Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Why Are Vellum And Parchment So Expensive?

Vellum or parchment is made from animal skins processed until they are smooth and thin enough for light to pass through. It's been used for book-pages longer than has paper. 

You can find one of the oldest surviving books in the British Library, the Codex Sinaiticus. It was written on parchment in the fourth century and is over 1600 years old.

With that longevity and tradition, of course, SCA scribes want to work on animal skin. It's the ultimate scroll surface. But is it ever expensive.

When I can afford it, I usually buy my animal skin, from Talas. Their non-calligraphy types cost about $100 for a size suitable for a Peer's scroll. The calligrapher's quality costs even more. 

So, why are vellum and parchment so expensive? You can get an idea watching this Dirty Jobs YouTube video in which Mike Rowe makes vellum.




This is why I now use pergamenata for my scrolls. I even prefer it to smooth Bristol board, which I used back in the day before SCA scribes discovered perg.

Even with these costs, you'll want to use vellum or parchment sometime. It's a wonderful scribal experience. You'll be enthused and feel emotionally connected to medieval manuscript creation. 


Related Prior Post: 
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Sunday, June 24, 2018

How-to Paint And Pen Straight Lines


M. Giraude's laurel scroll showing
interlinear and filigree lines.
For years I've fussed over painting straight lines on a scroll. I keep coming back to starting with a ruler and light pencil lines then painting over those lines. The problem is when you use light intensity paints like pink, white, or yellow you see the pencil line through the paint making them seem gray. Unappetizing.

Is there a better way to paint straight lines? 

Whether you're painting precise interlinear text lines or diapering on your scroll, there's a way you can get them done with success.

For scrolls, I use a ruler and a sharply pointed small round brush or a dip pen. The brush size depends on the line width you want.

I've used a bridge without success because it seemed too bulky, but maybe I should have bought a different one. I have better results with a ruler and a brush or dip pen. 

Here are two videos showing you line-work tips. The first is Steve Mitchell's. He's a professional designer, illustrator, and watercolor artist. Steve's video shows you several ways to create precise lines, both tiny and wide, using different techniques. The second is P. J. Holden's. He's a professional comic artist. I offer you this one because of its low angled camera view; it's almost on the paper. 




Steve Mitchell published his video Dec 8, 2014, on his YouTube channel, Mind of Water.








PJ Holden published his video Sep 28, 2016 on his YouTube channel by the same name.

Although I describe how to use a brush to do this, you can also use a pen to rule straight lines. Here's how.

Firmly prop your ruler at an angle with your hand, raising it high enough so only the brush's metal ferrule touches your straight-edge. Hold the brush's ferrule firmly against the ruler and have the bristle point just touching your support. Stroke the brush or pen steadily down the length of the straight edge making your line. 

Tip: use a light touch and go quickly, but more importantly don't look at the pen or brush's point. Look ahead at where you want it to go. This takes practice at first, but it's worth it. Looking at the pen's tip causes your line to ugly wiggle. If your line isn't exactly on the target you'll still have better results than if it's wiggly. 

Another tip is to use your arm's natural swing when you position your paper or pergamenata. If you're right-handed, it's easiest to paint a line diagonally from your lower left to the upper right. so move your support so your line goes in that general direction.  

When your scroll design calls for straight lines, you don't want to spoil it with distracting, wiggly lines. Practice running a few lines before adding them to your almost-finished scroll. You'll be knocking them out in no time.

Related Prior Post: 
Cheap Tweak: Using Gouache For Ink

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Free JSTOR For Your Use

I'm so excited. While I may be behind the times, I just found out I can now read free articles on JSTOR, Up to six a month.

I use to only be able to afford this by driving to my local university library where I paid for an economical annual membership. But it was worth it because it had JSTOR's digitized issues of academic journals. The only other way to afford this was to be a college student or professor. 

Sorry, I neglected to tell you, JSTOR is short for Journal Storage and is a digital library founded in 1995. It has improved since I last used it because it now includes books, primary sources and full-text searches of 2,000 journals, with older domain content free.

Try it. But use Google Scholar for your topic first to see what Medieval academic stuff turns up. Then access it using your monthly six free reads. See what interesting nerdy stuff you can learn. 


Related Prior Post: 
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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Perplexing Pictures In Manuscripts 2

illumanu:
“ 14th century (1349-1351) Austria - Lilienfeld
Lilienfeld, Stiftsbibliothek
Cod. 151: Concordantiae caritatis
fol. 244v - Public service. (killing adulterers)
The man fornicating/being killed is wearing a Jewish cap, which, astonishingly,...
14th century (1349-1351) Austria - Lilienfeld 
Cod. 151: Concordantiae caritatis fol. 244v 
There is no reason you'd want to include a prejudicial illumination like this in SCA art. But why? What do you see?

This 14th-century illumination shows a man wearing a Jews hat having sex, then being mortally stabbed for it. 

But there's more that's perplexing. What's up with his pointy hat?

The tall unique hat you see in the illumination was worn by Jewish men before 1215. It was required after that in parts of Europe and the Islamic world. Today it's an easy way you can distinguish Jewish people in Medieval illuminations. 

It's not the hat alone that makes the picture perplexing. It's the illustrated deplorable behaviors, the rape, and the stabbing. 

The picture unites the two behaviors. In the Middle Ages repeatedly seeing similar illuminations helped prejudice the viewers against Jews, eventually driving them out of Europe. 


M. Dov with his new Laurel scroll.
Prejudicial pictures like this are only useful for educational purposes. There's a tiny possibility you might use it in costuming research and documentation because it shows a woman's hose tied up with a cord. But never in a scroll.

The scribe who created the Laurel scroll for M. David ben Benjamin included people in the same Jews' hats because Dov often wears one.  But the people wearing the hats are in a respectful "parade".

It's the behaviors, not the hat, that make this illumination inappropriate.



Related Prior Post:

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Resource Mining

One trick to learn when doing SCA research I call "Resource Mining". It is more fun than saying you can "get resources from the Bibliography" of the book or article you're reading. 
A bibliography is a list of books, articles, speeches, private records, diaries, websites, and other sources an author used when writing a paper. You may find it at the end of an article or non-fiction book. Sometimes it's called Works Cited or Works Consulted.
These lists are useful for the person who creates it because it gives credit to all the authors cited works. It also makes it easy for the enquiring readers to find the source used, but also to later researchers and curious people who are following similar paths. Think of bibliographies as time-saving and access keys to your SCA explorations.
Works cited in bibliographies may include more than books, articles, and websites. They may list professional journal article abstracts or summaries that are hard to find or expensive to acquire. The abstract or summary may have just enough information for your SCA project. Or give you a strong reason to seek out the full source.
Resource mining is even better when the bibliography is annotated. 

In an annotated bibliography each listing gives you its content and value, clues to whether you should read it. If you read a listing that describes the work as "ground-breaking" or otherwise amazing, it's a clue. It may give you an overview of the source, critique it, or comment on its usefulness, and reliability. It may comment on a listing's depth of detail, scope, and contribution to the work of others. More clues for you to explore.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Largess: The Art Of Regifting

Largess Display "Back In The Day"
Calontir's summer Coronation is just around the corner. it's being hosted by the Barony of the Lonely Tower. I hope you'll come.
The event will include a largess display. "What's that?" you say. In short "largess" are gifts given generously. 
In the SCA largess is given by Monarchs or the Baronage to show their graciousness and hospitality. A peerage candidate might gift largess when you visit them at their vigil, too. Since these people are not independently wealthy their regal gifts come from their friends and you, the populace. Things you give for that purpose are "largess" too. 
There are two largess types: giftable and just plain elegant.  Both are better if they're handmade, showy or reek elegance. 

Anyone may give largess, but as a scribe or book artisan, I suggest these things to display and present. 
  • You might make: paint brush carrier or holder, beginner paint kit, notecards, bookmarks, blank border scroll, scroll carrier, notebooks, medallions, narrow-woven braid or cords. 
  • You could buy and give: Bristol board pads, pergamenata sets, period-like u-shaped scissors, and inkwells.

Including your handmade largess in a display is an excellent chance to show your quality work to a wide audience, including Royalty. With your name and group visible for all to see you gain name fame. 

With your largess gift possibly being given to anyone, there are things to consider and maybe avoid. Scented items give some people headaches or make them sneeze. And many among us have food or drink allergies. 

Largess items must be transported to events and packing space is limited. Baskets with handles or wooden chests need Tetris-player packing skill. Fragile and difficult handling items like filled beverage bottles may not arrive whole. 

Circlets, white or red belts, and chains that could be mistaken as reserved for a knight are too specific for many receivers. And candy and cookies might tempt the retinue.

Largess takes regifting to a new level. It's planned, crafted, organized, displayed and appreciated by the giver and the chain of receivers.

Related Prior Post: 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Prepping For Lilies War

My spare room being used for Lilies prep.

Every year I go to Calontir Lilies War and this year is no different. What's different is what I've realized from doing this annually.


It is important you purge your hygiene and health products each year. When I started paying attention to dates on the personal products I took to Lilies my home stash reduced by half. Also, products I grabbed in a hurry didn't occasionally smell or taste funny because I replaced them with new ones regularly. This annual purge wasn't something I did before thinking about it each year for Lilies.

An annual prep for a huge event like Lilies also gives you a push to have your camping garb repaired, washed and ironed all at the same time. As you do this it's easy to take stock in what's needed to update your wardrobe and accessories. I also make a "to do list" and work on those after the event, while I still have the Lilies thrill in my head and heart.

As I prep I also search for the gear I put down with out thinking about it after coming back from the last War I attended. And where's the hammer for my tent pegs? Oh yeah, I loaned it to someone and now I need to buy a new one.

Organizing your SCA horde just naturally happens as you prep for a large long event like Lilies. The stuff you remove makes you organize what you don't take as well as what you do. It also helps me make sure the things I've recreated are maintained. And the best is when you find that missing part you need but couldn't find. The one that makes something else work perfectly.

Annual events are important for more than what they do for the day, or ten, as  they happen. They help you organize and plan ahead both within and without your SCA life. They inspire you to do more, improve and keep going.

Related Prior Post:
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Photos of Lilies War Episode XXXI
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Sunday, June 3, 2018

SCA Award V. Medieval Illuminated Art. What's the difference?

A scroll created to appear
like a two page spread.
Recently a beginning scribe asked me, "What's the difference between a scroll and a period manuscript?" I thought you might also want to know. 

When you receive an SCA award you're given a fancy commemorative document. We call these "scrolls", even though they're seldom rolled up. 

The biggest difference you'll find between a scroll and a medieval manuscript is their layout. SCA scrolls and historic manuscript pages both lay flat. But our scrolls are commonly designed to be single page works. Manuscript pages were planned in groups with two facing pages sometimes designed as one visual work. 

The second difference you find is their purpose. Illuminated texts were usually multipage reading materials. Religious, educational, literary, or historical books. Although some were rolled up prayer rolls, genealogies, and almanacs, that were used like personal infographics.


The oldest known illuminated charter.
1159, for Scottish King Malcolm IV  
SCA scrolls are our "legal document", giving the receiver rights to be in a Kingdom or Baronial order. Few Medieval legal documents were illuminated. Although the earliest illuminated legal document was an 1159 charter for Malcolm IV, King of Scotland, it isn't until late SCA period that dramatic illumination frequently decorates them.

So Medieval manuscript layout relates little to SCA customs. Your challenge, as a scribe, is to combine Medieval manuscript art with SCA required elements, such as the seals, signatures and personal details.

The SCA scroll process is different, too. 


Pre 13th century illuminated manuscript parts were worked on by several skilled people within one scriptorium. After that book artisans had their own business or worked for one that was near others in the lay book trade. 

Omitting the parchment maker, material preparer, and bookbinder because we commonly don't do similar skills; design, gilding, calligraphy, simple and complex illumination were done by separate people. In the SCA an original award is designed, gilded, calliged and painted by one person. Preprints or charters have one person design the award around the planned text, work up and outline the design but it is painted by many throughout the Kingdom.

Because scribes work alone we are encouraged to learn and master all the scribal skills. That takes time. Until then you share the tasks. With careful timing, you hand your beautiful work to someone you trust to do what you haven't learned yet. Or that person might show you how they do it. 


There are two forces that influence an SCA scroll, the historic and the current middle ages. Balancing their impact on a scroll's creation is a goal you seek to reach.

Related Prior Post:
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