Inks, papers, calligraphic styles

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Godfrey wrote, not in reply, but remarkably aptly:

> It sounds to me as though you're saying that, because such decorated

> secular documents were not the norm, the artisans of the SCA should not

> strive to make scrolls of beauty; that we should stick to text-only

> documents because MOST of the period examples were so. ... I think your

> position is ridiculous.

Neither position is ridiculous, they are simply in conflict. They aim at

different kinds of re-creation.


Arval d'Espas Nord mittle at

From: jtn at (Terry Nutter)


Subject: Re: scrolls.....

Date: 8 Jul 93 00:35:59 GMT

Greetings, all, from Angharad ver' Rhuawn. Arval says,

>Hossein and Angharad focus on organizational aspects of SCA scrolls:

>Scrolls are documents issued by the Crown and produced by its officers, and

>therefore should re-create medieval chancery documents. Chancery

>documents, in general, were not decorated like book pages; therefore our

>official scrolls should generally not be so decorated. Angharad objected

>to the use of exceptional examples as the models for our scrolls:


>> _Only_ outliers are being provided as models. What message does that

>> send? ...the oddity is presented _other_ than as an oddity.

{stuff omitted}

>The key point in understanding their position is that they feel that SCA

>institutions should be based on the common practices of medieval Europe,

>not on exceptional cases. In effect, they want the institution itself (or

>perhaps all scrolls considered together) to be a good re-creation.

This is a good representation of Hossein's position, but I think rather less

accurate of mine.

As a bit of background, I do a little C&I. I've done some of it as scribal

work, to the tune of a bunch of baronial scroll work, and one for kingdom,

with two more commissioned that I intend to get around to Real Soon Now.

All the scrolls I've done have been {pause for drum roll....} medieval

wall art. For the relatively simple reason that it's what the people

getting them wanted. The scroll has almost no SCA life; it spends maybe

10 seconds in court, with people squinting at it from very far away, and

then it goes to live on someone's wall. Seems to me reasonable to give

them what they want.

But I don't particularly like doing those. If I were seriously trying to

make this one of the main things I do, I'd want to do very different

subjects. I'd want to keep more of my work, both to keep track of progress

and to see how various techniques and materials stand up to aging. And

I'd want something much more medieval at the end.

I'd _rather_ do authentic style chancery scrolls. They can be just as

beautiful, and I'd learn more doing them.

What I really think is the following.

First, we should get clearer on what the heck these things are, and what

they're for. I don't mean the awards (well, them too, but that's not

what I'm on about now): I mean the scrolls. If they are really documentary

evidence from Kingdom of the award, they should look like that. If they're

really a piece of wall art, we should do that right: we aren't now.

Why? Well, the right way to do wall art is to let the person who's getting

it have a reasonable level of say of whose work they want, what kind of

thing they want, and so on. Given the current system, scribes can express

preferences like "I'd like to do So-and-so's X", but the people who get the

thing are not in a position to request a particular scribe.

Scribes are encouraged to talk to the recipient for backlog scrolls, but it

isn't possible for a "surprise" award with a concurrent scroll. So it also

isn't possible to find out what the recipient wants.

I think we could do a far better job of matching wall art with wall art

possessors if we used the medieval solution: you want a piece of wall art

commemorating something, you go find an artisan and ask them to do it.

This might also alleviate the feelings expressed in past versions of this

thread that scribes are expected to donate everything: they could, e.g.,


This doesn't mean that you get nothing from the Crown. What it ought to

mean, I should think, is that you get a chancery document (_not_ a promissory:

it promises nothing, it rather records the creation) from the Crown, and

then, for your decorative achievement, you go talk to a scribe -- if you

_want_ a decorative achievement. You may not; some of us would be very

happy simply to frame the chancery document and put _that_ on our walls.

This also encourages _both_ kinds of models: the norm _and_ what was

possible if one wanted something exceptional. Then, if most of us wind

up with something exceptional, at least (a) we _understand_ that that is

what's going on, and (b) the normal is what is more common _within the

shared part of the recreation_. I do think that when that can be achieved

without loss, it is a good thing. And I don't see any loss to this plan.

And, by the way, this gives scribes more work, and higher profile, not

less of either.


-- Angharad/Terry


From: ctallan at (Cheryl Tallan)

Subject: Re: scrolls.....

Organization: University of Toronto - EPAS

Date: Thu, 8 Jul 1993 21:47:21 GMT

Re: Angharad/Terry's suggestion about giving chancery documents to

award recipients and having them arrange (commision) wall art if they

want it. GREAT! I LOVE IT!


I suspect that there would be a much greater demand for chancery

documents than wall arts. (Everyone with an awards gets a chancery

document, only a small percentage of them will probably commission

wall art). On the other hand, there are MANY MORE scribes capable of

producing wall art than chancery documents. Yes, the secretary hand is

easier to do and faster than fancy book hands (that's why secretaries

used it) but only after you've mastered it. And from experience (and

not only my own) the stiffer, more formal hands are easier to learn.

And as they are much prettier to the modern eye (I like the chancery,

but it was a developed taste), I suspect the greater visual appeal,

combined with the ease of learning, will make the book hands the hands

of choice for most SCA scribes. And if they can get financial

renumeration (or barter) for book hands but are expected to give away

chancery scrolls....

So, I love your idea. I wish it were the way things were done. But the

reality as I see it is that it mismatches supply with demand.



From: jtn at (Terry Nutter)


Subject: Re: scrolls.....

Date: 9 Jul 93 02:08:13 GMT

Greetings, all, from Angharad ver' Rhuawn. Arval writes,

> most scribes appear to consider making illuminated pages to be more


I'm not sure that this is really true, or rather, I think it's a product

of selecting initially for scribes who do that. I know that when I started

making scrolls in barony, and others got interested, virtually everyone

who wanted to get into it was happy to learn calligraphy, but terrified

of illumination. Most of them asked who else could do illumination for them,

if they did calligraphy.

Not one single beginner asked who would do calligraphy if s/he did the


To this day, a fair number of scrolls are lettered by one artisan and

illuminated by another. My experience is that there are _many_ more

people intimidated by illumination than by calligraphy, and that making

it clear that scribal work need not involve large amounts of illumination

(I suggested the "one fancy initial, with simple kinds of fanciness"

solution to our beginners) greatly encouraged people to get involved.

> As long as that is true, and as long as the reception of illuminated

>pages is more enthusiastic, few scribes (and in particular, few novice

>scribes) will want to switch to the perceived "plain" style.

Actually, I think the "reception" issue is much more strong an influence than

the scribes' preference. I know that in Atlantia, even though scrolls may

be years coming, people tend to expect lots of color on them when they do

show up. It is not particularly inviting to do something difficult for

someone if you think the recipient is just as likely to feel cheated on

getting it.

>scribes) will want to switch to the perceived "plain" style. I think this

>is an excellent example of a problem which is best solved by individual

>action, and it seems that Atlantia is an ideal place to try it: Since most

>awards are not accompanied by a scroll when they are presented, there is a

>natural opening for chancery documents.

Yes -- but not for private commissioning of a more decorated one. People

expect a "final scroll" to follow a "promissory"; I don't think there will

be any less resistance here to going to private commission after chancery

document than anywhere else. It isn't the chancery nature of what you

get at the time that would be the problem, and in that regard, this is a

good place to pilot that idea; but it would still be viewed as a promissory,

and it would still be expected that the current, I think awkward system

would be used to produce it.

BTW, absolutely none of this should be taken as criticism either of the

scribes of Atlantia or of any of the recent Clerks of the Signet, who are

doing a lot of very hard work at a pretty thankless job. My problem is

with the system, not with the people struggling to make it work.


-- Angharad/Terry

From: Tim at (Tim)


Subject: Re: scrolls.....

Date: Thu, 08 Jul 1993 19:54:50

SC> I DREAM of having a correctl-done charter-type scroll,

SC> in scrawly thirteenth-century notary hand, with absolutely no illumination

SC> or decoration save a pendant wax seal. If it could be a chirograph,

SC> (which means a document written out twice on a piece of parchment, then

SC> torn down the centre between the two bodies of text), I would absolutely


Ahem ... "chierograph" merely means that it's written by hand. The word

you appear to be looking for is "indenture" - and they were more commonly

cut than torn. But a noble ambition, nevertheless.

Come to Ansteorra, where Zodiacus Herald specializes in such documents....

Tadhg, Hanaper

ocitor!tim.4229 at


From: ctallan at (Cheryl Tallan)

Subject: secretary hands

Organization: University of Toronto - EPAS

Date: Sun, 4 Jul 1993 05:40:59 GMT

Twcs writes that they have prepared a number of exemplars from scratch

of secretary hands because calligraphy books don't cover them.

Calligraphy books may not, but paleography books do and provide lots

of examples (even if they don't show, stroke by stroke, how the

letters are formed). A couple of examples sitting on my bookshelf:

_The Handwriting of English Documents_ by L.C.Hector (London: Edward

Arnold) Great book. Also includes sections on the equipment of the

writer, abbreviations,numerals, punctuation, errors and their

correction, etc.

_English Cursive Book Hands 1250-1500_ by M.B.Parkes (Oxford:

Clarendon Press) 1969

_English Vernacular Hands: from the twelfth to the fifteenth

centuries_ by C.E.Wright (Oxford: Clarendon Press) 1960

There are many more.

Note, not all of these include exclusively secretary hands, some

include the hands use for works of literature as well.

David Tallan (who doesn't see why some basic paleography is not

included as training for court heralds and who, as Thomas Grozier, is

surprised at how much trouble heralds have reading scrolls considering

how much more neat and even they are than what his secretary writes).

From: palmer at (sharon ann palmer)


Subject: Re: secretary hands

Date: 7 Jul 1993 00:19:22 -0400

Organization: The Ohio State University Dept. of Computer and Info. Science

In article <1993Jul4.054059.13490 at> ctallan at (Cheryl Tallan) writes:

>Twcs writes that they have prepared a number of exemplars from scratch

>of secretary hands because calligraphy books don't cover them.


>Calligraphy books may not, but paleography books do and provide lots

I am not a scribe, and cannot really evaluate it's usefulness, but a while

back I bought a remaindered book that contains reproductions of documents

in secretary hand. It shows most cropped to only show the text, not

the entire page, and I believe they are reduced. They are dated

1400-1588. Most are letters and inventories, but pl. 3 A Deed Conveying

Land, pl. 4 Henry VIII Warrant may be of interest.

Elizabethan Handwriting, Giles Dawson, Laetitia Kennedy-Skipton,

Phillimore, 1981 (first published Faber & Faber, 1968)

(The jacket says) This is the classic exposition of the Secretary

hand and the most useful, practical handbook ever written for those

who need to transcribe documents of the period. ... More than

50 carefully chosen representative examples are provided, in

chronological order, each faced with a transcription.


Sharon Palmer palmer at

From: greg at (Greg Rose)


Subject: Re: Scrolls

Date: 5 Jul 1993 17:41:06 -0400
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