. Scroll by Lord Oliver Sutton.
Baron Silvester Burchardt was brought before the Sylvan Throne, where Their Majesties assured him of Their admiration for his weaving. Their Majesties also assured him that the Order of the Fleur d’Æthelmearc enthusiastically agreed and encouraged Them in Their present course, which was to once again convene the Order, and name him one of their Companions. Scroll by THL Máirghréad Stíobhard inghean uí Choinne.
Next did Their Majesties desire to address Baroness Amelia Soteria. Although she came before the Thrones from her position behind them as Their Thrown Weapons Champion, Her Majesty pointed out that she might as easily have been standing behind Them as Their retainer. Rarely is this lady found not working, as Mistress of the Lists, or in fighter support, or in any number of ways great and small where she tirelessly serves. Her prodigious efforts commanded the notice not only of Their Majesties, but of the Order of the Millrind. Thus with that Order’s acclaim, Their Majesties did name her a Companion of the Millrind, and gave unto her two medallions that had been provided by members eager to welcome her among them. Scroll by Baroness Ekaterina Volkova.
Their Majesties called for Viscountess Rosalind Ashworthe to come before Them and give answer whether she had chosen to undertake elevation. Upon her assent, the Most Noble Order of the Laurel was invited forward. Words from Duchess Rowan de la Garnison were conveyed by Countess Alexandra of Clan Donald. Her Grace cited the way Her Excellency wove her own patterns on her travels and left her mark upon the Kingdom. Master Wulfgar of the Wood spoke on behalf of the Order of Chivalry, saying that he has known Her Excellency almost all her life and never seen a better example of chivalry or courtesy. Her Highness Margerite read the words of Duchess Dorinda Courtenay, as a representative of the Order of Defense. Her Grace wrote of the work Her Excellency has done for the arts community, not loudly, but quietly, with little fanfare, but with great patience, and proclaimed that now is the time for the kingdom to speak loudly to proclaim her a Peer. Mistress Mahin Banu Tabrizi, also, attested to the service inherent in every instance that Her Excellency offered to teach, or to help, or guide another artisan on their path. Master Victor of Shrewsbury reflected on the way the threads of one’s life intertwine and twist, for Her Excellency introduced him and his late lady to the Society, ultimately setting them on the path that led to their own inductions into the Order of the Laurel. With the testimony of these Noble Worthies to confirm Their Majesties’ wish, Her Excellency was then bedecked with the medallion given to Mistress Phiala by her own Laurel, Master Ruadhan O’Ceallaigh, and with a hood adorned by a laurel wreath, wrought for her by Lady Beautrice Hammeltoune. Then did Mistress Laurencia bestow into her keeping the reliquary fruitcake of the Order of the Laurels of Æthelmearc. Mistress Rosalind swore her oath of service to the Crown and was proclaimed by Letters Patent to be a Peer of the Realm and a Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Laurel. Scroll by Duke Malcolm MacEoghainn.
Their Majesties called for the attendance of His Lordship Jussie Laplein. His Majesty declared that He knows this man well, for he comes to practice at Their Majesties’ home most weeks, and thus They have both crossed swords with him many, many times. With great pleasure, Their Majesties requested the presence of Their Most Noble Order of Chivalry to attend Them. They then commanded His Lordship to sit vigil at a mutually agreed date and contemplate elevation into the Chivalry. Scroll by Hrefna Fruþikona Þorgrimsdottir.
His Highness, Prince Marcus, addressed the populace. Moved by the ongoing efforts to support and bolster the scribes of Æthelmearc, His Highness announced his intention to sponsor a silent auction at the Kingdom Party at Pennsic. His Highness will create a full Landsknecht ensemble for the winner (who must also provide His Highness with the materials); the proceeds will benefit the scribes.
Her Majesty then named Her inspiration for the day: Lord Sasson della Sancta Victoria. Her Majesty spoke of his impressive efforts as a new Thrown Weapons marshal and a craftsman, but what captured Her attention on this day was that, while he normally attires himself in Japanese clothing, on this very hot day, he was in full Elizabethan garb. He chose to make himself this outfit on the occasion of becoming an apprentice, in honor of his Laurel, Mistress Anne Greye, whose persona is of that period. As he had already departed, Mistress Anne accepted Her Majesty’s token on his behalf and pledged to convey Her words to him.
Their Majesties recognized all those scribes who contributed scrolls, and announced that today and going forward, They have thank-you gifts in the form of scribal supplies. For the duration of the reign, scribes turning in scrolls may select an item from the scribal goodie stash, to help resupply them and provide them with materials they need to produce additional work.
There being no further business, the Coram Regibus was closed.
Gwendolyn the Graceful, Brehyres
Jewel of Æthelmearc Herald
All photos of people by Master Tigernach mac Cathail. All photos of scrolls by Breyhyres Gwendolyn.
by THL Donnchadh Dubh Ghlas
History was made on June 11 at the Æthelmearc Æcademy & War College in Ballachlagan: the first-ever Order of Defense-sponsored Cut-and-Thrust Tournament in the Kingdom occurred.
Nine combatants entered in the tourney, arrayed themselves in a semi-circle around the inside of the list field. The format for the tournament was round-robin style. Each pair of combatants met in the center of the circle, exchanged introductions, and proceeded to take their guard. The combat ensued under the watchful eyes of our Sylvan Majesties, Thomas and Ariella, and the marshal-in-charge, Master William Parris.
Many feats of valor and acts of chivalry were exchanged in the crossing of swords. In the end, Don Clewin Kupferhelbelinc bested all comers and was victorious. Second place was Comtesse Elena d’Artois le Tailleur and third place Master Anias Fenne.
As one of the combatants, it is my wish that these Tournaments continue, and my hope that they draw more worthy fighters into the fray.