Book of Kells

I’m taking an online class about the Book of Kells from Trinity College in Dublin through FutureLearn.  The class is in the second week, but I don’t think it’s too late to join.  You can join here:  It’s been fascinating (and most of the reading and videos are pretty short so it’s not like it will take a huge amount of time).

This week though, there was an exercise to try and decorate a letter in the style of the Book of Kells.  Most of my interest in illuminated manuscripts is much later period (and I haven’t done anything in an Insular style in a very long time) but I decided to give it ago.

I found a letter M in “The Book of Kells” by Bernard Meehan (which was on the book shelf and handy) and decided to write out the word March for the current month. I wanted to use some iron gall ink and quill, but the ink decided not to get very dark (I think I need new ink!) so I went back to Calli brand ink and a metal dip pen.  If I was doing an SCA scroll, I’d spend a lot more time practicing the calligraphy.

I traced the letter and then went to look for paint.  I need to source out better colors for this era of illumination.  The paint is a combination of paints I made from dry pigments and tube gouache.  (I really need to make better notes on paints I make.  Some had colors labeled, but none listed the binder used. Future scribe will do a better job.)

I think it probably took about five hours start to finish. It’s on an Artist Trading Card so the size is 3-1/2 inches by 2-1/2 inches.

Book of Kells

And a blast from the past, a Book of Kells style scroll I did eons ago.

kells scroll


Time for Scribal!

Remember what I said last time about trying to keep this blog up more regularly?  Still haven’t managed that.

When last we left our intrepid scribe she was working on an SCA Court Barony scroll.  In the meantime, a friend won Crown tourney in Caid and I offered to be their Court Scribe.  Court Scribe in Caid handles putting together award certificates for each event the Royals plan to give awards at.  And the new Queen has a Norse persona.  While other Crowns in Caid have also been Norse and there have been some fabulous award certificates in a Norse style, none of them made it in to the Court Scribe box (which has blank certificates for a multitude of awards.)

So I decided to make some new ones.  I was stuck on what exactly I wanted to have them look like, until a scribe friend from back East shared a scroll that she had done in a Norse style based on carvings from a Stave church.  Bingo!  There was my inspiration.

So here’s some pictures of the Norse-inspired award certificates.


I have also managed (somehow) to make some progress on the Court Barony Scroll.  Calligraphy is done.

Cara scroll progress 3

And I transferred the design to the paper I’m using.  The transfer was a little faint, so I decided to outline everything in walnut ink which is giving me a chance to refine and fine-tune the design.  I’m about halfway done.


Scribe stuff and other things!

Sheesh, it’s been forever since I’ve done a blog.  (I need to keep this thing up more regularly.)

So, the last year, I’ve been studying Hebrew and this past Friday night I did an adult Bat Mitzvah with my mom and 4 members of the Hebrew class.  It’s a pretty amazing experience and the study of Hebrew and the prayers and my Torah portion took a fair percentage of my free time.  Now, though it’s time to clear the decks and get my scroll backlog cleaned up.

I’m working on this scroll, it’s really not the top priority scroll on my list, but it’s the one that calls to me the most right now to get it done.

Scroll in progress

Here’s the rough layout. I need to do a little more clean-up on it. The vines will be white with grey shading.  The background will be an ochre color. The flowers will all be natural (more or less).


Calligraphy practice 2Here’s the latest calligraphy practice.  I think I ought to practice the entire text 2-3 more times before putting it on the good paper.  I’m planning on using pergamenata for this one.  I’m really looking forward to painting it! Continue reading

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.


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.

Fun with calligraphy (or something)

Getting calligraphy on the scroll

Getting calligraphy on the scroll

I sat down today to get the calligraphy done on Alexander’s scroll.  I did a little warm up.  First I wrote out “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” which is an old typing pangram.  I wanted to call it an abcdarium but apparently that’s a sentence/series of sentences with all the letters in alphabetical order used as a writing exercise.  A pangram just used all the letters of an alphabet but not in order. Here’s a couple of medieval ones:

Te canit abcelebratque polus rex gazifer hymnis. (O treasure-laden king, the hymn sings of you, and the pole likewise honours you.)

Trans zephyrique globum scandunt tua facta per axem. (Your deeds ascend across the earth and through the realms of the zephyr.)

After that I practiced all the capital letters I needed in the scroll because I often have trouble with those.  I taped a blank practice line sheet to the back of the scroll, measuring from the edges (which might not have been the best method but I guess it worked.) Then I started doing the calligraphy.  Half way into the second line I realized I’d left the second g out of greetings and the v in Ivan was a u, so I started over again.

The second time was much better, though I realized I needed to dip my pen in the ink more often as I was getting some letters much fainter than others.  Afterward I went back and did some embellishments with a crow quill pen.  I’m not sure if that is cheating or not, but it came out more neatly than if I used the edge of my dip pen, so I’m okay with it.   Whatever works. 🙂


Final calligraphy with embellishments

Final calligraphy with embellishments

More calligraphy practice

Calligraphy practice for Alexander's AoA scroll

Calligraphy practice for Alexander’s AoA scroll

Last night at Kingdom Scriptorium, I practiced the text of Alexander’s scroll, using a larger calligraphy nib.  It took up a little over one line too much.  (And the smaller practice was about 4 lines short).  I really want the calligraphy to fill the space left for it.  So, tonight I redid my practice lines (from leaving less room between the lines and leaving everything else the same.  I also chopped out a few extraneous words like henceforth and that.

I wrote it all tonight in about 40 minutes I guess (I took several breaks).  I’m pretty happy with it now.  It all fits.  A couple of lines need to be a little tighter (see where society and 2nd go over the line?) but that should be pretty easy to adjust and I have a little bit of slop room at the right edge.

I need to practice some of the capital letters a few more times, but I think I’m pretty much ready to do this on the good paper.

Calligraphy practice

Alexander's scroll 001

I did a quick (and sloppy) run through of the calligraphy for Alexander’s scroll.  (You can see where I smeared my hand through the ink a couple of times.  It wasn’t great paper to practice on and the ink wasn’t drying very fast.)  It was supposed to give me an idea of where to end each line, but it turns out, the pen size I picked is way too small and there will be too much white space at the bottom of the scroll.  I want it to come out with as little left over space as I can.

For practice, I had my paper flat on a table.  When I actually calligraph on my good paper, I’ll put the paper on a slant board.  (I ought to practice on a slant board, but right now, the spot where the slant board lives is rather a mess.  Hopefully I’ll get that cleaned up soon.)

I want to go back and examine my source material for the calligraphy hand a bit more.  I changed the “e” half way through and need to see if there are other letters I can use from the pages I have, that work with my basic blackletter hand.

What I need to do next is find a bigger pen and figure out how far apart the lines should be with that size pen.  Then I’ll run through the entire thing over again.