Illumination and Calligraphy

There are a few other things that I do ‘historical wise’. As time goes by (and I get pictures of them) I will add them .

2014 – Scrolls

Most recently I found myself in a position to foray into the world of Illumination and Calligraphy. This is something I have always wanted to try, but I have never had the time to put towards it. Below are my first two attempts at this medium and art form.

The two scrolls below were for the King and Queen of Drackenwald, and the Prince and Princess of Insulae Draconis, given at Coronet Tournament in Northern Ireland 2014. They were presented during my official capacity as Ambassador from Lochac to Drackenwald, appointed by King Alfar and Queen Angharat at Great Northern War in 2013. It gave me great pleasure to be able to represent my crown while away, and they are memories I will always treasure.

While we were trying to think of presents to give the Royals at Coronet Tourney 2014 from the Crown, my lovely friend Sue (Viscountess Susannah of York) suggested scrolls.  My other amazing friend Fiona (Mistress Melisende Fitzwalter) allowed me to use her Scriptorium for the project, however time was tight as I only had a few afternoon’s to do the work, and she was wonderful in sharing her resources, expertise and materials with me for the cause.

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Pelican Scroll for Magnus Thorsbjornson to be given as a surprise for him at his ceremony in Brisbane 2015.

At the time when Magnus went on Vigil at Rowany Festival in 2015, we weren’t sure when he would get to have his ceremony. Murmerings of Great Northern War, and then due to work, maybe the following May, which in the end, due to King Stephan Glauber and Queen Branwen verch Lewis ap Thomas being confirmed as able to attend the Baronial event in September 2015 in Brisbane….it was all on for then.

I knew I had until The Baronial Event to have made the scroll, get it approved and bring it over ready for the ‘surprise’.


Best answers to this are – because I want to do something cool for my friend and house hold brother, and because I hope I can!

The opportunity came up to do this for him through a conversation on what I wanted to give him for his vigil. In the end it was a hand sewn undershirt to go with his beautiful new tunic that our friend Countess Beatrice Maria Malatesta had made him, but when I had originally suggested to her I could do a scroll for his vigil, she pointed out I should ask the Provost of Scribes in Lochac if I could do his Pelican scroll instead. I was slightly worried about this – as I had only done two scrolls before – and they were my first foray into the medium, however, I asked and the answer was that would be lovely.


Magnus has a ‘Norse’ persona. Knowing already that a more fitting scroll would take the form of a lump of wood or stone carved with runes etc, I also realised that this is less storable and portable (I would be coming from New Zealand to Brisbane with it) and I started to think of alternatives still within his time frame.

Something from the same time period as the ‘Vikings’ that was more recongnisable might be the thing? I conferred with a few people, and the idea of maybe something  Book of Kells like’ came up ….

It was suggested that I put his Monkey, Bear, and the heraldry of his Knight and Pelican into it. Not being able to bring myself to put in an obvious Yorkshire Rose and a few very Heraldic stars into a Norse scroll, I came up with the idea of doing a Lineage scroll as well as a separate present.

The Lineage scroll would have his Knight and household on one side, and his Pelican and household on the other – with some appropriate words separating them…in the end I managed to work the suggested things into the scroll in various places, and I wasn’t able to gather everyone’s heraldry in time to make a separate scroll to the one I was already doing. So I let the idea go and have shelved it for a later date.


Researching started. I cast the net around, looked at other examples of what others had done for ‘Norse’ scrolls. I consulted my awesome friend in Ireland, who is a Laurel in Illumination and Calligraphy – Mistress Melisende Fitzwalter, asked opinion of The Lovely Dutchess Mistress Nerissa de Saye, who is also a Laurel in Illumination and Calligraphy. She had created a gorgeous scroll a few years ago around the right ‘style’ for Duke Alfar of what I was thinking of which can be found below:

I also asked generic materials and beginners questions of the Provost of scribes Baroness Mistress Branwen of Werchesvorde and my local (albeit living a few hours away) friend and scribal Warden for the North Island of New Zealand, Svartr Ormsson. All these things together, plus lots of looking at books, borrowing books and poking around on the internet for early period extant examples led to the finished project.

I am kicking myself that I did not get myself the copy of the book of Kells that I was going to buy when I was in Dublin in 2014. I convinced myself that I could get it next time, it was too heavy and I wouldn’t really need it anyway….this was the first time I had ever convinced myself of those things – and Murphy’s Law dictates that now, only 6 months later….it would have been really handy to have.

The Runes:

It isn’t something I talk about much, but I really enjoy the Runes. I have a good understanding of them, and their meanings, and It was suggested that I used them for the writing on the scroll.

I was a little uneasy with this idea – as I already knew doing a ‘Viking’ scroll was pushing it – and if I were to do a book of Kells type style – then mixing the runes with the imagery of this, would not be ‘right’ in my opinion.

hunting around the internet I found this site:

this confirmed my unease

“You have fallen prey to a common misconception, that the runic alphabet was commonly used for writing such documents as awards and charters. If you have a Viking Age person receiving this award, then it would probably be best to inscribe the runes onto an object, such as a two or four-sided wooden stave, or a sword, a stone, etc.

If the Gentle Reader really wishes to produce a scroll, then my recommendation would be to produce a Latin scroll text using one of the earlier manuscript hands as described below.”

It was an incredibly interesting starting point for ideas and suggestions – as the whole site has information about different texts and styles within the different ‘Viking’ ages.

As much as I distrust the internet and its ‘facts’, this and talking to a few people including Nerissa about the use of runes in a scroll, translation of English into the pure runic alphabet without going through the another appropriate language first, and just general unease, made me want to not pursue this avenue.

The Lochac Scribes Handbook is below and has a lot of useful information in it:

and the actual scribal site is also quite helpful with the articles that it has on it:

The Pelican wording from the Lochac Scribes Handbook is as follows that I will need to put onto the actual scroll:

Pelican •

The Pelican is given for extraordinary service to the Kingdom, far and beyond that given by most members. Peers must also support the Crown and Kingdom, display courteous and noble behaviour, share their knowledge and skills with others, practice hospitality according to their means, and those skills and behaviors appropriate to the court. The token is a medallion depicting a pelican in its piety. Pelicans in fealty may wear a chain.

• abbreviation: OP Usual content of scroll;

Select Introduction from list or  Let it be known that We Name by right of Arms King of Lochac and Name by grace and beauty, Queen of Lochac give greetings.


In Our Kingdom We recognize and elevate those who through their excellent service and admirable leadership with grace and courtesy have enriched Our Realm. They have shared knowledge and skills through teaching and facilitating the growth of service through others. Therefore We are privileged to admit recipient’s name unto our Order of the Pelican and to bestow him/her the title of Master/Mistress with all rights and privileges appertaining thereto and thus to be taken in all places as a Peer of Our Realm. Further We confer a Patent of Arms, confirming arms to wit; enter arms as registered with the college of heralds.

Select Ending from list or Done by our hand and seal this day of month anno societatis year being year in the common era.

Suitable titles ie King, Rex etc Queen, Regina etc


I asked around the different people in the know about materials etc. I have included the advice below as it may help anyone reading this that also has a beginning interest in this work. What came back were these pieces of advice:

From Mistress Branwyn:

“The wording for a Pelican scroll is found in the Scribes Handbook which is found under Scroll texts of the College website, if you could use that, it would be great. I can send parchmentine (transparent vellum). You can also order  it yourself from John Neal Books in the US.”

I have taken her up on her sending me some parchmentine as time is tight.

I asked Mistress Melisende about certain things:

“and if you’re in London, go, to Cornelissen they’re just round the corner from the British Museum! – an Aladdin’s cave of stuff! ”

Anything that is sturdy and has several angles at which you can set it to work at. I use this one –

and Svartar about materials and where to get them/what are the best to use:

“There are links to information on relevant NZ suppliers on the calligraphy and illumination web page linked from the Ildhafn A&S website – French art shop and Gordon Harris would be the initial retail shops I’d suggest though.

Windsor Newton pens [metal nibs and nib holders specifically], inks and gouache paints are generally the better range to work with.  There are others brands but they don’t come to mind as easily.  For paints and inks make sure they specifically state they are light fast (won’t fade easily).  Alternatively, if you want to use pigment based paint which uses egg white as the binder (more authentic) eggs are cheap and I have a supply of pigments on permanent loan from Bene some of which are also available from the above mentioned shops too…  ”

So following all that advice and what I used of Fiona’s in Ireland last year….I have recently purchased for this project, and further ones:

-An A2 Calligraphy/ Illumination desk  (Warehouse Stationary in New Zealand)

-A mechanical pencil and new leads

-A malleable rubber

-A hard rubber

-red, green, yellow, blue and black ink

-Primary colour gouache and white

-Calligraphy nibs and holder

-Set square

Visual research:

I had done some drawings of what it could look like, and I had looked at the colours used in the book of Kells, the book of Durrow and a few other books from that time – including the Ricemarch Psalter from Wales in the 11th Century.

From there I used the Ricemarch Psalter as my main inspiration as the border decoration and the animal at the top meant I could find a place to put in his bear and other ornamentation that I needed to make it ‘his’ scroll. Somehow when I was drawing it, the monkeys and the stars in the Bears formed and the extra ‘period’ decoration on the scroll with the flowers meant that all the elements were in!

I remembered  Melisende saying in Ireland last year that it was the attention to the detail that made it look like it belonged in period, so I made sure that I looked at exactly that.

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Book of Durrow, Folio 3v.                 Book of Durrow, Folio 4r .

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Book of Durrow, Folio 15r.           Book of Durrow, Folio 23r.

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Book of Durrow, Folio 86r  .                             Ricemarch Psalter, Folio 2v.

Belt buckle from Lagore crannog

County Meath.

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Book of Durrow, Folio 124r .         Breves causae, folio 19v  .

p o

Geneaology of Christ, fol. 2011.      Detail.


Page from St Mark’s Gospel, fol 1041.        Detail.

Drawings in pencil to work out the design:

2 3


The first mistake……I realised all too late that even though the lettering was correct….the spacing was not….


I was given the wrong spelling for Magnus’s name, which even though it meant doing the WHOLE thing again, I was actually happy with that, as the spacing in-between the lines of the calligraphy was still not enough, and the black outlines were too fat in places in my opinion.




The lettering is finer in this one as is the black outlining. The colour was done with ink, as was the outlining. From my reading, it seemed to show that anything yellow in the books back then were coloured – not guilded, the animals in the text were used to show where a new sentence began and the red lines at the end of a line indicate that the word carries on into the next line.

We presented it to him at his ceremony after getting it approved by the Provost of Scribes and tracking down some seals through the lovely Baroness of Riverhaven, Mistress Katherine Alicia of Salisbury.


I still feel pretty new to this all, and still know that I know nothing on the subject. I feel like I need to do a lot more research and look at a lot more books/talk to people about this style and calligraphy and illumination in general for a VERY long time before I will feel confident in what I am doing. However, it was a fun process and I am so glad that we could give Magnus something special, from his household, at his actual ceremony. I will be continuing on and doing more scrolls etc as a part of the Locahc scribes, and I can’t wait to go and learn more from my friend Melisende in Ireland when I am next there.

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