Home Scribal Arts Structural Book Arts Articles & Notes

The Beginning Scribe

By Madame Elizabeth de Nevell, CW

This page contains class notes from "The Beginning Scribe" which is a classroom set look through my scribal tool box and a basic discussion on gathering materials for a solid start in the scribal arts. 

                 The medieval scribe was a respected and educated individual in a world where few could read or write.  Some even say that the Irish monastic scribes of the dark ages can be credited with saving civilization.  For where all across Europe people were burning books and suppressing knowledge, these scribes were busily copying down the history of the world.  In the Middle Kingdom we are honored at every court by the work of many hard working scribes who give freely to the kingdom their time, skills, and money.  Both Art and Service the MidRealm scribe is a hardworking artist who is called upon frequently so that the court experience can be exciting and memorable for every award recipient. 

                 So what does it take to be a scribe?  Lets take a look at the information you need to get started on the road to doing court assignments.  With the right tools and a little creativity soon your art could be hanging on walls across the kingdom. 

Basic Tools

          There may be as many opinions on the proper tools to start out with as a scribe as there are scribes.  If you just want to get a feel for the art while you make up your mind if you like it, I recommend the following materials list: 

  • 2 - size 1 round brushes
  • 2 - size 2 round brushes
  • 1 - palette of watercolors (red, blue, green, red-orange, black, white, gold-yellow, purple)
  • 1 - pad of 9x12 vellum finish Bristol Board (Strathmore or Bienfang)
  • 1 – C-Thru quilters ruler
  • #2 pencils
  • kneadable eraser
  • Cartridge Calligraphy set with assorted  nib sizes
  • Ink (black and red)
  • Linex lining guide

 If you don’t mind spend a little more money to start with and wish to be more authentic some minor alterations to the list can be made. 

  • Assorted Tube  Gouaches  (Windsor and Newton suggested colors – Spectrum Red, Cobalt Blue, English Green, Permanent White, Lamp Black, Yellow Ochre, Metallic Gold and Silver are my most used colors).

  • Eye dropper with bottle

  • Gum Arabic

  • Multi-well palate

  • Mitchell Calligraphy Nib set & holder

  • Sumi or Gall Ink

  • Writing Slant

 Recommended Reading

          Though there are literally thousands of wonderful books on the scribal topics from facsimile copies of actual manuscripts to “how to” books, I think that these are the best place to start for the beginning scribe.   These four books are easy to find, understand, and have wonderful documentation for both practical techniques and research. 

  • Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts: A Guide to Technical Termsby Michelle P. Brown; ISBN 0-89236-217-0
  • The Illuminated Alphabet by Patricia Seligman; ISBN 0-8069-9074-0
  • The Art of Calligraphy: A practical guide to the skills and techniques, by David Harris; ISBN 1-56458-849-1
  • Medieval Calligraphy : It’s history and technique, by Marc Drogin; ISBN 0-486026142-5

       Though the books above can often be found at your local bookstores many times scribes will have to  rely on the web for purchases going into their library.   Bess'  Recommended Reading page houses a listing of past featured book along with links to amazon.com where they can be purchased.

Useful Websites

The Signet and Court Assignments

          Assignments for Court scrolls come through the Dragon Signet to the Regional Signet.  The Regional Signet then distributes the assignments among his/her known working scribes.  Working along with the Royalty the Signet’s will do their best to give the scribes as much lead time as possible before a court, this usually means you’ll get assignments 1 or 2 weeks in advance of court.  Upon occasion assignments may come with only a few days notice.

               If you would like to receive court assignments, contact your regional signet to make sure your name is on the list of available artists.  If you would like an assignment for a specific event that you will be at or person who you believe will be receiving an award, you may also contact the regional signets about 2 weeks out from the event and they will do their best to accommodate you. 

 All court assignments are due as early as possible on the day of the event.  After you turn your scrolls in they still must be organized, sealed and then signed by the royalty.  Please include a printed copy of the scroll text along with your scrolls so that the herald can read them into court.

 Ready for your first assignment?  View the class notes for Scroll Blank 101


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