The Mira Calligraphiae Monumenta
War of the Wings VIII
Instructors: Letia Thistelthueyt (firstname.lastname@example.org)
& Merwenna de Rannowe (email@example.com)
Manuscript History at a Glance
- Between 1561 and 1562 Georg Bocskay, court secretary to Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I, wanted to show off his skills by making a model book of calligraphy. (No really, he made it almost entirely to show off his technical skill, range of hands, and demonstrate his intellectual value.)
- Thirty years later (1591-96), Emperor Rudolf II (Ferdinand's grandson) commissioned Joris Hoefnagel to illuminate the book.
- Became a visible debate between the two art forms!
- Flowers, bugs, small animals, shells, etc. (some real, some imaginary)
- Wealth and sophistication demonstrated by collecting these items (Example: Rudolf II's kunstkammer - "cabinet of curiousities")
- Made in a heavy trade area/seaport - lots of access to exotic items
- Interlaced flowers "woven" through the page
- Nod to memento mori concept via dead critters
- New painting techniques - foreshortening & vanishing point, etc.
- Intended solely as a display piece! No rhyme or reason to the written content. Made up of prayers, canticles, psalms, and occasionally imperial briefs and other correspondences.
- Historical, invented, and exhibition hands… Latin scripts include: Italic, rotunda, antiqua (based on Carolingian miniscule), and a variety of gothic styles. Also contains some non-Latin texts, like Greek and Hebrew; and things such as mirrored hands, calligrams, "cut letters", superfluous flourishing, and various other embellished hands.
- Variety in layout from page to page. Each page was created to stun the viewer on its own, not to visually fit into a larger picture, as most SCA scroll sources do.
Making Your Own Scrolls from the MCM
- Always plan in advance!!! Also, we'd recommend doing calligraphy first, as the illumination is easier to fit in and around the lettering. Great system for collaborative pieces!
- Adaptable! The MCM is adaptable in many ways. Items that would normally be the symbol of an award can be painted as actual physical items (ex. pearl, coral branch - Letia even made a bug that had an opal pattern on its wings!). You can choose a calligraphy style based on personal taste or persona, even if the recipient's persona isn't congruent with the MCM, one could still use an Italian Rotunda hand for an Italian persona and still be period. Round out the scroll with decorative flowers, fruit, small animals, shells, or other natural items that you feel would be appropriate for the award/recipient (ex. dragon!). If nothing strikes your fancy, pick one of the more elaborate (or just filling) calligraphy styles and add extra flourishes or a large capital letter.
- Arrange all of these factors together ahead of time - we strongly recommend sketching out at least rough guidelines of where each element of the scroll will go, just to make sure that proportions and spacing mesh with each other.
- Proportions of letters to lines to spaces - leave space for illumination AND matte room
- If flourishy, leave out ascenders & descenders - go back, draw in (with pencil) flourishy connections, then ink over (another reason waterproof ink is gooood).
- Quick ways to fancify one of the basic hands mentioned above:
- Use long ascenders or descenders, or both
- Use a basic hand without heavy flourishes, but do three different sizes of writing
- Write wording in an unusual pattern, called a "calligram" - The Mistress Aneira method of doing this: Write out text with the size lettering you want; measure length of all the calligraphy combined; cut a string that length & lay out on paper in desired pattern; "trace" string; write calligraphy along the line..
- It's period to make things up! You can use different flowers/bugs than in manuscript, or make up bugs/flowers (ex. Letia's opal-butt bug, Sibry's flowers)
- Shading is very blended and soft; no outlines on the illumination
- Don't forget the shadows on the paper! Keep your light source consistent! If it helps, pencil in a little sun in one corner to remind you where the shadows should fall.
- Sometimes stems go through paper - don't forget the shadow that would be created by the bump of the paper the stem is going under.
- Leave room for a matte!