12th century duchess scroll,  12th century knighting scroll,  Calligraphy,  Scriptorium,  Scroll - Duchy

Scriptorium – my secret 12th century scroll project – Duchess scroll .2

2017-09- Racaire - Duchess Rhiannon - 12th century scroll project - SCA scrolls - awards - Kingdom of Meridies - Duchess scroll
12th century Ducchess scroll for Rhiannon of the Isle. Photo copyright Ellen DeLacey 09.2017

It took a little to prepare the photos of my most recent 12th century Duchess scroll for Rhiannon of the Isle for my blog. However, all is good now, as I finally fullfilled my promise by preparing and uploading all detail photos of her Duchy scroll.

Yes, I admit it. I had to remind myself several times about this photos and was quite concerned that I might forget to post them after all. Unfortunatelly my mind sometimes tends to jump from one project to the next. Often this makes it quite difficult for me to focus on certain projects, especially the ones which I already consider finished. Yes, in cases like these my brain simply wants to move on to the next project. However, I still try to better myself by posting more often. I hope that it might help me to keep up with documenting the fast progress of my countless projects…

Speaking about progress… Well, after all those years of writing and blogging about my projects one would think that writing a blog text might come easy to me now. But more than ten years of practice and still I find myself struggling with the opening text for a posting far too often. Though I can’t blame it on English being my second language anymore as living in the states for more than 3 years helped me to improve my English a lot. Ok, I still struggle with the local southern slang from time to time but then my sweetheart is so nice to translate what I don’t understand. However, that’s a completely different story and has its own funny moments… Yeah, bless my (European) heart… 😉

Nevertheless, there is also another upside as I am making far less mistakes concerning grammar and tenses than I used to. But that is also not my real problem as my husband or one of my dear friends are always kind enough to take a look at my text and to correct it whenever I start feeling insecure about it. Yes, you can actually say that my sweetheart involuntarily learned quite a lot about embroidery, calligraphy, hand-sewing, block pringing and fabrics this way… *lol*

No, unfortunately my problem is more the beginning of a posting but never the text itself. Once I found a beginning I like, the rest of the text for the posting seems to literally flow out of my fingers and through the keyboard into my posting… But, damn, those initial lines for the beginning of a posting can be a real pain. I try to suffer through this pain as good as possible until I finally find the right combination of words that kinda pleases my really frustrated self and puts my mind to peace. So yes, crafting and creativity might come easy to me most of the time but posting – despite how much I love it – definitely isn’t as easy for me. This part of the project feels definitely like the most difficult one for me. And besides my struggle with the beginning, I also have to stay focussed and reflected when I compose the text of a posting and report about the progress of a project. As I have to continuously ask myself what someone who has never done “it” might need to know in order to understand what I am doing or which extra information might be helpful. 

Well, this is quite similar to putting a class and class handout together – you have always to count on the possibility that questions and problems might arise one never anticipated while putting the class together. And having taught countless classes at SCA events for so many years I learned about possible problems and mistakes and to expect the unexpected. *lol* But this whole experience also has a great upside to it – I think that my blog postings really profited from those past experiences. Though I find myself very often at the brink of getting completely side tracked with little details, I think that I found a good working balance for my blog. And well, as you know me, I love details and can’t emphasize their importance often enough. Especially as those little details always seem to make or break the beauty and uniqueness of my work. And they are for sure important when it comes to projects which require a lot of technique and skill like fine embroidery and calligraphy.

Thus all said, I finally came up with a beginning for this posting and can’t tell you how happy that makes me. I was already struggling with it for more then one hour. It’s definitely not perfect but it will work… However, I just wanted to let you know that posting is quite some work – so please excuse this personal rant but I just needed to finally get this thought off my mind which was bothering me for soooooo long… 🙂

But enough about me and my struggle which will prevent me from ever becoming a novelist and back to the project on hand. As I already pointed out in my last posting “Scriptorium – my secret 12th century scroll project – a Duchess scroll for Rhiannon of the Isle“, is Rhiannons Duchy scroll just my second Romanesque/12th century inspired scroll and the very first one which I worked on real parchment. And the more I think about this fact now, the more I am actually really glad and excited about the final result:

2017-09- Racaire - Duchess Rhiannon - 12th century scroll project - SCA scrolls - awards - Kingdom of Meridies - Duchess scroll
12th century Ducchess scroll for Rhiannon of the Isle. Photo copyright Ellen DeLacey 09.2017

I admit that I was so obsessed and freaked out about the fact that I would work with real parchment that I never even doubted my own capabilities of doing this style despite the fact that I haven’t done it very often before. That I was able to do it simply felt like a given, especially after the 12th century scroll I made for my husbands knighting and the page I made for his vigil book.

I think my confidence also might have something to do with how used I got to this 12th century style or “Romanesque” style as I also tend to call it. Since I met my awesome and beloved sister in mind – Mistress Ezabella – I wanted to be like her and to make her proud concerning my progress and my projects. Which meant that for more than 10 years I studied, examined and obsessed about all those little details of 12th century artwork for my own projects. Doing my best to wow Bella and to surprise her with one project after another. And well, it seems that this obsession finally pays off in a good way.

I think what intrigues me most about this style now, is that not many people actually do this kind of early period, Romanesque style. It is the same feeling which I had when I started studying my normal Batarde/Bastarda hand for calligraphy. It was a very fancy style which not many scribes seemed to favor when I started doing it.  And as I love to go my own, quite unique way, I started to work on my own Batarde hand in order to perfect it and to make it my own. However, recently I started to get a little bit bored with it. Furthermore it seems also like this style and late period pen work became quite common during the last years, which gives me the nagging feeling that I should move on to another hand now. That I should look for another quite unique style which I can take on and perfect now. And what would be more than appropriate than a style which is perfect for my favorite time – the 12th century. *lol*

But dont take me wrong – I don’t judge any scribe concerning their chosen hand and style. There are still far too few of us who decide to pick up this craft and to provide scrolls for the SCA. Which makes me rejoice every time I see a newcomer giving it a try. And well, we all, every single scribe, started and has to start somewhere. As a German saying goes – no master has fallen from the sky yet.

Having done 14th – 16th century inspired scrolls for so many years now as well as rather late period penwork, which was in most cases based on the art of Albrecht Dűrer, I fully understand the beauty and fascination of the later period artwork and scrolls. I, myself, am quite guilty of it myself – once,for making those kind of scrolls myself and second – for being a fan of them. But, to be honest, until rather recently it actually never really appeared to me that I could start making scrolls in the style of the 12th century which otherwise is so dear to me. Why not?  Well, I actually don’t really know. I think I might have simply stuck to the very first hand which looked crazy enough for me and felt comfortable. Yes, sometimes the answer can be that simple. However, one day this style just wasn’t enough anymore.

But my journey didn’t take me straight to the 12th century. I made a stop and explored the 14th century a little bit further:

14th century inspired scroll for the Rose tournament at Gulf Wars 2017


14th century inspired “Meridian Majesty”

 …then I even tried my hand on a “Viking” scroll:

Viking knighting scroll for Kaðall Viðarsson

And last but not least my most favorite scroll yet (besides my 12th century scrolls):

Scroll for the winner of the Armatura tournament –
 Meridian Grand Tournament 2016

Well, I’ve done many more scrolls during the last years but that would definitely go beyond the scope of this posting. *lol* However, if you’d like to take a look at some of my scrolls, please follow this link and enjoy some of my most recent work: Scriptorium

…and then the moment came when I finally gave the 12th century / Romanesque style a chance. When I got to know that my husband would get knighted and he asked me to do his knighting scroll, I immediately knew that I wanted to make a 12th century inspired scroll and vigil book page for him. And I think the 12th century knighting scroll worked out just fine:

Racaire - Conrad vom Schwarzwald - 12th century scroll project - SCA scrolls - awards - Kingdom of Meridies - Knighting scroll - Romanesque scroll

 You can read more about my sweethearts 12th century knighting scroll and the page for his vigil book here:

Scriptorium – my 12th century inspired knighting scroll &
vigil book page for my husband 🙂

Which brings me right back to Rhiannons 12th century Duchy scroll:

2017-09- Racaire - Duchess Rhiannon - 12th century scroll project - SCA scrolls - awards - Kingdom of Meridies - Duchess scroll

And now we are going to take a look at some of the special details of this scroll – enjoy! 😀   

2017-09- Racaire - Duchess Rhiannon - 12th century scroll project - SCA scrolls - awards - Kingdom of Meridies - Duchess scroll

At the picture above you can see the whole actual piece of parchment with which I was working for this scroll. I couldn’t make up my mind if i should cut off the little extra part at the bottom, which could be easily used to place a big seal, or not. But then I decided to simply leave the decision to the recipient of the scroll – Rhiannon. This way she could either use it or cut it off. And well, she finally decided to cut it off which definitely makes the scroll much easier to frame. The next picture might give you a slightly better idea of how the scroll looks like now:

2017-09- Racaire - Duchess Rhiannon - 12th century scroll project - SCA scrolls - awards - Kingdom of Meridies - Duchess scroll

Which brings me right to the next picture with the important “stylistic set”, as I call it in lack of a better term for it:


You can clearly see the dominant initial in the upper left corner,  the special upper case letters filling the complete upper space, followed by the rather “normal” letters of this 12th century hand.


The initial stands for the letter “O”. As from the beginning it was very clear for me that I definitely wanted to use this “O” initial for my text, I simply asked my sweetheart to adapt the beginning of the text for me so the text would start with the letter “O”. Yeah, he is always so nice to provide me with the scroll texts I need. 🙂

And after I finished my work at the initial, I continued with the upper case letters. Unfortunately my calligraphy books don’t provide much information about this very special Romanesque style and therefore I had to get quite creative from the beginning. As I had already for my husbands knighting scroll, I again put together my own letters based on several period manuscripts from the 12th century.

Btw. the whole upper case letter part was actually worked with a fine pen-work nib. I actually had a discussion about this with a fellow scribe before I made my husbands scroll. And we both agreed that some of those lines just aren’t possible with a normal calligraphy nib. Or, well, maybe they are but I am not good enough or simply can’t figure out how to do it… 😉 *lol*

And after all this work the text at the bottom felt nearly like a walk in the park as this hand is quite similar to Batarde in several points. The major difference here is the rather awkward looking”s” letter as well as some other letters which are executed in a slightly different way. All in all I think it can be said that this scripture has less flourishes than Batarde and it is worked at a straighter angle (90°). But once you start examining the many personal and slightly different styles of this Romanesque hand, as every scribe had obviously his own take on this hand,  you will recognize a lot of letters, like some of my Batarde hand favorites – the playful looking “d” and “g” actually were already used by some scribes in the 12th and 13th century.

 At this point I would like to point out that this kind of scrolls is actually based on period art work as it appears in books (prayer books,…). Period ocuments and patents (of arms) normally don’t have so much decorative artwork on them – especially not such early period ones. Well, at least based on the examples of period extant scrolls I got to see till now.  Documents were simply documents most of the time – they had to prove a fact and got handled from time to time. Sometimes special and quite elaborated extant document-boxes can still be found on display in museum exhibitions. And according to their in most cases quite special, long form, I think that it can be said that at least some of them were stored (and maybe transported) in a rolled up condition. However, people in the SCA seem to favor the more fancy and elaborate book style. But well, who can resent them that as I, myself, have to admit that I like them too… However, I wanted to at least mention this fact… 🙂

And now let us take a look at the decoration on the left side:



This is my take on a period 12th century dragon combined with the so called “Tudor” rose. The dragon was quite important for Rhiannon. I guess because it’s part of Rhiannons coat of arms and she also uses a dragon’s head for her households device.

Though there are 12th century book illuminations with side decorations, they are normally not that wide and extensive. It seems to me like decoration in this size was normally used above or underneath the text or even by itself on its own page. Side decorations are most of the time part of the initial or rather filigran, standalone elaboration. But, well, as my space above and underneath was limited and I didn’t want to turn the parchment by 90°, this seemed the best way to go.

Apropos Rhiannons coat of Arms:


As you can see, the dragons are quite small. It was really not easy to give them a good amount of detail but as always I did my best.

Btw. I remember that I already pointed out the importance of not touching your parchment or pergamenata unnecessary in my last posting. This is quite important as this can effect the surface of your parchment or pergamenata. Every little touch leaves small traces of natural oils behind which our bodies produce. Those oils can have an effect of how much – or in this case – how little ink sticks to the surface. And little ink sticking to the surface doesn’t look good and can be quite frustrating when it comes to calligraphy or pen work. However, thanks to a really good friend of mine who sent me a great solution for this problem, I don’t have to worry about this problem anymore. I just put on this miracle powder, blow the surplus away and can write just like usual. Well, just in case, I still put on my cotton gloves when I work on my scrolls.

And those miracle powder is: Gum Sandarac 

Btw. Gum Sandarac is available at John Neal Bookseller, where I also purchase my pergamenata as well as my favorite ink and nibs. What shall I say, I haven’t had any problem since I started using this powder and cotton gloves. 

Well, enough for today about Romanesque calligraphy. If you would like to read more about this scroll please visit my first posting about this project: Scriptorium – my secret 12th century scroll project – a Duchess scroll for Rhiannon of the Isle 🙂

Best regards Racaire