Sunday, July 23, 2017

Protective Book Curses

I've worked on SCA scrolls bent over my art table with my back or hands aching. And that is one page, not a quire or a book. My efforts are minimal compared to the manuscripts I emulate. Still, I wouldn't want my work stolen or harmed.

Medieval scribes, to protect their laboriously created books, penned powerful curses to prevent theft, damage or loss. These writings appear in Latin and vernacular languages, some in cultures other than Western European.

Using the vilest threats imaginable scribes heaped excommunication or painful death on possible perpetrators. For stealing a book you could lose your hands or eyes, then spend eternity in the "fires of hell and brimstone."

Marc Drogin compiled the largest book curses collection, publishing them in his 1983 book Anathema! Medieval Scribes and the History of Book Curses. His collection included curses from ancient Greece, the Babylon library, and extended to the Renaissance. A pricey book I'd love to receive as a gift. Since I don't own it I searched for them online.

I discovered a book curse could be emphatic and short. 
Hanging will do for him who steals you.

It could pile excommunication's anathema upon the perpetrator. 
May the sword of anathema slay
If anyone steals this book away.

British Library, Harley MS 2798, f. 235v 
What does a book curse do? It is similar to the FBI popup warning on your DVD movie, included by the media’s maker to frighten the foolish. It works if you believe the words cause realistic results. In the Middle Ages the text were considered magic.


The creative scribe's writing might inflict a terrible, horrible, very bad death for stealing or harming a tome.

If anyone take away this book, let him die the death; let him be fried in a pan; let the falling sickness and fever size him; let him be broken on the wheel, and hanged. Amen. 
~~~~~~
 Many were poetically written. Although I can't do that spacing here, read it that way for yourself. I find they're even more fun then.
The finished book before you lies;This humble scribe don’t criticize. Whoever takes away this book May he never on Christ look. Whoever to steal this volume durst May he be killed as one accursed. Whoever to steal this volume tries, out with his eyes, out with his eyes! 
~~~~~~
This book belongs to none but me For there’s my name inside to see.To steal this book, if you should try, It’s by the throat that you’ll hang high. And ravens then will gather ‘bout To find your eyes and pull them out. And when you’re screaming ‘oh, oh, oh!’ Remember, you deserved this woe.
~~~~~~
Whoever steals this Book of Prayer May he be ripped apart by swine, His heart be splintered, this I swear, And his body dragged along the Rhine.
~~~~~~
May no one believe that ever have I been taken, But that happily this place never have I forsaken. Yet may no one doubt that the wrath of God upon him will fall If he essays to take me from the confines of St. Gall.

A book curse could be determined and insistent.
Whoever steals this book will hang on a gallows in Paris, And, if he isn’t hung, he’ll drown, And, if he doesn’t drown, he’ll roast, And, if he doesn’t roast, a worse end will befall him.

Some curses were banal but still got the point across.
The book of Saint Marie and Saint Liborius in Patherburnen. A curse upon the one who takes this book, a blessing upon the one who keeps it safe. If anyone removes or cuts a page, may he be accursed. 
~~~~~~ 

British Library Royal MS 10 A XVI, f. 2r 
This book of the Distinctiones belongs to the monastery of Rochester: anyone who takes it from there, hides or keeps it, or damages or erases this inscription, or makes or causes it to be deleted, may his name be deleted from the Book of Life.
~~~~~~
This is the book of St. James of Wigmore. If anyone takes it away or maliciously destroys this notice in taking it away from the above-mentioned place, may he be tied by the chain of greater excommunication. Amen. So be it. So be it. So be it.
~~~~~~
For him that stealeth, or borroweth and returneth not, this book from its owner, let it change into a serpent in his hand & rend him. Let him be struck with palsy & all his members blasted. Let him languish in pain crying aloud for mercy, & let there be no surcease to his agony till he sing in dissolution. Let bookworms gnaw his entrails in token of the Worm that dieth not, & when at last he goeth to his final punishment, let the flames of Hell consume him for ever.
~~~~~~
Whoever takes this book or steals it or in some evil way removes it from the Church of St Caecilia, may he be damned and cursed forever, unless he returns it or atones for his act.
~~~~~~~
Should anyone by craft of any device whatever abstract this book from this place may his soul suffer, in retribution for what he has done, and may his name be erased from the book of the living and not recorded among the Blessed.

A few curses became popular and repeatedly used. 
May whoever steals or alienates this book, or mutilates it, be cut off from the body of the church and held as a thing accursed.
~~~~~~ 
This book is one (thing), And God’s curse is another; They that take the one, God gives them the other.
Book curses seem at odds with the Medieval lifestyle. But a book's loss was a laboriously created material sacrifice that deprived essential written knowledge of a religious community. Book curses were an effective, basal method to preserve their book collections. 

Today these fiery, interesting missives seem quaint. Even so, they can be useful. They are perfect for calligraphy practice or using up odd pergamenata bits. Better yet they make creative bookplates as Nancy Hulan sells in her Arte of the Booke Etsy shop. I'm making some for Kingdom largess.


Sources: 
Anon. "Top 10 Medieval Book Curses" 9/20/2015, By Medievalists.Net. Accessed last 6/24/2017 

Dreishen, Clarck. "Frying pans, forks and fever: Medieval book curses" 5/23/2017. British Library's Medieval Manuscripts Blog Accessed last 6/24/2017 

Kwakkel, Erik "Chain, Chest, Curse: Combating Book Theft in Medieval Timesmedievalbooks blog. Accessed last  6/24/2017 


Laskow, Sarah "Protect Your Library the Medieval Way, With Horrifying Book Curses11/9/2016. Atlas Obscura. Accessed last 6/24/2017

Pydum, Carl "Medieval Copy Protection" 8/12/2010. Got Medieval. Accessed last 6/24/2017


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Guest Post Blogging

Just before M. Aidan left to teach at this year's Known World Heraldic and Scribal Symposium I asked her if she would guest post on my blog after she returned. She said she was pleased to do it, but would I do the same for her. Of course, I said. 

M. Aidan speaking at Calontir's 2017
Kingdom Arts and Sciences Competition.

M. Aidan Cocrinn has refocused and relaunched her blog, I am Intellectually Promiscuous.com. I thought it appropriate if I wrote about my reasons for blogging. It's a short post. While you're there have a look at her recent writings

Guest posting is a twist on writing for your own blog. The content relates to the blog on which your post will show, not your own. It should also be "green" content, a topic that can be posted at any time and still be relative. The blog owner usually posts comments about your upcoming post and on the day it's released usually introduces you. 

Toodle on over M. Aidan's blog post today. I enjoyed sharing with her and look forward to her guest post here.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

My Scribal Work Space

Today I'm inviting you to my scribal workspace. I enjoy seeing how other's work, so I thought you'd like to see mine.

My "studio" is now half an SCA craft room. It's a few steps from a bathroom for easy access to water. It's on the same floor as the walk-out to the back yard, so I can easily let my crazy dogs in or out as they insist. 

My work surfaces are two 6-foot tables put together in an L-shape with a small opening at the corner for my standing floor lamp. I'm using old heavy tables I had for SCA activities before the new lighter ones appeared at stores.

Workspace and chair, side view.

Comfort is important to me, so my chair is adjustable to a height that lets my arms rest on my workspace at close to a 90° angle. It also has no armrests for me to bump against. 

I'm fortunate to have a large space around me, so my arms aren't cramped. Yet my chair rolls and rotates so I can easily extend my reach if something I want isn't handy.

Calligraphy and illumination's detailed strokes take arm movement that let me move freely. That's important. It's even important to have a clear space at your feet so your knees aren't higher than your "bottom". My dog, Pippa, has learned to sit way to the side under the table to be near me and not in my way.

Left table and corner of both.
If you stand in front of my workspace and look first to the left you'll see I have a small table-top bookcase. I use it for frequently used books. Next, to its right is my initial SCA portfolio binder. Further right is a divided support I use for sundry paper or pergamenata, folders of guide sheets and hand-outs, assorted sized mat specimens, and sandpaper packages. 
The top of the lattice-sided-cube holds a mobile phone, a can of workable fixative, a box of cartridge pens, and a nib box. Stuck through the lattice are several small c-clamps, strong scissors, and sometimes my draft dust brush.

Inside the cube are miscellaneous items. I seem to collect a lot of them. There's a plastic shoe-box with gold leaf "pads", paper samples, and circle templates. To its right is a small Fiskars paper cutter intended for scrapbooking, which I've never done.

To the table's front is room for resources such as open books, my Kindle, and online printouts. You also see my Ozark Trail covered, insulated mug. It is important because where ever I put it down, I can't accidentally stick a brush or pen in it. And limits spills.

Corner with lamp protruding and lattice cube.
Where the two tables meet you see the lamp protruding. To its front is my home-devised brush/pen/etc holder. Just to its front is small useful dreck: erasers, small binder clips, two sharpening stones, a shell with shell gold, a Finetec gold well etc. To its right, peaking over the light box is a colored pencil container.

Dual swing-arm lamps(on), slanted lightbox and active work area.
am fortunate to have a dual swing-arm light system. It's a repurposed beauty salon thing. I can adjust my light to come from two directions, so I'm not concerned about direction and my head casting a shadow.

Under the lamps is my light box. It rests on two thick, large books so it is slightly slanted. Behind it, resting on the protruding support books is a plastic container with various inks, gum Arabic, and nib cleaner. 

Right, active work-table broad view with lamps off.
I place my inks, paints and two short water containers in a place where I don’t bump them, but I can reach them easily. For me, that's just to the right of my slanted workspace. 
I also have pens and brushes. 

This area becomes cluttered as I work. It tends to be where I put anything down if I'm not careful. Erasers, pen test papers, a guard sheet, scrapers, rags/paper towels sections, nib cleaner, my cell phone.....

To the back, I keep a rotating utensil holder filled with rulers, a small t-square, scissors, old toothbrushes, a sharp knife and more dreck. To its right are a  stand with paper towels and cleanup wipes. There's also a battery powered pencil sharpener and a tape dispenser.

On the wall, I have tacked a paper with standard frame sizes and a binder clip with clear plastic sheets. I use them to protect my light box. One is also a printed transparency of my favorite size grid.

Small computer station and some room view.
The door to the room is immediately next, but to its right is a small computer desk, a printer, and a two drawer file cabinet. When I started doing C&I in about 1993 I would never have guessed the importance the internet would be for scribal research. It has drastically changed how I access inspirational resources. Many times, like in this picture, my laptop is on the couch in the nearby rec room, but this is available when I want it.

I am lucky to have so much space. It suits my work style because I like all my tools nearby. Or maybe I developed this style because I didn't have to work from a portable scribe's box. C & I doesn't need to be spread out, but I'm just spoiled by it now.

Related Prior Post:

External Related Post:
Alexandre Saint Pierre's  My Work Space, where he describes his apartment space. 
Professional C&I artist Patricia Lovett post: Work, my workroom and ‘Landlove’ magazine, December 2016ai

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Damien II and Issabell's Coronation Day Photos

HRM Ashir presents 
HG Sile O' Kyan his Kings Favor
As I am sure many of you know this past weekend was Calontir's Coronation. As sure as the day ends and the sun rises the Kingdom Monarchs change. And there is an event held for it.

The intimate site was wonderful, the food was tasty, the activities plentiful and the company enjoyable. 


The Barony of Mag Mor made every effort to give a medieval ambiance to the modern church's sanctuary. The high ceiling was streamed with yards and yards of purple cloth. 

I don't photograph every happening. My photos are fun for me and to share with you. Also, Blogger becomes less cooperative the more photos I include. I hope you enjoy these.

The day's first court is always high in Calontir tradition. This one promised to include even more. 


Their Majesties Ashir II and Ashland had a Mongol-themed reign. The Mongols were a nomadic fighting force that gained the largest single land area in world history. Their ambiance is distinctive.



Khan Ashir removes Calontir's Royal Crown
from the Khatan's head, his wife.





After the traditional personal honors were presented and release of fealty given to many Khan Ashir reluctantly removed the crown from the Khatan's head. Their reign complete he removed his crown and they walked out together.











As Ashir and Ashland leave the hall the Calontir chivalry gathers and stand ready. They protect the thrones and our kingdom from intrusion as our 67th reign's lineage is read to all.




Our next rulers, Damien  II and Issabell, based their coronation on The Coronation Book of Charles VCharles V's coronation book was commissioned in 1365 to detail and commemorate the rituals he underwent when becoming king. His opulent court life is shown in the remaining fine illuminated manuscripts he collected and commissioned. We were in for a high persona treat.




First, Prince Damien enters the hall surrounded by the men of his retinue and guards. His outer clothes are removed and he is seated. He is dressed by his nobles, including his shoes, spurs, and gloves. Each item has symbolic meaning.






He stands and is clothed in an opulent gold silk cote and receives the Calontir scepter, emphasizing his power as our King. His Majesty also has a ceremonial hand washing to signify a new beginning.


His Lady-wife then entered the hall to the sounds of Mag Mor's choir escorted by her retainers and nobles. Her procession was elegant. 
Princess Issabell receiving
the Queen's Crowon








After her ceremonial hand washing, Princess Issabell receives the Queen's Royal Crown.




By Calontir tradition the peers of the realm are called into Their Majesties Court to swear fealty, beginning with the Knights. 


The Laurels are next to come forward and swear on the Great Sword of Estate. Sadly I have no pictures as I was among them.





Then come those in the Order of the Pelican. The many souls who tirelessly serve the Kingdom and Crown.




Others also swear on the Great Sword of Estate: the King and the Queen's Champions, Generals and Thegns. They serve the Kingdom and this game we love to play. Their Majesties reply they accept the offered promises and will not request our service and sacrifice needlessly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After morning court and the new reign's beginning, many activities are available to do. Often the local group provides food for purchase, as did the Barony of Mag Mor. Some people attend meetings required by the new King and Queen. A few Calontir Guilds held meetings. Others, like these scribes, impromptly gather to share similar interests. 


The Barony of Mag Mor held another "Dirty Dozen" arts and sciences largess competition. To enter you had to have 12 of any one thing and offer them to Their Majesties for distribution later as gifts.

HL Fiondel's Embroidered Pouches


By populace vote, the competition winner was the creator of these 12 hand embroidered pouches by HL. Fiondel Songspinner. While other entries displayed 12 items using the same skills each of Fiondel's pouches used a different embroidery technique. 










Many enjoy food from Mag Mor's Inn and visit with friends. Sometimes I find a person sneaking a well-deserved nap.

The day is perfect outside for armored combat. This huge tree provides shade enough for all waiting their turn or watching their loved one fight.





Calontir Steele fighters even have a shady place for practice. 


Some just delight in being outside with friends under a shady tree.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The first evening court of Their Majesties Damien II and Issabell offer much to please. They begin by presenting gifts to the visiting Northshield and Midrealm Royalty.


 


The Pelican's surround HL Vilhelm in court.
They accept a boon asked to take HL. Vilhelm Lich into their Order of the Pelican.


They give Ashir a Duchy and make Ashland a Countess, presenting them with the documents and finery to attest to these honors.



Her Majesty then asked into her court, Kari Otoshi's Daughter and Aelyn Crawley. Talking directly with them she gave them each Her Order of the Chalice.


The Queen's Chalice members  in court
All members of the Queen's Chalice order were then asked into court, whatever their age or current rank. His Majesty is the tallest among them.



Others are called into court to receive awards. Sadly not all were present. This displeases many, but especially Their Majesties.


A boon was then asked for HE Conna ingen Ui Chearbhaill to be welcomed into the Order of the Pelican, as a great cheer given by all.

Members of the Order of the Pelican surround HE Conna


Coronation day's evening court is when the populace, after careful consideration, swear fealty to Their Majesties. Commonly they are asked in the morning court to contemplate throughout the day what it means to them personally.


The populace swear fealty to Their Majesties Damien II and Issabell.


Kristine nic Tallieur welcomed by Their Majesties
Two other boons were begged this day. HL. Severin Svensdottir and HL. Kristine nic Tallieur are both to become members of the Order of the Laurel in the future. 

Other honors, boons, and gifts were presented. First-time attendees, by an established newer tradition, were welcomed into court and presented mugs.  

A four remove feast followed after court. Each remove was cooked by a different person. M. Gwyneth and Ly. Leofwyna cooked the first remove, Ly. Halldora the second, Ly. Isabeau and Ld. Carlos the third, and Ly. Leofwyna the fourth, sweet course. I heard the food was plentiful and scrumptious.

I love this recurring pageantry. More, I love Calontir. The people and their creations inspire me to continue what I do. 


Prior Related Post:

External Resource:
Calontir's Kingdom Photographer, M. Rhianydd Arbeth, posts her numerous photos on Flicker, you can access by clicking here.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A 16th-century Scribal Lettering Manual

When I was looking at the Scribes of Meridies Resources and Exemplars web page I clicked on their link to a Scribal Pattern Book at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.  

This is a fascinating complete scribal lettering manual on parchment by Gregorius Bock. It's Beinecke MS 439 from 1510-1517. And the great thing is I can access this manual online from my couch. 


This image of the manual is from the Public Domain Review
This historic scribal book has two parts. The first has multiple hand-lettered script style pages, many preceded by text lettered in that style. Most of these sections display large decorative initials with white floral designs on black grounds. But also the initial on page 1r has a swirling leafy border with red and green paint. And folio 4r includes heraldic arms. The second section includes alphabetically ordered large decorative initials.


This 500-year-old imposing manual has few a stained and rubbed pages, but the great thing for me is I can easily read and study its pages myself at home. Plus! There's a PDF of it.

There's more. The bottom of the Beinecke Digital Collections' web page includes clickable links and images to similar manuscripts, just like an online shopping company. You can also seek their manuscripts by its search page.

It's an easily accessed notable 15th-century hand lettered complete scribal manual. Nothing's sweeter.   

Related Prior Posts:
Why Is The Ramsey Psalter Important To Modern Calligraphers?
Wow! Scribal Research Has Changed

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Is Gouache Toxic?

I've heard that some people lick their brush to shape it to a point. Since most watercolor and gouache paints are listed as "non-toxic", that should be safe to do. But is it? 

What does "paint toxicity" mean for scribes? How much paint does it take to be considered toxic...one lick or do you have to eat a whole tube? What if you make your paints from a powder?

The short answer is...when metal pigments are consumed they accumulate in body tissues and never leave. Especially, paints containing metal pigments such as lead, titanium, cadmium, barium and any 'metallic' color. Those metallic compounds are processed like food nutrients and spread around the body. But, they are never removed, so they build up over time.

While a brush-full of metallic pigment may not harm an average healthy person, repeatedly exposing yourself to very small metal amounts over 20+ years may harm you. Artist paint manufacturers do not intend their paint to be consumed, so they haven't done studies to see if doing that is harmful. They don't know what consuming small amounts of non-toxic paint over twenty or more years will do to your body.

I'm a healthy scribe, but I have inherited a condition that makes my blood "thick". That means I'm not a typical person. I'm different in more ways than my brothers' taunted me. There's no way I can be sure even licking my brush to point it will be safe after years doing that. 

I don't want to gamble on it either. I could be more resistant to metal's effects than most. But, I don't want to tempt fate and shorten my life or receive a life-long debilitating condition because I often licked my brushes.

I paint with cadmium pigments because they have beautiful, strong oranges, reds, and yellows, but I don't make them from dry powder. I don't teach paint making with them either. It's too easy to accidentally ingest or inhale dangerous powder amounts. Even if the pigment powder is an inactive talc, inhaling it may cause serious long-term breathing problems. 

Heavy metal poisoning is a lousy way to die. Before the metal levels are fatal your liver and brain are seriously defective. Near death, your lungs fill with fluid.

It takes self-awareness to quit twirling your brush's moist, soft bristles through your lips to make that perfect point. I have an alternative trick to point small, round gouache brushes. I gently pull my brush tip through a little hole I make by putting my index and middle finger together with my thumb. This works as well as pointing my brush tip with my lips and is safer, too.

Related Prior Posts:

Sunday, July 2, 2017

How To Use Heraldry On SCA Scrolls


Bi-lingual Hebrew-English Scroll
After calligraphy heraldry is probably the most common motif I include in a scroll. Whether it's a recipient's arms, the order's device or the Calontir banner I use them somewhere. Even if the recipient's persona came from a culture that didn't have heraldry. 

When I receive a scroll assignment I first collect as much information about the recipient as I can, even prior to receiving the text. For their personal heraldry, I go to the Calontir Kingdom's Armorial populace web page, click on their name and copy both the image emblazon and its blazon terms. 

I save the emblazon as a picture in my word processor, sometimes copying it in several sizes. I add the blazon in case I have to ask a herald a question later, such as the difference in an animal's pose. I need the proper "heraldeze" so they know the device I want to paint. Heralds are well versed in the terms. Or, I may want to look a charge motif up in a book and will need the blazon to do that.

Scribal Heraldry Basics

Blazons are written in a jargon derived from the Norman French language. The best place to look for information on this is in a good heraldry book, such as A Complete Guide to Heraldry by A C Fox-Davies, Heraldry: Customs, Rules and Styles by C A von Volborth, or Heraldry, by Henry Bedingfield & Peter Gwynn-Jones.  

I recommend every scribe eventually have their own introductory heraldry book. Until you get your's your local herald will gladly help if you have questions. You may also find your answer in Wikipedia's Heraldry Portal, although I don't know if it's SCA legal.

When I plan a scroll I consider the shape of the shield and if I'm including the helmet, crest, and supporters. I want to know how they should appear. 
  • Depending on the recipient's rank the heraldic achievement may be displayed with its supporters, coronets, and helm surrounding the device. These sumptuary items are protected by various Kingdoms' laws. Heraldic Achievements' use is detailed in Calontir's on-line 14th edition of Kingdom Law Appendix III-322 HERALDIC ACHIEVEMENTS.
The standard heater-shaped shield is SCA appropriate for any scroll but technically came after the 12th century. Also in period, women displayed their device on a diamond shaped shield called a "lozenge". Women in the SCA entitled to display arms may use a lozenge or a heater shape. 
Round-bottom 16th Century
German Shield

Most in the SCA, but not all, choose to use the traditional heater. If I can easily check on the recipient's preference covertly I do. If I can't do this stealthily I use a heater shape.  

Only a few colors called "tinctures" are used in heraldry. Originally chosen for their visual contrast and easily identified from a distance. The paints I use for heraldic "tinctures" provide strong, bright unambiguous colors. 

Paints I use include:
  • Or (gold/yellow) imitation gold, cadmium yellow pale, gold leaf or gold gouache
  • Argent (silver/white) zinc white, Chinese white, aluminum leaf (Silver leaf isn't recommended because eventually, it will turn black)
  • Gules (red) cadmium red pale, spectrum red
  • Azure (blue) ultramarine
  • Vert (green) mistletoe, permanent green middle
  • Purpure (purple) mix carmine and ultramarine to make a strong purple that isn't too red or blue 
  • Sable (black) lamp black

Device Illumination


I lay out the whole scroll design lightly in pencil first, including any arms. I check that everything’s there that's needed and it's balanced. 

Depending on the device I may trace the arms or elements from it if they are more complex than I want to sketch.--Tracing is period.--I also want the charges to "fill" the shield's section in which they're placed. They shouldn't appear lost in space.  

I use a ruler, set square, compass or stencil when possible for best results. I prefer a "roundel"  appear as a circle than my almost round freehand drawing. I don’t trust my eye for something that basic.

I paint the device in flat colors with distinct outlines, usually using a small Micron pen or 000 brush. A pointed dip pen works well too. I don't highlight, shade or do extensive details. I use black paint to outline unless the charge is very dark, then I use a white gouache. The white may need more than one coat to be opaque. I do shade and highlight any helm, mantling or supporters. Outlining makes the shield and its charges more distinct and provides a finished look.

Decorative Heraldry Taking heraldic art to the next level. 


I like heraldry for its dramatic decoration and artistic design. I search "Extant Heraldic Display" Pinterest boards looking for it's use in period manuscripts and extant medieval items.  Illuminated manuscripts are rife with heraldic art to filch. 

I use shield shapes on scrolls to suit the recipient's country, era, and gender. For some styles, a specific shield shape adds to the scroll's persona consistency. A round or rectangular shield suits a 9th-century Celtic persona, a kite shape is appropriate for a 12th-century Romanesque scroll, and a “horsehead” fits Italian Renaissance

Sometimes I slant the shield.--For authenticity I'd note, doing so on arms in Spain or Portugal indicated bastardy.--I enjoy playing with the swooping mantling which can be painted realistically or as tattered swirls.

I've painted shields hung by a strap from a louping ivy bar. Using the recipient’s own helm can be a nice personalized touch, especially if you spruce it up with a bit of ornamentation.

Depending on your Kingdom's law and the recipient's rank, supporters provide creative fantasy possibilities. I've painted a shield held by the recipient's favorite cat. I've seen them hung around a stag’s neck from a strap. The possibilities abound for decorative supporters and ideas are rife in period sources. 

Another period technique is to repeatedly scatter copies of the recipient's  charge, badge or a variation throughout the border. Motifs such as award badges, Pelican blood drops, Fleur-de-lis, Laurel branches may also be used. I've included their motto when I know it, although this may be limited in some Kingdoms. 
The Cardinal's Team "device" 

I've included humor when I can, such as the two cardinals that refer here to the recipient's favorite baseball team.

Heraldic art is valuable for scroll creation and most scribes become competent with its patterns, execution, and terms. It enhances the pageantry and beauty of any scroll you create.