Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Calligraphy Books


November 11, 2014

I've created a new Bookshelf section for the blog. The books listed in this post have updated reviews there, and additional books will be added to that page over time. The remainder of this page has been left as it was posted on October 9th, 2013.

I've written about some of the tools and materials that I use in my projects. Before I get to work on posts about technique, I'd like to write about and review my favorite calligraphy books. As verbose as I know I am, I'm not planning on writing enough to replace a good book on calligraphy. I started with calligraphy books to learn the basics, and I recommend anyone else do the same because of the history, practice techniques and script ductus (or is that ducti?) they contain. My musings in this blog are an attempt to share what I've learned from experience, experimentation, mentors and other artists, and are intended to add to what the books teach.

Please note that when I talk about calligraphy books I mean books that include instruction on how to pen each script. I have many other books in my library that contain only images and history of manuscripts and other period documents. I would recommend that any SCA scribe expand their library to include such reference books as well, as they will help you learn more history and a Medieval aesthetic. It is quite possible to be an SCA calligrapher without doing so, instead using the "generic" versions of each Medieval or Renaissance script as detailed in a good calligraphy book.

If you are starting as an East Kingdom scribe in the SCA, make sure to first visit the Signet's website and download a copy of the EK Scribes Handbook. While it primarily focuses on wording, artwork and specific award information, it does have details on tools, inks, paper, books, and other resources. Besides the fact that it's free, it also includes a wealth of knowledge you need to be an EK scribe.

And now, on to the books...

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tools & Materials - Pens & Inks

So I've talked about paper and miscellaneous tools, it's finally time to talk about pens and ink!

This photo is not mine, and was sourced from a Google image search.


Medieval & Renaissance calligraphy was penned with a quill (a cured feather) or reed pen. Both were cut such that the writing tip had a width to it. Unlike (most) modern pens, the width of the line these pens left on the page varied based on a combination of the angle the pen was held at and the direction of the pen stroke. While fine point quill pens were used to add details and flourishes, almost all writing was done with a wide nib.

Reed & quill pens were in common use up through the American Civil War despite the availability of metal nibs at that time. Quill pens are still available, but are relatively expensive unless you have a source of cheap feathers and are able to cure and cut them yourself. They also wear out as they are used, and have to be re-cut to maintain a sharp edge. I have yet to experiment with reed or quill pens because of the time & expense involved, instead opting to use modern calligraphy pens.

What is an SCA Scribe?

I jumped into this blog from a very SCA/East Kingdom-centric point of view and level of knowledge, and I realize I haven't done much to explain a few of the basics for those not already ensconced in those worlds. Let me take a step back and help explain scribal art in the East Kingdom, and define a few terms.

If there's ever anything I write about that you want clarification on, please leave me a comment.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Tools - Miscellaneous

Before I talk about pens & ink, I want to talk about the other tools I use.

A lot of these are very modern, and you know what? I don't care! ... Okay, I do care... but I'm making a deliberate choice to use modern shortcuts so I can focus on the calligraphy itself. While I want to learn and experiment with the period way of doing everything, I can't afford to take the time to do things the medieval way for every project and still get them done when they are due.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Baronial Investiture for Sylvia & Ane du Vey - Sept 28, A.S. XLVIII

Project: Endewearde's Baronial Investiture scroll, given to Ane & Sylvia du Vey on Sept 28, A.S. XLVIII
Words: by Aneleda Falconbridge
Paper: Strathmore 300 series Bristol Board, Vellum Finish
Pens: #5 Mitchell Rexel Round Hand nib for the letters & a fine point dip nib for the flourishes.
Ink: Walnut Crystal Ink

Above is the finished calligraphy & flourishes prior to erasing the pencil lines and sending the scroll off to Christiana Crane for gold & paint.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Materials - Paper

I want to start my lessons with the foundation of any calligraphy project: the paper.

What they used...

Most of the works I copy from were produced on parchment or vellum (not the modern papers of the same names); a specially prepared animal skin. You can get parchment today, but you will pay for it. ($10+ per sheet, depending on size and quality.) Parchment acts differently than most papers, and has both advantages and disadvantages (which I can hopefully discuss after I've had more experience with it). I've only experimented with a small piece so far. It's on my scribal to-do list for now.

Unlike most papers, parchment often requires additional preparation before you can begin writing and painting on it. This can include sanding, degreasing and the use of a surface treatment like gum sandarac powder to help ink stay crisp on the surface. I'll dedicate a post to my first experiments with parchment when that time comes.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What this is about...

A little background & explanation for any who stumble on this blog:

I'm going to be writing about my experience as a calligrapher and scribe in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism). The SCA is a group where we learn about medieval & renaissance history through recreation of the clothing, activities, arts & crafts of that time period.

In my scribal works, I'm attempting to recreate the appearance of pages from medieval manuscripts & legal documents. Eventually, I hope to attempt at least one project using truly medieval tools and materials.

Most of my projects are done to be given out to other members of the SCA in recognition of their participation and hard work.

For more information about the SCA: is the organization's site. is for the kingdom I reside in. is for my local group in Southern Maine. is the Scribal page for the East Kingdom.


I've been thinking for a long time about keeping a journal of my scribal activities, as well as creating a place to host lesson plans & teaching materials.

This is it!

Only time will tell if I keep at it.

If you've managed to find this place, please feel free to let me know what you'd like to see.