My good friend, who goes by Edyth Miller in the SCA, was put on vigil for the Order of the Laurel in early September. She asked me if I would make the award scroll for her. Yes, of course. She was to be entered into the order 2 weeks later, so that was my timeline.
The first thing to do was order parchment. Normally I would go to Pergamena to purchase a full skin but that would have been a custom order and taken too long. After some poking around on Amazon with little luck I found David Bianco on Etsy. The reviews were positive, the price was right, and he could ship quickly. I received my parchment 3 days later with plenty of time to write the scroll text.
I was not idle in the days awaiting my shipment. Edyth asked for a style of an early 15th century charter or grant. This meant fewer frills and decoration than a typical SCA award scroll. Before I decided on what kind of lettering to use, I had to figure out what it should say. Edyth is a tailor so I started there.
British History Online catalogs all manner of documents. I was looking a a bunch from the 15th century, where I found a handful grants, mandates, and so forth. The most useful information came from a book on English Guilds. English Gilds: The Original Ordinances of More Than 100 Early English Gilds. It contains a wealth of information including a chapter all about tailors. The tailor charter and oath (translated from Middle English) as well as some official-sounding introductions and declarations from the British History documents and the traditional SCA Laurel ceremony combined to form appropriately late medieval award text. I ran it by Edyth who made just a couple minor changes. Once I had their Majesties approval it was time to figure out just how I wanted to get these words on the page.
By Letters Patent, the King, His Queen, Their heirs and successors, so far as They have power, enable a Master of the Order of the Laurel in the Kingdom of the Middle to establish, maintain and increase their craft; to choose and train apprentices; to wear the badge of the order, a laurel wreath; and to attend meetings and feasts as befitting their station. To all true and faithful subjects to whom these presents shall come, know that We, Vukasin, Queen and Patroness of the Arts and Sciences, and Cellach, King by Right of Arms, in consideration of the skills, excellence, and expertise in the Research of Late Medieval Garments and the Craft of Tailoring, as well as the spirited generosity with which she has shared her craft with our Society, do create and advance Edyth Miller to the title and degree of Master and a Companion of Our most noble Order of the Laurel; to be good and true in her office as belongs to her, according to this ordinance that is made by the Crown, to teach all such skills pertaining to the craft of tailors that come to her mind, to give good attendance and counsel, and not for love, favor, friendship, nor hatred or any other malice, be fairer more to one than to another for as long as she holds the office. In witness whereof, we have created the aforesaid Patent, considering Edyth Miller to be in all places of honor numbered a Peer of our Realm, with all rights, privileges, insignia, precedence, and responsibilities thereto appertaining, to be entered this 23rd day of September, Anno Societatis LII, in our Barony of White Waters in testimony whereof We have set Our hand and seal.
So, what did the handwriting look like at that time? Well, it’s an official document so it had to cleaner and more legible than a personal missive. It is a patent from the Crown so it should look a little more decorative an elegant than other, run-of-the-mill government documents. Medieval Writing is full of information all about paleography; suggested page layouts, character styles, and decoration examples including papal bulls, letters patent, charters, and indentured contracts. This page also has some wonderful examples of the period along with descriptions. My primary inspiration for the lettering was an early 15th century English chancery hand. It has two different styles of s, two different styles of r, and dots over the y. I figured it was a good balance between elegant and official.
I went back to my favorite place for medieval fonts, Pia Frauss, and grabbed Et Boemie Rex, which I felt was a solid starting place. I then made some notes to myself for modifying the typeface. Modify the d smaller loop, b k l x more closed loops, r at end of word different, fall s like f , end of word s styled loop s kind of like a small 6, v like u, tall ascender on beginning of w (could add something similar on v), straight descender on p and y with dot over y. It was time to paste my copy into Illustrator.
Once I was happy with the look of the type I printed it out full size on a sheet of copy paper and taped it to my light box. I taped my 11″x14″ parchment on top and used the print out as a guide for the calligraphy. I used a dip pen and oak galls ink. Some characters were modified on the fly. I cropped short the descender on each y and g, pulled down the end of an n if it landed at the end of a word, connected some flourishes and made sure others didn’t run into each other. This all in an effort to pull the design back to the source material and give it a personal touch. I left room at the bottom for signatures and a wax seal. She wanted the seal affixed to the face of the document so that is where we put it.
I was thankful I did not smear, smudge, or spill any ink. I was pleased with the end result and I think it looks like a believable medieval patent. My friend now has, along with a new official title, a custom piece of artwork to hang on her wall.