Deciphering Secrets / Parchment Project

I’m taking an online class about Medieval manuscripts and the first project is to create a simulated “parchment” after examining online samples.

Of course, I have actual samples of parchment in my art supplies, but in interests of participating with the rest of the class that is doing the project according to the rubric, here goes.

Referenced manuscripts:

1)  I have in mind to do a few pages from a bestiary as the final project, so my first stop is to look at several pages from the Aberdeen Bestiary housed at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. Looking at several of the pages, there does not seem to be a dramatic difference in color from the hair side to the flesh side, though the flesh side does have many obvious vein lines.  The pages also show discoloration in the lower left and right hand corners, but I think that can be ascribed to turning the pages.

https://www.abdn.ac.uk/bestiary/ms24/f17v

https://www.abdn.ac.uk/bestiary/ms24/f17v

The University of Abeerdeen claims copyright but allows for personal use and research purposes.

2)  I’ve also looked at the Bedford Hours housed at the British Library, London, UK. The Bedford Hours do not show a lot of differentiation in color between the pages, nor a lot of obvious follicles or vein lines but a few.  There is discoloration on the edges, but again that might be from handling over the years.

http://www.bl.uk/turning-the-pages/?id=d06e9f02-074d-46f7-a46c-090548b402d5&type=book

Appears to be in the public domain due to the age of the work.  (The British Library states a copyright term of 70 years after the death of the author/creator.)

3)  Next I looked at the “Golf Book”, an amazing work by the Flemish Master Simon Bening.  However the book is so lavishly decorated it’s hard to see the underlying parchment.  There are a few discolorations in less decorated sections.  Also housed in the British Library.

http://www.bl.uk/turning-the-pages/?id=6a8fcef9-4373-46f4-8de9-7b6603024f43&type=book

Copyright as above.

4)  Last I went to look at the famous Book of Kells housed at Trinity University, Dublin, Ireland. The Book of Kells is the oldest of the manuscripts I’ve viewed and has the most dramatic color differences from flesh side to hair side with more visible follicles showing and some veining.  It is discolored due to its age and has several visible repairs.

http://digitalcollections.tcd.ie/home/index.php?DRIS_ID=MS58_003v

Copyright 2012 The Board of Trinity College Dublin. Images are available for single-use academic application only. Publication, transmission or display is prohibited without formal written approval of Trinity College Library, Dublin.
5)  Last I looked at some parchment that I have in hand.  One shows a pretty dramatic change in color from the flesh side to the hair side, the hair side being more yellow. The other is less dramatic, but the hair side is more yellow than the hair side.

The piece I would use for the actual project is cut from a half hide and is slightly more yellow on the hair side.  Both sides have a blemish where the parchment looks a little thin but I’m excited to put this piece to use.

For the simulated “parchment” project I am using 100 lb vellum surface Bristol Board.  To begin the transformation, I am using tea to color the “hair” side.  My first thought was to use a brush, but because I don’t want the paper to get too wet I used a sponge instead.

There doesn’t seem to be a big difference in the before and after, but I will let it dry overnight and look at it in the morning. The paper is curling on the edges.

I decided that I really didn’t like the tea dye, so I started over with a new piece of Bristol board using dilute walnut ink instead.

parchment-3

Then after taping the paper to my work surface, due to curling, I used dilute iron gall ink and a small stenciling brush, to add “hair follicles”.

parchment-hair-side

For the flesh side, using a small brush, size 3/0 and dilute walnut ink, I added capillary/vein lines.

parchment-flesh-side

I hope the photos are sufficient to convey what I was doing.  The light isn’t very good in that part of my residence.

Finishing a scroll

You’ve just finished a scroll and now it’s time to sit back with a satisfied smile and an appropriate drink.  But wait, are you really finished?  Here’s some things to look for before you turn in your scroll:

  1. Proofread the text.

It’s best to do the calligraphy and proofread the text before you do the painting on a scroll, but just in case, proofread it again.  Make sure the name of the recipient and the Crown are correct.  Also make sure you have the correct award and award date.  If you find a mistake, some can be easily fixed.  Other mistakes may be harder, but there is almost always a way to make a correction.  If you can’t figure one out, consult other scribes for suggestions.

  1. Is everything painted?

It’s easy to miss painting a corner or a small bug or single flower.  Look over the scroll to make sure that everything is painted.  Also, check to make sure that everything that needs embellishment is done.  In a complex piece it’s very easy to miss a detail.

  1. Is everything outlined that needs it?

Not all styles of illumination require that all things be outlined, but a number of them do.  Go back and look at your inspiration piece and see where and what kind of outlines are needed.  Many things are outlined in black using a crow quill or a brush.  Some things are outlined in the same shade as the motif (or sometimes a darker tone of the main color of the motif).

  1. Are there signature lines?

It’s generally a lot easier for monarchs to sign scrolls when they know exactly where to sign, so at minimum leave pencil lines for them to sign on.  I think a scroll looks more finished when the signature lines are inked in rather than penciled (unless you plan to erase the pencil line afterward).  It’s also a nice touch to label the signature lines (usually underneath) with Rex/Regina, King/Queen or something similar.

  1. Is there seal space?

Please make sure to leave enough space for the seals.  It’s ok to have a seal cover part of the design, but the seals generally stick better if the area is not completely painted over.  Please mark the center of where you want the seal to go.  An X is fine, as is leaving a crown for the Kingdom seal and crossed trumpets for the Herald’s seal, or the initials KS and HS, or something.  Please don’t leave the entire penciled circle for the seals, as the seals often don’t spread enough to cover all the pencil line.

  1. Sign the scroll

At the minimum sign your name on the scroll in pencil, on the back near the top of the scroll. You can also add your email address, and any information about the scroll you want the recipient to have such as materials especially if you used any toxic pigments, such as white lead, manuscripts that served as inspiration, etc.  You may also want to add a signature or makers mark to the front, but make sure those are small and discreet.

  1. Take a picture.

Take a picture of your scroll for your records.  While you are at it, gather your layout, calligraphy practice sheets, exemplar images, and other bits and bobs and make a folder.  If you do a similar style, it will come in handy.

  1. Make some notes.

Take a good look at your scroll and pick out things that went well, and things that you would do different next time.  Add those notes to your folder.

To Glove or Not to Glove

I’ve never been a big fan of wearing a glove while doing calligraphy or painting on a scroll, but I’m also not a fan of getting hand oils on my scroll paper either. Depending on the type of paper you are using hand oils can cause the ink or paint you are using to bead up on the surface of the paper.  It seems to be more of a problem with pergamenata and real vellum and less so with bristol board and hot press water color paper.

If you aren’t using a glove, remember to wash your hands often while working on a scroll from layout to finishing (but make sure your hands are really truly completely dry before working on your scroll.)  You can also put a scrap piece of paper under your hand to keep the paper clean.

If you do get hand oils on pergamenta or vellum, you can use pounce as a fix.  Pounce can be one of a number of things (or combinations of things), but it’s some kind of powder that will absorb the hand oils.  Some things used for pounce are calcium carbonate, which you can get from cuttlefish bone, pumice powder and gum sandarac. You can buy pounce commercially or buy the ingredients and make your own by putting it in a linen bag.  The pounce is dusted on to the paper and then lightly wiped in to the paper. Then brush the remainer off into a trash can.

On pergamenta paper you can also go over the entire surface with a white eraser, and that will also pick up some hand oils.

Or you can try wearing a glove.  I generally only wear one on my painting/calligraphy hand and try to keep my off hand off the paper or only on the edges.

gloves

You can buy gloves in a variety of places, Amazon has them as well as many drugs stores, but they aren’t cheap.  Or you can look for stretchy gloves in dollar shows and use them.  The third glove above is actually a toe sock I found in a dollar store.  I tend to cut all the fingers off and use them that way, some people prefer to cut only certain fingers off the gloves.  Experiment to find out what suits you best.

I have really neglected this blog.  I’ll have to get back to it soon. 

My dad passed away (at age 93) in May and it’s been hard (hard to get back to the new normal and hard to focus on certain things.) 

I’m going to step down from being Scribe Armarius of Caid in November (a couple of months earlier than planned but really the best time.)  Hopefully I’ll be ready for more projects by then.

 

Getting ready to paint

image

After painting the gold in the inhabited letter and the first letters of Alexander’s name, I started painting the rest of the scroll.  First I took a piece of tracing paper and covered up the calligraphy.  I didn’t want any splashes of ink (or anything) getting on the calligraphy while I worked.

I took some of my iron gall ink (Old World Ink from John Neal Booksellers which I love!) and diluted it with water.  I wanted something very thin.  I then outlined everything on the page with a crowquill pen.  I’m not sure I remember exactly, but I think that was about an hours worth of work.  More or less.

You can see on the lion’s mane where the ink blobbed a little bit. I found that I had to be careful how much ink was on the crowquill.  I usually tested it on a piece scratch paper before putting anything on the scroll.  I also found that I had to be carefull not to let the crowquill sit in one place on the scroll for too long as that caused blobs as well.

Adding gold

wpid-wp-1388108365610.jpg

So it seems I was right in the middle of working on this and getting in to the crunch time of trying to finish the scroll in time for presentation at 12th Night and so caught up in finishing that I didn’t keep up with the blog.

The first step after calligraphy on most scrolls is the gilding. Now, this isn’t gilded, I didn’t use real gold, but it was easy to do the gold next in the order of things.

The gold in the center of the inhabited letter and the first letters of Alexander’s name is sumi gold. It’s my favorite gold paint. It comes in a little ceramic pan in several shades of gold (as well as silver and a few other colors). It’s usually available where Japanese calligraphy supplies are sold but the best price seems to be online at jerrysartarama.com (they have pretty good prices on a lot of other things as well.)

The secret to sumi gold is to add the right amount of water to keep the gold smooth and not letting it get thick and clumpy (which means adding water as you go along and the paint dries out.)

 

(apologies if this goes out twice)