Monday, January 19, 2015

Aildreda de Tamworth - Laurel Writ - a.s. xlix

Project:Writ for the Order of the Laurel for Aildreda de Tamworth
Words:Master Lucien de Pontivy
Latin Translation:Master Steffan ap Kennydd
Scroll:Lord Alexandre Saint Pierre
Paper:8" x 10" Parchment made by David de Rosier-Blanc (his Etsy store)
Script:Proto Gothic
Pens:Hand cut goose quills. Tips are 1.0mm, ~0.7mm and ~0.5mm wide.
Inks:Ian the Green's Iron Gall, Winsor & Newton's Scarlett
Inspiration:Codex Buranus

Sometimes, the collaboration on a project is the best part. When I contacted Master Lucien about words for this scroll, we got into a sort of creative feedback loop, inspiring each other back and forth. Lucien informed me that his plan was to write new lyrics to a period drinking song called "Istud Vinum, Bonum Vinum" or "Bache, Bene Venies". The song was one of many written down in the Codex Buranus. I suggested using the original as inspiration for my layout and calligraphy, and he helped me find the digitized manuscript. In the process of reviewing it, I made the suggestion that all the required elements for the writ (dates & events) could be contained in a marginal note, instead of trying to fit them into the lyrics themselves. Lucien ran with that idea, and provided text for the note as if it was written by someone who witnessed the first performance of this song. He had this translated into latin by Master Steffan.

The original song itself was my starting point for layout & calligraphic inspiration. Though I also took inspiration from various other pages within the manuscript for the capital letters, marginal note style, and initial F.

I started by printing out a copy and using it to make measurements so I could match the ratios of the original. I don't know the size of the original, so instead I printed it at the size I was planning on working. My measurements found about a 0.7mm nib width, 2mm minim height, and between 6-8mm of space between lines. I also recorded the height of capital letters, ascenders and descenders.

I cut an age-cured goose feather into quill with about a 0.7mm width, and practiced copying some of the original text with it. Happy with the control I had, I found the Ames guide setting to match, and drew some sample lines. After testing them for the correct height, I wrote out a sample alphabet. To keep with the feel of the original, I decided to only use the tall s form, even at the ends of words. I also used the u shape for both u and v. Finally, I converted any instance of "and" to an &, and wrote it using the period version, which looks like the number 7.

I had just received an order of parchment from David de Rosier-Blanc, and really wanted to try it out.   I started by pouncing it with a blend of dental pumice and gum sandarac. Then I lined the margins with a lead-tin plummet, and used a pencil with my trusty Ames guide for the calligraphy guides.

I made sure to leave space for the initial F, and wrote out the words. The red initials were written with a 1mm quill I cut for another project. I initially had some problems with my ink beading up on the parchment. A couple applications of dental pumice to absorb the oils fixed that, and I continued on. 

With the primary text done, I erased my pencil lines and added lead-tin lines. In period, these were probably the only guidelines the calligraphers used. They "floated" their lettering in between the two lines. Staying consistent that way takes a lot of practice and skill, so I'm happy to use my modern guidelines to get the results I want, even if it isn't something period scribes did.

I also pricked holes at the intersections of the lines. Period scribes working on books would prick through several pages at a time so the size of the margins and lines were the same on all of them. They would connect the holes with a straight-edge and plummet. I worked in reverse with the goal of making it appear like I followed the medieval practice.

With the primary text complete, I cut a 0.5mm quill for writing the marginal note. In the original, the marginal notes were smaller and more tightly spaced than the primary text, they were also generally a bit "messier" as they were often written in haste by a reader of the text. I practiced with some smaller guidelines to make sure everything worked.

Finally, I added the marginal note, the initial F, and added some pen flourishing around all the capital letters.

Words by Master Lucien de Pontivy, Latin translation by Master Steffan ap Kennydd:
For the gifts of wine and song we sing our thanks in latin
Making mirth and joyful noise from Compline unto Matins
[Refr.] Istud vinum, bonum vinum, vinum generous
Reddit virum curialem probum animosum.
Artisans and scholars love our legends, lore, and pages
Love of learning, as of wine, gets finer as it ages
Good wine makes Society both elegant and graceful
Clever, structured vintages as subtle as they’re tasteful
Since we’re speaking subtlety it might escape attention
All these words describe a gentle worthy of our mention
Countless gifts of song and story measureless and mighty
Class and learning in abundance — also she’s quite sightly
If it’s learning, mirth or reverence Dreda can instill it
Medieval from her tiny boots up to her veil and fillet
When we talk of Dreda we already call her peerless
So the Laurels all agreed: let’s just call her Mistress
Marginal note:
Audivi hoc melum festum cum canebatur curia Edwardi et Thyrae festo Epiphaniae die xvij Jan. a.s. xlix. Tunc fuit ut Aildreda de Tamworth arcessita est ut compareat Investitura baronis et baronissae Portus Draconavis unum mensem respondeat num se junctura sit Ordini Laureae.
Translation of marginal note:
I heard this festive song when it was sung at the court of Edward and Thyra on the feast of the Epiphany on the 17th day of January in the 49th year of the Society. Then it was that Aildreda de Tamworth was summoned that she might appear at the Investiture of the baron and baroness of Dragonship Haven one month thereafter that she might respond whether she might be about to join herself to the Order of the Laurel.


At the end of every project, I try to look at my work with a critical eye. The trick is to do this in a way that allows me to focus on what to improve, instead of dwelling on what I might not like. Also, I'm sure the recipients of my work don't need to read about all the areas that I'm unhappy with!

I'm very happy with the feel of this piece. I wanted it to look like a page taken right out of the Codex Buranus, and I believe I succeeded at that goal. In the process of making it, I improved my skills at writing with and cutting quills. I also learned more about working with parchment (which will lead to an instructional post in the nearish future...).

I think I can still improve with the thinness of my hairlines when writing with a quill. I'm not sure the exact cause, but I think there are a few possible reasons. Primarily, I still use more pressure than I need to get the ink flowing. I may also be able to cut a finer point and prepare my parchment better. Spacing within my letters might have been a bit too tight when compared to the original, while my space between words is a bit wide. Finally, I think I could have been a little more subtle with the serifs on my letter forms.

In all, this was a very enjoyable project. From a very entertaining collaborative process, to penning the calligraphy itself, I had a lot of fun. I hear from Lucien that Dreda loved it. In the end, that's the most important aspect of an assignment.