Award of Arms Scrolls

Scrolls are given along with awards in the SCA. Each recipient of an award gets a hand made work of art from one of the many volunteer “scribes” in the Society. I was assigned two Award of Arms (AoA) scrolls and provided basic information including the name of the recipient and why they were being presented the award.

After figuring out the wording I mocked up a digital layout to give me a rough guide for illustration and how the copy would flow down the page. I like doing this for the wording especially, since it lessens the chance I run out of room on the page, leave too much white space, break too many words in half, or misspell things.

The large blank circle is for the kingdom seal. There was no good place for it on the second scroll, so I penciled in a circle in the middle for them to stamp the seal over top of the lettering. I printed out these templates full size and used a light box to guide my calligraphy. I did the calligraphy first because it would be awful to have spent all the time on the surrounding artwork just to scrap the whole thing if I messed the lettering up. About 3/4 of the way through my first scroll the pen nib decided to drip an extra-large blob of India ink at the end of a word. I was working on Bristol board paper and thought I could possibly scrape the spot away. Nope. I ended up digging a hole right through the paper. The second scroll turned out much better.

Instead of starting over on another piece of 8.5″x11″ paper, I pulled out a cutoff piece of goat parchment I had used in a previous project. I used the same digital layout and penned it again on the parchment, this time using iron galls ink. I liked the way it came out even it was a departure from my original idea. I penciled in an illuminated character on the left side and a circle for the kingdom seal on the right.

Calligraphy done. Illumination sketched in. Strip of goat parchment roughly 3″x10″.

The next step was to clean up my pencil drawing with ink and begin painting. For painting I just pick a color I want to see on the page and put it down. Once that color is done I move onto the next one. I did this for both scrolls.

Metallic gold acrylic paint. Definitely the least medieval element on this scroll but it did the job.

And with that, the first scroll was complete. I was satisfied with how it came out and can only hope that Lord Alain approves.

Award of Arms scroll as finished as I can make it. Royal signatures and seal done at the event.

Back to scroll number two, which had been waiting patiently with only the calligraphy in place. Just like the other one I penciled in where the artwork would be, cleaned up those lines with ink, then painted everything in one color at a time.

Detail of the King handing over the award scroll.

I didn’t have any red ink for the “Let it be known that” portion at the top right so I used my paint and brush. I feel like I did a reasonable job matching the lines put down with the pen nib and ink. There was only one problem:

Even with the help of spellcheck and printing off a template first, mistakes still happen.

Whoops. That was easy enough to fix. Just paint a box over it and decorate it to match everything else in the frame. White details were the last touch to bring it all together. I hope Lady Lette enjoys her shiny new award scroll.

Second Award of Arms scroll as finished, sans signatures and seal. Paper size 9″x12″

I enjoyed the challenge presented by this project. I do not know these people and I could not find any registered arms for them either so I had to be as generic as possible with the illumination while retaining a consistent and attractive style. In total, a good chunk of my time was invested in these scrolls; most of a weekend and 2 weeknights. I cannot see myself doing these regularly or even infrequently as I have many more things I’d rather do with my time, money, and skills. I will most likely reserve any future scribal endeavors to personal projects or requests from friends. I find the practice of giving scrolls with every award unreasonable. People who do these all the time are most generous indeed, as every one consists of hours and hours of custom art. To those scribes, I salute you.


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