A Fine Hand: Beginners' Scribal Workbox

The SCA is home to some of the finest calligraphers and illuminators around, but there are still plenty of us who know little of this very important and useful medieval art. Dame Aoife wants to help, and offers this edition of Aoife's Links devoted to scribal arts for beginners.

Greetings, my Faithful Readers!

This week it's all about something we should all know a little about--but sadly many of us don't. I'm talking about those most medieval of artforms, C&I. Perhaps your knowledge is limited to the production of a reasonably historical signature for your persona (a very cool thing, to be sure, and easy to learn). Or perhaps the inherent doodler in you can be convinced to doodle in the margins of a scroll to enliven its owner's enjoyment. Perhaps you love the clear, crisp sight of a well-calligraphed missive. Maybe you're a Herald who needs help learning to read calligraphy styles? Or perhaps you just want to address your Christmas Cards with style. Whatever the reason, everyone should find something of interest in the elementary links regarding calligraphy, Illumination, historical manuscripts, and scroll production that can be found below. Please note especially the last link, which is a fine interactive tutorial on manuscript production with terrific information for first-time calligraphers/illuminators.

Cheers!

Aoife

Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon
m/k/a Lisbeth Herr-Gelatt
Riverouge, Endless Hills, Aethelmearc


General Calligraphy and Illumination Links

SCA-Scribal Arts e-list
http://www.castle.org/mailman/listinfo/scribes
(Site Excerpt) This is the scribes mailing list for members of the Society for Creative Anachronism. The purpose of this list is to provide a forum for the discussion of scribal arts including illumination, calligraphy, paper making, etc.

Guidelines for those just starting: So you want to be a scribe...
http://members.aol.com/whyteboar/begin1.htm
(Site Excerpt) Contrary to the opinions of many non-scribes, ANYONE really can do scribal work. Because of the nature of illumination and calligraphy, anyone who ever learned to hold a ball point pen and write their own name, can make a scroll. All it takes is patience and persistence, and a guiding hand to using the right tools and references.

SCA Scribal Arts webpage
http://www21.brinkster.com/annascrafts/scribe.htm
(Site Excerpt) This Page contains links that go to pages about Calligraphy, Illumination, Bookmaking and Painting.

Cyberscribes internet calligraphy discussion group webpage
http://www.calligraph.com/cyberscribes/

The Calligraphy Webring
http://q.webring.com/hub?ring=calligraphy
I stopped counting after 30 links. Well worth browsing. Mostly non-SCA.

Auntie Elspeth reviews calligraphy and illumination books
http://www.therotunda.net/elspeth/ci-books.html
(Site Excerpt) As for me, I'm the husband (known as "Yves de Fortanier" in the SCA). I maintain this Web site and do a little C&I myself (see the "portfolio" link to your right). I organized her original list o' book reviews into categories and did some light proofreading (both with her approval). "Period", when used below, means that it was a part of Western culture before the 17th century.

Notes on Calligraphy
by THLord Jaymes Aikmon of Battle Abbey, CMC
(Advice on technique and materials)
http://www.tirbriste.org/dmir/ScribalArts/0602/0602.html
(Site Excerpt) When lettering, begin at the top of the page and do not go to the second line until all letters in the first line are complete, including all points, extra curls, and other details which are added in with a smaller nib. To be extra sure not to mess up by getting your hand into the wet ink on the letters, you might go one step further and complete each word one at a time, from left to right (or right to left if you are left handed), adding all extra touches to each and every word before moving rightward to the next word.

Jacinth's Infomine: Calligraphy, Manuscripts and Illumination
http://users.ev1.net/~jacinth/manuscripts.html

Stefan's Florilegium: Scribal Arts
http://www.florilegium.org/
Click Scribal Arts on the left hand menu, then browse the plethora of topics on the right-hand menu. Includes 8 files with new or updated material since 06/05.

Basic Scribe's Equipment
Rowan Perigrynne
http://www.sca.org.au/lochac/artsci/articles/scribes.html
(Site Excerpt) For drawing guide lines and sketching, medieval scribes used a small piece of lead or silver, often in a bone or quill holder, or scribed lines into the parchment with a stylus. They also used rulers of wood, ivory or bone You will need a pencil (propelling pencils mean you never have to find your sharpener again) and a ruler with clear accurate markings. For drawing circles, medieval scribes used a compass - still the best tool for the job!

Intro to SCA Scribal Arts
(Adobe Acrobat Reader required)
http://users.easystreet.com/rafaella/scribal_intro.pdf

Reading List: Medieval Manuscripts and Illumination
http://littlepeople.net/artzhours/reading.html

Calligraphy Links

Scribblers: Guidelines Sheets
http://www.scribblers.co.uk/cgi/gridlines.pl
Use this page to print the appropriate practice pages for lettering styles and sizes.

Harvard University: The Medieval Calligraphy Website
http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~humae105/fall97/twest/index.htm
(Site Excerpt) Welcome to the medieval calligraphy Website. The site was developed for a class project for the Survey of Publishing course at Harvard University's Extension School. Calligraphy is one of the most beautiful and expressive methods with which to ornament a written word. The art dates back to around the 1st century, when the Romans first adapted the Greek alphabet to fit their own needs. Using a broad nib (the point of a sharpened quill), the Romans created the first letters in calligraphy, and the art flourished until the 15th century, when the printing presses were created.

SCA Calligraphy 101
by Marko Evanovich Panfilov
http://www.zuggsoft.com/sca/documentation/callig101.htm
(Site Excerpt) These tips and guidelines are based purely on personal experience and should not be considered a complete discussion of the subject. This information is intended to get beginning scribes started quickly. As the experience of the scribe increases, the scribe will naturally start to experiment and try other methods, materials, and techniques.

Getting Started in Calligraphy
http://www.calligraphycentre.com/begin.html
(Site Excerpt) However to gain the most control and understanding of writing with a broad edged pen, one needs to learn to handle a dip pen*. Metal nibs by Mitchell or Brause are the most commonly used. Others include: Speedball, Automatic, Coit. Of course we need to mention the reed and quill. Quills are cut from feathers, and reed or bamboo pens are cut from these 2 materials. Info on reeds and quills will be featured in another article. One can fill the dip pen by actually dipping or feeding the reservoir with a brush.

Beginning Students: Carolingian Alphabet
http://cmcgavren.home.sprynet.com/azcarolingian_p1of2.html
(Site Excerpt) students can use to get started on this Carolingian alphabet from Charlemagne, ruling Northern Europe, used from the eighth to mid-twelfth centuries. Print this topic on your computer printer and use it as a model.
See also: Insular Majuscule (early Irish)
http://cmcgavren.home.sprynet.com/azInsular_p1of2.html

The Online Calligraphy Lesson
http://www.studioarts.net/calligraphy/lesson.htm
(Site Excerpt) The image to the left is a "thumbnail" of the first page of a sample lesson which will teach you how to do the "Uncial" alphabet - an alphabet used by the early Christians. This page shows all the letters and how they are formed. Simply click on the thumbnail image of the page and the full-page version will be brought up. Print the page on your printer. Please use the Back button on your browser to return here when the job is done.

English Handwriting 1500-1700: An Online Course
http://www.english.cam.ac.uk/ceres/ehoc/datdescr.html
(Site Excerpt) Book Hands: the hands found in books produced by scriptoria prior to the spread of printing; such hands are more accommodating of attempts at codification. Court Hands: general business/literary hands, including stylised hands in particular offices/professions which survive alongside Secretary (e.g. chancery hand, exchequer hand, etc.)

Illumination Links

The Virtual Known World Scriptorum
http://members.aol.com/whyteboar/scriptor.htm
(Site Excerpt) This site is the result of a combined effort to provide a source of information to scribes and illuminators without easy access to skilled teachers. It is also a place where we hope to link knowledgeable masters of these arts with those desiring that knowledge in a useful manner.

Materials of Medieval Illumination
http://www.ku.edu/~bookhist/medieval_illumination.html
(Site Excerpt) glair- egg whites squeezed continually through a sponge or thoroughly beaten until it assumed the consistency of water. Camphor or cloves might be added as a preservative. Gum arabic, vinegar, or honey might be added to vary the consistency. Water was used to dilute it.

Subject access to the Illuminated Manuscripts of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek and Museum Meermanno
http://www.mnemosyne.org/business/mss/browsekb/opening_uk.html

Sources for Period Illumination and Supplies
by Mistress Alicia Langland
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/2963/sources.html

SCA.org's Basic Guide to Calligraphy and Illumination
http://www.sca.org.au/st_florians/university/library/articles-howtos/bas...
(Site Excerpt) The very first thing to do is look through a wide range of books on Illumination and choose one style to work on. Within your chosen style you must accommodate the elements you will be working with. For example:
Do you need room for a wax seal?
How many illustrations must you arrange into a pleasing composition; three, four?
Do you have lots of wording, do you need one or two columns?

The Red Book (Scribe's Handbook for the Kingdom of Aethelmearc)
http://www.aethelmearc-scribes.org/RedBook/redbook.html
Too Much information to list just one item. A goldmine.
SEE ALSO: Aethelmearc College of Scribes
http://www.aethelmearc-scribes.org/

Basic Celtic Knotwork Made Easy
by Arielle de Brabazon
http://www.housebarra.com/EP/ep05/03knotwork.html
(Site Excerpt) Here is a method of construction for Celtic knotwork that I learned in a class at TYC. It is period and surprisingly easy, The method consists of drawing a grid of dots and then drawing lines within the sets of dots (as opposed to connecting the dots).

CELTIC KNOTWORK FOR KLUTZES: THE GRID METHOD
prepared by THL Rowan Wolfsbane based upon a class by Mistress Aiden ni Leir
http://www.tirbriste.org/dmir/ScribalArts/0608/0608.html
(Site Excerpt) Celtic knotwork--fascinating, intricate ... and overwhelming. Impossible, right? Well, I've got good news and I've got bad news. The good news is that Celtic knotwork can be very simple to master; the bad news is that it is tedious and exacting to draw. Still interested? Read on then, and learn the secrets of the Irish monks.

Drawing in Period: A Little bit of History and Technique
by Slaine ni Chiarain
http://www.geocities.com/mary_m_haselbauer/drawing.html
(Site Excerpt) The early medieval draftsman was a monk in a scriptorium. Everything was preplanned and composed because "proportions based on divine cannon were more beautiful than accidents of nature." (Kenin, 44.) One of the earliest examples of period drawing is the Carolingian era Utrecht Psalter. (Fig. 1). Based on classical models, energetic pen and ink drawings illustrate the Psalms. (Rowland, 44.) Color washes are used here and there but it is the ink drawings that convey the story.

British Library: Digital Catalog of Illuminated Manuscripts
http://prodigi.bl.uk/illcat/welcome.htm
(Site Excerpt) Use this website to find and view descriptions and images of items in one of the richest collections of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts in the world.

Project Gutenberg Digital Library
http://www.gutenbergdigital.de/
(Site Excerpt)Due to the high quality images - especially the enlargements - it is possible that the download may take some time. It's worth waiting.

Princeton University: Art of the Middle Ages
http://www.princetonol.com/groups/iad/lessons/middle/middle2.htm
A list of links on the Subject

The Illuminated Page: Medieval Illumination
http://www.illuminatedpage.com/
(Site Excerpt) The earliest surviving illuminated manuscripts date from the 5th century, though it was not until about 1100 that the production of manuscripts began to flourish in earnest. This "golden age" of manuscript illumination lasted until the arrival of Gutenberg's printing press in 1450-55, signaling the beginning of the end of hand-made illuminated manuscripts.

Fitzwilliam Museum Interactive Illumination Tutorial
Making Art: Medieval Manuscripts

(Flash 6 Plug-in needed to view tutorial)
http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/pharos....
(Site Excerpt) The best way to discover how medieval manuscripts were made is to look at unfinished examples. The reconstruction in this animation is based on a page from an early fourteenth-century book made for a French bishop, Reynaud de Bar. It's called the Metz Pontifical.