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Elmsley Rose

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Elmsley Rose

31 October 2006

Gods with Snow - Spacing

The LC2 Speedball nib is a bit of a bugger. I have to use (comparitively) a lot of force to drag it down on the verticals, which is making them wobbly.
However, I'm happy with the evenness of the spacing.
And I was happy with the of the spacing with the Brause nib the other day.
So I reckon I'm ready to try to reproduce the Gods with Snow quote exactly as is shown in Mark Drogin's book

- same nib width, x-height as shown in the scan above. Including the ticks on the diamonds which can create a challenge. You want the spacing of the verticals to be one pen width, but also have enough space to have discernable ticks on the top and bottom of each diamond without them crashing into the ticks of the diamond next to it and looking like a join instead.

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30 October 2006

Script Analysis - Float, Ascender and Descender Heights (Backhouse)

This is the image from Backhouse's Illuminated Page, at the size of the actual manuscript :

By "drawn" baselines I mean the baselines already marked on the mss page in light brown.

I highlighted the drawn baselines in aqua blue, and then drew in the "real" baseline and the waistline (above and below the letters, since the script floats some distance above the existing baseline) in purple.
You'll need to click on the image above to see any of this.

Then I found a pen with a nib width of 2 mm. My Brause was very very close (maybe a tiny bit small).
I did a few nib ladders, and found the 4 of them fitted between each baseline and waistline, so fitting the x-height. (as per
So far so good.

Most of the lines of script are floating above the drawn baseline. Measuring, this was usually 3 mm. However, the lines of text above the historiated initial and the first line next to the initial dont't float but are attached to the drawn baseline. I've marked where the float begins on the page.
Regardless of float, the distance between each set of drawn baselines is 1.5 cm all the way down the page (ie the non-floaters have extra space between the invisible ascender line and the baseline of the line above, making up for the space between the actual and drawn baselines in the other lines)

I'll have to look at other pages of the mss to see what happens with them. I know that they have historiated initials placed at various distances down the page, so I'll see later if this non-floating happens in the same way near the initial each time.

I found that I didn't need to draw in ascender and descender lines. The tops and bottoms of the letters (such as b,d,f,g,l, etc) were hitting the drawn baselines above or below them respectively. So the descender line of one set of lines is the ascender line of the next set of lines, which is the drawn baseline.

I simplified things a bit when I said that letters were hitting the ascender/descender lines :-

I found that the letters that touch the ascender line (eg b,d,l, Long S, f ) they either
* just touched the ascender line, or
* finished just above them, or
* finished below them.
Also with the letters with verticals that touch the descender lines (eg p, q) they either
* just hit the descender line, or
* finished just below the descender line.

I *think* that the right approach is to pick one of these (just hitting the line, for example) and to be consistent.

I measured the distance from the waistline to the ascender line to be 3 mm, and
the distance from the baseline to the descender line to be 3 mm, on average. (variation of 0.5 mm, and up to 1 mm in one case).

I then had a look at the various letters. The Backhouse page has all of them except a W and I think I've just gone blind in finding one, since there must be some. I looked at all of the examples of each letter I could find.

A lot of the letters (a,c,e etc) sit nicely between the baseline and waistline. I've only commented of those to which this was an exception.

I'll refer to the situation that I described above where the ascending/descending vertical finishes at different places at or near the ascender/descender line as the "general case"

B : general case
D variation 1 : top left corner finished 2 mm above waistline
D variations 2 and 3 : top left corner finished 1.5 mm above waistline
F : crossbar 0.5 mm below waistline. Ascender height general case.
G. general case for the right most curving bottom corner, which is the bottom-most point
H : (now this is more interesting)
First vertical stroke (the leftmost) is general case.
The second vertical stroke (on the right) just crosses the baseline, with the curved bottom of it extending 1 mm below the baseline.
A hairline extends this vertical, and reaches to 1.5 mm BELOW the descender line
J : the vertical stroke extends to 1.5 mm below the baseline. The hairline extends to 1.5 mm BELOW the descender line, like the H.
L : general case
P : general case
Q : general case
S : The flourish on top of the S finishes 1 mm below the ascender line
Long S : general case
T : cross bar 0.5 mm below the waistline, same as the F (I'm used to it being on the waistline)
The top of the T finishes just 1 mm above the waistline.
X : Hairline right down to the next waistline
Y : Another interesting letter. The "v" part of the y forms a very acute triangle, with the point of it reaching down to only 0.5 mm above the descender line (when that point of the 'v' sits on the baseline). The hairline finishing the Y ends all the way down at the waistline of the next set of lines below.
Z : The bottom right most stroke finishes 1 mm above the descender line. The hairline extends the bottom of the Z 1 mm down beyond the descender line.

The next thing to do is to repeat all of the above using other pages from the mss, and compare.

I have already cut out examples of each letter from photocopies of the mss and pasted them onto a page even tho according to the Script Analysis Doc this isn't done for another couple of steps. (I was braindead and looking for something I could do)
By doing this, I discovered that there were 3 variations of the D (and 2 versions of the A). The variations of the D turned out to have different ascender measurements.
At the moment in the Script Analysis doc, it says to look at the variations in height of individual letters at this stage. I think it'd be better to look at just the ascender and descender heights (and the floating) at this stage, and delay looking at any special cases of letter height until each individual letter is being looked at. (Although I'll look at them on other pages of the mss since I've started doing it now)
Part of getting the script analysis doc right is working through it, of course.

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28 October 2006

Gods with Snow - Spacing

I had a look at the spacing between verticals on some Bedford Hours pages. In real mss size terms, there is a variance of 0.5 mm, given a 2 mm pen width.

I actually noticed that there was variance on real mss pages (as opposed to the Gods with Snow quote in Drogin, which is 'perfectly spaced' to give the illusion of illegibility) back in
and the two posts before that. So I already knew there was a tiny bit of variance. What memory?

I killed my last W.M. 0 nib yesterday (I kill nibs frequently).
I like to work with a large x-height when I'm working on a script, and consequently like to use a wide nib so the letters don't look too out of proportion - too tall and skinny.
I tried using a large speedball but it was too wide - just killing my hand with the amount of real estate necessary to cover in order to form a letter.
So I used my little Brause nib this morning (about the size of a W.M. 2) - and the spacing was really good! I'm pleased.
I'll have another look at the other nibs I've got and try and find something sized between the large Speedball and the Brause and practise with that, and see how I go.
Varying the nib is a good idea anyway - so I'm looking at doing the spacing according to the width of the nib I'm using at the time - rather than always practising with the same nib. I don't want to accidentally learn to space by a particular nib's pen width and carry on with that spacing when I change to a different pen nib width.
That was a problem I had with The Second Coming piece. I was used to using a W.M 1.5 and when I changed down to a W.M. 3 to write the piece, my writing went a bit kerfluey, because it'd been a very long time since I'd written Gothic Textura Quadrata with anything BUT a W.M. 1.5.

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27 October 2006

Gods with Snow - Spacing

I still haven't got the spacing of one stroke's width between each vertical right. It's close, but it isn't perfect and I want it to be perfect. But how many more times am I going to have to write the quote out? !!
I've gone back to marking in each space with a '/' with the idea of 'getting my eye in', and then dropping the '/' part way through writing the quote and seeing how well I do judging the distance by eye.
I've noticed one thing - I was trying to judge the distance by looking at the last vertical, imagining an 'invisible' verticle placed next to it and then marking the spot where the next vertical was to go. But if I look at only one point near the top of the verticals, it's much easier to judge - only looking at the width from the last to the about-to-be-drawn-vertical in 1 dimension, rather than looking at width and getting distracted by looking downwards towards their feet as well.
I think that I should sit down with a page from the Bedford Hours and mark out the spaces between the verticals with a pen of the same nib width - and see how well the scribe placed the verticals. I do want the spacing to be perfect, but I'd like some input on how well it really was done as well.

I'm also working on the Script Analysis document offline. Robert of Stonemarche is currently providing part of my brain.

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25 October 2006

Script Analysis - Text Layout

Text Layout

What is the size of the margins (left, right, top, bottom)?3,4

Margins are drawn around the text block.

On each image, the top margin is an unused baseline above the first baseline which has script written on (actually, floating above) it. I measured from this empty baseline to the edge of the top illuminated border

The bottom margin is an unused baseline after the last baseline which has script written on it. I’ve measured from this empty baseline to the edge of the bottom of the illuminated border

The left hand margin is drawn vertically down the left hand side of the block of script and the script is justified against it. I’ve measured from this margin to the edge of the left hand side of the illuminated border

On 4 of the 5 images, the right hand margin has two lines. I’ve measured the distance from the first line, nearest the script, to the second line, and then from the second to the edge of the right hand side of the illuminated border

The script does all sorts of things near the right hand margin. Answer that in the “justification” question later.

The first image from the British Library doesn’t have a double right hand margin, but does have two lines ruled at the bottom.

This scan shows the top right hand corner of this image, with the top and right hand margins marked. I went over the ruled margins in purple pen, so they'd stand out.

Well, since Blogger doesn't like my table, I'll list these figures out in lines.

They are in order of the image from Backhouse (a left hand page), Codices Illustres (a right hand page), Stan Knight (a right hand page), British Library Image 1 (a right hand page), and British Library Image 2 (a right hand page)

Top Margin 4.3, 2, 3.5, 2, 2.6

Bottom Margin 2.6, 2, 4.3, 5.9 (with double lines), 1.3

Left Margin 3.5, 2, 2.6, 2.6, 1.3

Right Margin 5.2 (3, 2.2), 3.3 (2, 1.3), 4.3 (3.5, 0.9), 2.6 (no double lines), 2.6 (1.3, 1.3)

where the first number is the total width of the margin and the numbers in brackets are the distances between the first line and the second line, and then the second line to the edge of the illuminated border.

Well, these figures are of no help whatsoever –looking down the columns, the figures pretty much vary for every margin. (Text starts different distances down from the top edge of the illuminated border, ends at a difference distance from the bottom etc)

I think this question is meant to be about the margins for the entire page from the edges of the illumination to the edges of the page – not for within the illuminated border from the ruled margins to the edge of the illuminated border.

So if these ‘inner’ margins aren’t standard widths, how do you know how to place your illumination around your block of script on a page laid out in the same way as the Bedford Hours? How much room from the margins to the edge of the illuminated border, since I’ve measured it on 5 different pages and it varies?

Perhaps it depends on the design of the illuminated border and any extrusions from the border up into the script block? Looking at the different pages, this is the best answer I can come up with.

I hope all the questions are going to be this hard to answer!

How many lines per page? 1 18

How many columns per page 1 None

How many words, on average, per column?

Per line? 2 6 words

Is there a line or border between the columns and how wide is the space between the columns? 1,2,5

Are there guidelines shown on the page? 2 Yes

If there are baselines is the text floating above the base line, or sitting upon it? 2 Floating above the baseline.

Word and Line Layout

Are there line-fillers? 1 Yes

Describe them : Solid rectangular block sitting on the baseline, extending to the second right hand margin line. Two colour with geometric or foliate design

Do words finish at the end of lines, or wrap around to the next line? 1 Wrap around to the next line, although there looks like there was a bit of squishing up in some cases as well.

Are hyphens used if the words wrap around? No.

Update : Meisterin Katarina Helene agrees with me that these margins aren't done to any rule and depend on how the layout looked to the illuminator, as the calligraphy was done before the work was passed to the illuminator. (and the overall page layout was done first thing, as per
(from Christopher Jarmen)

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19 October 2006

Gothic Textura Quadrata - Spacing

I've written of my journey discovering that the spacing between letters, as well as counterspace of each letter, is one pen width between the verticals for Historical Gothic Textura Quadrata script.
The way I was taught modern Gothic script was one pen width between the letters, not the verticals. This destroys the 'picket fence' effect achieved by doing the spacing between the verticals.

I asked Tetchubah the other day "why did the spacing change?"
She said "that the spacing changed for the same reason most of us don't calligraph "pure" gothic - it's more readable that way. Also, as more readable hands came into being I suspect that their influence bled over to scribes doing gothic, and of course gothic eventually fell out of fashion. What I mean by bled over is that if you've practiced one hand extensively, it tends to influence how you write other hands.

And, of course, except in Germany, the Gothic hand fell entirely out of fashion, entirely out of use, for centuries. When it started being re-used by non-Germans in the 20th century, the calligraphers wenton the whole for readability, not the picket fence effect.

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16 October 2006

Script Analysis - pen width, x-height

I'd better get this down before my brain melts, and I come back tomorrow to look at the print out of the first page of the script analysis questions which is now absolutley covered in calculations, cross outs and a lot of "x -> w =" comments.

Here's a copy of the blow up of part of the script of the Bedford Hours from Stan Knight's Historical Scripts book

Thankfully, Stan Knight says that his blowup is 150% of the original's size. Somewhere I needed a clue of how big the original actually is. You never know by how much the reproductions have been re-sized just by looking, and this told me.
So I needed to multiply everything I measured in the Stan Knight blow up by 0.667.

Pen width (measuring on a wide part of an O) = 3 . So, if it's 150% the size of the original I need to multiply it by 100/150 or 0.667 = 2 mm.
That is the pen width used in the Bedford Hours.

I measured the x-height - not between the lines drawn inbetween which the text is floating (I'll do that later) but the height of a,c,e,on,m etc. (normal 'x-height). It came to 11 mm on this reproduction.
Again, multiplying by 2/3, I got 7.3 mm, which is what the x-height should be on the original
So, x-height at 7.3 mm, with pen width at 2 mm, that gives up approximately 4 pen widths for the x-height.

Because I'm a masochist, and to check these figures, I checked against 3 other images I had.

Codices Illustres image, page 187
Pen width on this reproduction measured 2 mm - it's the size of the original image!
X-height measured either 8 mm or 9 mm, depending on where I measured in the page.

Nice - it agrees with my calculation

Brown/Lovett Historical Source Book for Scribes
Pen width measured 1 mm.
If the pen width on the original is 1 mm, I need to multiply everything by 2 to get the 'real' measurements from this image.
X-height measured 4mm. Double that to the original's size to get 8 mm and 4 pen widths in the x-height.
Again, it agrees!

same book, blow up of some of the script (easier to measure)
Pen width = 3 mm, so multiply by 2/3, same as the Stan Knight script to 're-size' the image back to the original.
X-height measured 16 mm, two thirds of which is 9 mm.

So I'm getting a variance between 8 and 9 mm for the x-height over 3 different pages of the Bedford Hours (remembering the second Brown/Lovett image I measured is a blow up of the first).

I'll go with 2 mm pen width, and 4 pen widths (8 mm) x-height
Because the images are pretty small, it's so easy to debate between measuring 1 mm or 1.25 etc. It varies depending on which particular letter you measure (I got O's with slightly different widths in the strokes in the same image). By the time you multiply it by a factor to re-size it you've magnified any error. So I'm not that worried that everything doesn't match exactly.

Next is to look at ascender and descender heights.
The column questions before the pen width stuff on the list were easy- there aren't any. Ditto line dividers and hyphens. The margins question - don't ask. I got all sorts of different measurements for the space between the inner edge of the illumination border and the start of the text, left, right, top, bottom, and currently waiting for some help in interpreting it.
I have a headache.

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14 October 2006

Script Analysis - List of Questions

My practise at the moment consists of writing out the Gods With Snow quote out once, practising the spacing without making any marks to help me, and then I'm just starting the script analysis of the Bedford Hours.
I have questions from several different sources and was going a bit crazy in the last two practises trying to order them in my head, so I've ordered them out in a document.

This is draft only. The source of each question is noted in the footnotes.
I haven't done speed of the hand or suitable intent of the script yet. Probably some other stuff I've missed. Feel free to point out any mistakes or anything that is missing. I'd appreciate it.

I feel a bit funny writing something else up when I still have to re-write the Highlighting and Shading paper in terms of visual and physical blending, but I need this information in order to keep going in my practise, and I could do with a break before re-writing the H&S paper .....


Script Analysis - draft - a complete mess at the moment

I've received lots of wonderful comments from Kit, Meisterin Katarina Helene and Robert of Stonemarche and am in the midst of re-working this post. If you are interesting in taking a copy, it probably is better if you wait for a week - I have heaps of things I want to change, and some things got changed quickly yesterday during a phone call - and I've got a few temporary markers in here as well ...... a published working document. :-)

Before starting, determine whether the page of text you are studying is the same size as the original manuscript and if not, adjust the calculations accordingly. You will need to know how much at least one reproduction has been re-sized by, or have a reproduction at the original size, in order to determine the correct measurements.

Several different pages would be ideal, in an attempt to garner examples of all letters of the alphabet. You only need to know the re-sizing percentage of one of them.

The analysis of majuscules and other ‘higher order’ letters that appear in manuscripts are covered in the excellent paper “Analyzing a Style” authored by Mistress Rowan Perigrynne of the Lochac College of Scribes. (see the end for a complete reference). This paper also takes you through an analysis of the illumination on a manuscript page.

The Sheila Waters paper "Analyzing Letterforms and Practicing Effectively" is also excellent. It forms a chapter in her new book Foundations of Calligraphy as well as being in Letter Arts Review magazine.

I refer to Mark Drogin's "Medieval Calligraphy - It's History and Technique" for some paleographical rules - such as when special forms of letters are used. It would be a hard to determine those sort of rules just by looking at a couple of pages of the manuscript. David Harris' Art of Calligraphy and Patricia Lovett's "Calligraphy and Illumination" are also excellent for these purposes.

Considering miniscule letters only below….

***** means something to be worked on. There is also missing information not yet in here.

Text Layout

How many lines per page? 1

How many words, on average, per line? 2

How long is each line, measured using a page of the mss at it's real size? 2

Are there guidelines shown on the page? Which ones? 2 Guidelines are lines marking any or all of the following : baseline, waistline, cap line, ascender line or descender line – definition provided in Folsom

If there are baselines, is the text floating above the base line, or sitting upon it? 2 A basline is writing line, real or imagined, on which the body of the writing sits – definition provided in Folsom

Any mark of the pricked holes on the side of the page may provide a guide to the lines rules if the lines aren't there.

If it is floating above the guidelines, by how much? Record in millimetres/inches and then convert to proportions of nib width later when the nib width has been discovered 2

What is the height (or depth) of the block of script, measured using a page of the mss at it's real size?


How many columns per page 1

How many words, on average, per column 2

Is there a line or border between the columns?

If so, describe it.

How wide is the space between the columns? Record in millimetres/inches and convert to nib widths later when the nib width has been discovered. Ensure it is measured using a page of the mss at it's real size 1,2,5

Word and Line Layout

Are there line-fillers? 1

Describe them :

Do words finish at the end of lines, or wrap around to the next line? 1

Are hyphens used if the words wrap around?

What do they look like? 1

Pen Nib Width

Using a page of the mss reproduced at the real size of the mss for all of this section :-

What is the size of the pen width in millimetres/inches? (measure from a broad stroke of the O). This is handy to know when ruling up a page... 2 Need to think about this more ****

How many pen widths are there between the baseline and waistline?3,4
(This should be the same as the number of pen widths of the height of the O)
This is the x-height.

Select a pen with the appropriate nib width, and check your measurement by drawing a nib ladder on the reproduction of the mss page

How many pen widths are there between each of the baselines of the text, disregarding ascenders and descenders? What is this distance in mm/inches?1,3,4

What is the ascender height in pen widths and mm/inches?1,3,4

What is the descender height in pen widths and mm/inches?1,3,4

It may be that the x-height, ascender and descender heights frequently vary by a couple of millimetres on the page being inspected because the page was ruled by hand, and also because the original scribes made mistakes as well. Take the most common measurements.

Checking the guideline measurements :

Taking the most common x-height, ascender height and descender height measured, rule out a sheet of guidelines with as many lines as counted on the original page of the mss. (This is where the measuremens in mm/inches come in useful).

The measurement between each baseline can be used to provide a rough check of the accuracy of the drawn lines.

You now have a set of guidelines that will help you practise script in the same dimensions, and construct a page using the same measurements, as the script in the original mss.

Making a ductus to use to note letter construction

Take photocopies of several pages of the manuscript and cut out at least one clear example of each letter.

Paste onto a sheet along straight lines and rule in the guidelines that you measured above (a baseline, waistline, ascender and descender heights). You might need to rule the lines individually for the letters, if it’s hard to stick the letters down exactly in place.

Make a note of the x height, ascender and descender heights somewhere on the ductus.

Make notes against the letters that have different ascender/descender heights (such as F, Long S, D and T) on the ductus..1,2

Are there any other special cases where a letter unexpectedly crosses a waistline or baseline? (For example, sometimes the H has a long last stroke, extending past the baseline) 2

Measuring the angles of the strokes

Extend the angles of the entry and exit strokes of each of the letters, most importantly the O, to the nearest part of the baseline or waistline. You can mark the extensions of the strokes on tracing paper placed over the ductus rather than marking up the ductus itself. 3

Measure the angle of each line using a protractor or Katarina Helene's Analysing Guide which has the advantage of the lines coming right up to the edge

(Click on it to enlarge and then print – Meisterin Katarina Helene has given her permission)

Look for any steepened or flattened angles, and any changes of angle designed to counteract inconsistencies of weight in the letter’s construction. 3 **********************

Make notes of any of these cases on the ductus

What is the dominant (most common) angle? ?3,4

This is pen angle of the script.

Make a note on the ductus

What are any variations of the pen angle, and in which letters?
(for example a Z often has strokes with the pen at an angle of zero or 10 degrees)?2

Make a note of any of these cases on the ductus, including a note of the different angle

Is the script a branching or foundational hand? Branching hands (like Italic and Batarde) are ones where the branch of the letter (b, h, n, r) is basically a continuation of the down stroke... in other words, the pen is NOT fully lifted off to make them. Constructed hands (like Carolingian, Humanist, Foundational) are ones where the pen is lifted off the down stroke and replaced at the top of that vertical and then the next part of the letter formed.4

At what angle do branches spring from stems of letters?3,4

At what point of the stem do these branches spring and is it consistent?2

Make notes as necessary on the ductus

Letter Width

Use the pen ladder on the card to measure the width of a N. Compare this width against the width of other letters. Widths of letters in variant scripts may differ from the widths used in the ‘standardized’ script of that type.

If the width of the same letter varies within the source examples, which is the most common width, or which width looks the best to you?

Make notes on the ductus as appropriate. You should now know the proportions of each letter – the height and the width.


Look at the negative spaces within the letters (the counterspaces). Become aware of the shapes that are formed. “Become conscious of what each corner of the nib is “drawing” by looking at the corner nearer to the inside counter, while forming each letter. This encourages greater awareness of negative shapes. If these are correct, the black lines will also be correct”

Letter and Word Spacing

Use the nib width ladder to find the spacing between the letters in a word. 3,4

What is it?

Does it vary, and when?

(Not including ligatures, which are covered below)

What is the space between the words in nib widths?

Details of the Letters

What alternative forms of letters exist (for example R, half R, S, Long S, )

What are the rules for their use? For example, in Gothic scripts, half R is used after certain letters. (Drogin et al will have this answer for scripts of a similar form of the period)

Ensure that these forms are included on the ductus, including any notes on letter height, strokes at an angle other than the dominant pen angle,

Are there particular letter forms used at the end of a line? For example, in Uncial, e with a long centre stroke was used at the end of a line. (Drogin et al will have this answer for scripts of a similar form of the period)

Include examples on the ductus if possible.

Are there any other forms of letters for particular linguistic situations? For example, double S or double F?

Include an example on the ductus

Are there any letters from A...Z that weren't used in the period of the script (eg K, J, Q)? 2

Is there an ampersand or et-ligature used?2

Include an example on the ductus

Do the letters have serifs? What do they look like?3,4
The Calligrapher's Dictionary page 111 has an illustrated list of the different serif types.

How might the serifs be formed using the pen (Drogin et al will provide help on this)2

Are the strokes a consistent width? For example, in Roman Rustic script, verticals were formed with a thicker base by twisting the pen as the pen travelled downwards 7

In the case of Gothic Textura Quadrata script (and maybe others ***), are the stems (verticals) of the letters directly below the diamonds/quadrants on the top and bottom, or offset slightly to one side? 7

Are the ends of ascenders/descenders fishtailed, dipped or have some other particular finishing feature?2 Picture *****

Are there hairlines? Flourishes? Consistent or ‘freehand’ ? On which letters? 2

Is the pen angle ever manipulated (d)? How, and in which letters?3,4 (d) Pen Manipulation is the varying of the pen angle or pressure while making a stroke or letter. This can also include using only a corner or one half of the nib. Definition provided in the Calligrapher’s Dictionary, Rose Folsom

(need to expand on this *****)

Is there any letter construction that consists of compound strokes?
Compound letters are letters like versals or Roman letters – components of the letter built up of multiple lines. For example, built up diamonds/quadrants on the stems of letters in Gothic Textura Quadrata script2,4

Are there any other 'distinctive features' of the letters? 2

" Some hands use variations of letters to better fit ascenders &
descenders into a shared space, to get more letters on a single
line, to even out a right margin or for added decoration. Some
hands also have slight variants of letters used in ligatures and
they pop up occasionally as single letters (probably because the
scribe lost focus). Those all make sense but for when random
letter variations where there is no apparent reason .... I've
heard some theorize that it was because the scribes were using
minor mistakes to protest what they were writing. I'd have to
agree that secular scribes could have done that. I hesitate when
it comes to thinking that a religious cleric who was copying the
letters but didn't have a clue about what he was writing, would
purposely alter the gospel as a form of protest. My guess is the
scribe was copying the manuscript letter by letter and copied not
only the letter but the hand used on the original piece."

"The density or heaviness of a hand is easier to see in whole words, lines or passages. It's really hard to see in individual letters. It has to do with the white space within a letter as well as the space between letters.... and it is all relative to the width of your pen strokes. The term we use around here to describe the opposite of heavy is wispy. That's when there is too much white space."

" relax. I was referring to the
amount of pressure your hand has on the pen. It can play a great
deal into how the calligraphy appears on the page. A heavy hand
(regardless of the reason, be it pain, confidence, rushed, watery
ink, ...etc) can cause your strokes to be wider than the size
printed on your nib. A feather light touch OTOH may not allow
enough ink to reach the tip of the nib so it cannot spread out
the full width of it... this would produce a thinner stroke.

That's why I recommended not going strictly by measurements but
by the look of the hand you're producing. "

Maitresse Yvianne de Castel d'Avignon, OL.

The Ductus

What is the stroke sequence for forming each letter? (Where do the pen lifts occur?) 3,4

What is the direction of each stroke? (Normally left to right, top to bottom with minimum backtracking)3

What about the thin strokes? 3 Fix this ****

Mark the ductus up with the stroke sequence and direction of each letter 2

Do strokes overlap with the strokes with which they join?3,4 At what point and angles, (if not already described in the question on branching strokes) and by how much?

Make notes as necessary on the ductus.

Are there ligatures used - this will depend on the period the script is from. For example, DE, DO, DA sharing a central stem.2
Mark Drogin et al will give the rules for the letters for the standard scripts of the same period.

What punctuation is used? 2

Include examples on the ductus

Are there any changes you would make to the layout of the text, the word or letter spacing, or any details of the letters themselves in order to improve legibility to the modern eye?2,6

Sources :

1 “Analysing a Style”, Mistress Rowan Perigrynne, Lochac College of Scribes

2 Elmsley Rose

3 Sheila Waters, “” – Foundations of Calligraphy article series, Part 10, Letter Arts Review - Volume 14, Number 4


Foundations of Calligraphy (book) at John Neal's Bookstore

4 Meisterin Katarina Helene von Schönborn, OL, email to Elmsley Rose

5 Kit M.

6 Robert of Stonemarche

7 Drogin, Marc, “Medieval Calligraphy – It’s History and Technique”, Dover, U.S.A., 1980

8 Johnston, Edward, “Writing and Lettering and Illuminating”, Pitman House Ltd, 1906


Folsom, Rose - The Calligrapher's Dictionary, Thames and Hudson 1990

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10 October 2006

Spacing - Gods with Snow

I've been practising. In between reading review comments of my paper from the lovely Randy and Tetchubah.

The whole idea of the "Gods with Snow" quote, to recap, is a sentence in Latin that is just about illegible because it is composed only of m,n,u and i's (it's got a few 'v's, written like 'u's for the point of the exercise and o, l, t at the end). Because these letters are only straight lines with a few joins (ie 1 each n and u, top and bottom respectively, 2 for the m at the top) the joins are the only way to distinguish between the letters and hence read the sentence.
When I first started practising this quote for a bit of basic skill practise I discovered that my spacing wasn't right and that led me onto noticing the difference between modern gothic textura quadrata script, and historical g.t.q. script spacing.

So here's my practice -= with spacing between the verticals. It's looking pretty illegible, as it should! I'm pleased. I still have a way to go - I'm hopeless at spacing right between the words (2 pen widths)
This was done with a William Mitchell nib size 0. The x-height is 2 cm (2.5 cm = 1 inch)
Purple pen to mark problems. Virulent pink that I've cut off from when I was writing in pink and making spacing marks in black. (actually Magenta, sorry Sal)
I went weird with my 'u's - the last stroke. Dunno why. Just did for the day.

It actually says
"mimi numininum nivium ninium nunium vini muninum iiniminiu vivi minimum volunt"
(not that I know it off by heart,. but I can read it from the above now i know it fairly well - scary!)

And this was done with a Brause 1 1/2. I really like the Brause. It's one of John Neal's especially ground for left handers. It's very smooth. Have to keep it clean tho - once it clogs, the line goes. (which is no problem).
You can tell I was getting tired -a few crooked lines in there. Same x-height as before. It's easier with the W.M. - I'm a lot more used to it.

Later : Another thing I'm looking at is the little isoceles triangles formed by the edges of the diamonds within the same letter, and between letters. It's really helping keep my diamonds crisp and my lozenges at the right angle.
It's very hot tonight. More coffee and practise :-)

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The Second Coming - Script Analysis

This is the mss that I based my script for The Second Coming piece on. It's from a Dominican Breviary from the last quarter of the 15th century, in Alsace, where ever that is. It appears on page 139 of Bologna's Illuminated Manuscripts
Even tho I was basing my layout and illumination on the 42 line Gutenberg Bible, I couldn't base my script analysis on it, because it was printed, not written, so I chose this one.
I remember that I should have referred to 2 or 3 mss, but that seems to have got lost by the wayside somewhere.

I was told that the x-height in my Second Coming piece was 'squat' and my a/d too short. I agree.

I just did a quick bit of measuring with my ruler. The x-height in the mss is 4 mm, a/d 2 mm. P/w is slightly less than 1 mm

Measuring on the Second Coming, x-height is 4 mm, a/d 1 mm, p/w is 1 mm.

That'd be the problem then.
A mistake with the ascender/descender height, plus using a pen that was too broad - even 1/4 mm is going to make a difference when dealing with measurements that small. I did try a smaller nib width but I didn't like the thicks and thins I was getting - not distinct enough. I guess that being more distinct comes down to me maintaining my pen angle and keeping my pen upright.

I wonder how I made such a mistake with the a/d height? In the notes on the script analysis in my project book, I've got a/d height listed as being 50% of x-height, then that is crossed out and 25% written in instead. Simply a bodgy re-measurement, I guess.

It would have helped if I'd simply gone back and compared the appearance of what I was writing to the original mss. I would have picked up the problem then.

It kind of sounds like I'm beating myself up. I'm not. I'm glad to figure out the reasons for the problem with the script. Feel like a bit of an idiot, but ..... live and learn :-)

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9 October 2006

That paper on how I do my highlighting and shading

Updated 12th October

Master Randulfr (Randy Asplund) was kind enough to review the paper for me. He said that "very good and supplies some very important tips for new scribes"

I'm just waiting for his permission to blog those comment. Baroness Tetchubah helped explain the comments to me, and I've got those documented as well.

In addition to the praise, he pointed out that lymning was a generic terms for all methods of illumination painting technique. Illumination means lymning. But I've seperated it out to describe a method that Tetchubah suggested should more properly be called "cross-hatching" I don't talk about cross hatching, just tiny straight strokes - but I should. I need to discuss the different types of tiny strokes that can be used.

Also, Randy described the difference between physical and visual blending techniques.
To quote him (jumping the gun on permission, I know, I'm bad)
"Visual blending is when a texture, a cross hatching, or several steps of graduated colors are next to each other and at a distance the eye blends them together. It is also when one color shines through from beneath a translucent color and the two mix in the eye while retaining their characteristics.

Physical blending is either physically mixing two or more pigments before applying them to the page, or applying them next to each other on a page and then manipulating them with moisture to mush them together into a smooth transition. "

So what I was describing as lymning is a visual blending technique. My Soft Method of blending is a physical technique (with a bit of visual thrown in, where I mention lymning as part of it).
Graduated colour is physical, and so is dry brushing.

Also, he mentioned that dry brushing was very rarely used as a period technique.

I wasn't actually trying to describe period techniques here - just the way that I did my (physical) blending of colour. When I'd written that bit, I had the bright idea of talking about the other methods I know.
With what I've learnt in the last couple of days, I seriously want to bang my head against the wall. Nothing I've said is wrong (except mis-use of the term 'lymning') but either I need to strip the paper down to JUST describing my Soft method of blending, or to change and expand the paper to discuss the various techniques of visual and physical blending, and how/when they were used. At the moment, I'm kind of half way and not got the terms quite right.

This is all new to me and involves examing mss on-line (and in books if they appear in sufficient detail) very closely and working it out for myself. Randy gave me a couple of clues but apparently there are no books that I can run to.

I guess I'll have to strip the paper down to describe just my method, and keep the words from the rest for when I write a more complete paper. I just need a few days before I can gather the courage for the strip.

I'll end up taking the second option...eventually. I don't want to start doing it now, because my head is full of Gothic Textura Quadrata, and it's quite enough doing the script analysis for the moment.
Meanwhile, I really really want a copy of Louis XII Book of Hours Reconstructed, by Janet Backhouse because that has got a chapter about the lymning (illumination technique) used in that, and Tetchubah recommended it. That'll give me some information about it for that region and that period.

Reading this now, I'm noticing all sorts of grammatical errors, a lot of wordiness, and a habit of typing "limning" instead of "lymning".
I'll fix all that up after I've had a break from reading it over and over.

Meanwhile, here 'tis.

Highlighting and Shading

Kit asked me how I did the highlighting and shading of my acanthus leaves. This little paper describes the process I use. It varies a little from the documented processes I’ve found, and is only ‘my way of doing it’. It works for me. It is NOT intended to describe a historical process.

So I’ve shown examples, some step by step with little pictures. It’s as hands on as possible. I am trying to explain what I do, after all.

I’ve also ended up talking about the three other ways I know of, to show the differences in the effects achieved using each one –

Graduated Colours and
Dry Brushing,
with a couple of variations.

I’ve gathered a bit of information on Lymning, for the elucidation of both of us, although I’m not very successful with the traditional method. Once again, I have a little method of my own that works for me. I’ve gathered a bit of research from various books.

I’ve also assembled some “general principles” which seem to apply to all of these processes.

The order of the document is

  • General Principles
  • The Soft Method of Highlighting and Shading
  • Possible Problems, Illustrated
  • A Word on the Paint Colours Used For Blending Colours in the Soft Method
  • My Way of Lymning
  • The Traditional Way of Lymning
  • Examples of the Traditional Way of Lymning
  • Graduated Colour
  • Dry Brushing
  • Bibliography

General Principles

I’ll talk in terms of highlighting although shading is equally applicable.

  • The base colour must be dry before starting on the highlighting. If it isn’t, it will be taken up by the brush and mix into the paint being added.
  • Make sure that you clean the brush very frequently. Remember that once you have done a couple of brush strokes, you have 3 colour sources – the highlighting colour on the page, the base colour on the page, and the newly wetted paint consisting of the two mixed together that the brush has picked up in earlier brush stroke
  • Be very gentle. You don’t want to re-activate any more of the base colour than you want/have to and have it mix into the highlight colour.
  • Always lay the highlighting paint over an area slightly smaller than the intended area, at least until you are experienced with it. It has a habit of growing.
  • When stroking the brush, follow the axis of the shape you are highlighting – not vertically/horizontally.

Stroke the brush this way

Not this way

  • If you are placing a highlight on the edge of a shape, make sure you go right to the edges of the shape
  • If you end up with ‘holes’ in the paint (having been a little heavy with the brush, not that I ever do that), wait until it dries. Then add in more of the paint with tiny strokes of the brush.
  • Be careful not to add too much as the paint can’t get too thick or it’ll crack.
  • After doing the highlighting, or if you get a bit lost in what is happening :- let it all dry

-If a damp brush has been used, the stokes will be more integrated when dry.

- Gouache colours are darker when dry..

The Soft Method of Highlighting and Shading

This is the way I do highlighting and shading over small areas of work.

The soft method of highlighting and shadings is suitable for small areas of work. The use of water to re-activate the paint means that over a large area, the paper would buckle. It might buckle a tiny bit during this process but always dried down flat just fine.

This process is suitable for work on heavy paper (150 or 240 gsm). It involves blending colours on the page, (not in a palette), so the paper needs to be heavy enough to take this process. The surface of lighter 90 gsm paper will deteriorate into ‘eraser curls’.

The examples shown in this paper (the teardrops) do look a little bit unhappy. That's because they have been blown up 400% or 500%, which tends to show up any problems. However, it shows up the details of the colour blending, which is what I want to show, as well.

This is an example of my work using this process

Click on the picture to see it in greater detail.

In summary, this process involves :

1. Laying a base colour over the entire shape (a teardrop in this case)

2. Laying down the colour that serves as the highlight (often white) over the area where the light would hit it

3. Creating an intermediary colour that is a mix between the base colour and the highlighted colour. This mix is created on the page. I create an intermediary colour so there is graduation of colour in the highlighted area rather than a start, or abrupt change in colour.

4. Blending the edges where the intermediary colour and the base colour meet

5. Putting down some more of the highlighting colour at the brightest point where the light would hit the shape.

6. Blend the area where the highlighted colour and the intermediary colour meet.

It is perfectly possible to only use the highlighting colour and the base colour without creating an intermediary colour – but the difference between the two would be starker. In some cases, this may be the effect that is wanted – of a very strong light source hitting an object.

The other situation in which an intermediary colour might be when the base colour is fairly weak and so using white as a highlight would not be starkly different. (and ditto for a darkly coloured object and it’s shading)

I don't talk about not creating an intermediary colour here. Just skip the middle steps .....

There are other ways to achieve this change/blending, as described in the other sections - lymning, colour graduation and dry brushing.

The example below shows both highlighting (with white) and shading (with a darker blue).

I talk below in terms of highlighting, rather than shading. The process for shading an object is exactly the same, just using a darker colour – not a lighter one.

The blue example below shows both highlighting and shading. The detailed red example further below shows only highlighting

Also, I talk below about putting the highlight on the edge of the object I’m working on (these teardrops or petals). Equally, a highlight may be centered on the object, or off to one side of the centre.

Starting with :-

To :-

(step 2, described above)

followed by creation of the intermediary colour – a lighter blue than the base, and blending of the edges of the base blue and lighter blue and then the lighter blue and the white.

and another intermediary colour - a darker blue than the base but lighter than the dark blue, and the blending of the edges of the base blue and darker blue, and the darker blue and the darkest blue.

(steps 3-6, described above)

To result in :-

I’ve used red and yellow below because the colours are stronger and show up better on the white screen/paper. This particular colour combination is a traditional one when painting highlights on a red object in illuminations – rather than red highlighted with white – because minium (red) and lead white pigments reacted together, so yellow was used as the highlight colour instead of white.

The General Principles all apply to this process.

1. Laying the Base Colour

Lay the base on fairly thickly.

  • There needs to be gouache available to be taken up by the brush and used in the highlighting process. But not too thickly, or the paint will crack.

The base (the red) MUST be dry before starting or the colour mixing on the page will be uncontrollable.

2. Laying the Highlight Colour

Lay down a first layer of the yellow (the highlighting colour)

  • You don’t need to wait for this yellow layer to dry to continue working.

3. Making the Graduated Colour and Blending where it’s Edge meets the the Base Colour

This is the main part of the process, where a colour that is a step between the red and the yellow (which is an orange) is created by mixing the two colours on the page. This orange is created over the entire highlighted area.

The edges of the orange need to be blended with the red of the rest of the teardrop ,to prevent an abrupt demarcation line.

These processes are done simultaneously. It’s kind of a ‘play’ process that is best learnt by experience.


Make the brush fairly wet with clean water. It should be just damp enough to add enough water to the paint so the two colours can mix, without excess.

Excess water will cause the two paints to ‘flood and spread’ uncontrollably.

In the yellow area, inside the border intersecting with the red, work the yellow paint with the wet brush so that it mixes with the red base underneath. This will mix to an orange .

At the same time, start the blending process,

Use small brush strokes to brush and float the paint from the orange area into the red area, working over a border area of about 2 mm.

  • You want the paint to ‘float’ just a little and mix naturally. You don’t want it to float and then be so wet it slides down the page.

  • You must be very gentle. :-

You only want to re-activate a little of the red paint to mix into the yellow to make the orange,. The red will quickly overpower the yellow you have laid down.

Make sure not to go down as deep as the paper underneath and start bothering it, or a mess will result as the colours won’t be able to mix or lay well on the torn up paper.

  • Do very little mixing at the edge where the highest area of highlighting occurs at the edge of the teardrop where the light would hit it..

  • Make sure that you clean the brush very frequently. Remember that once you have done a couple of brush strokes, you have 3 colour sources – the yellow on the page, the red on the page, and the newly wetted paint consisting of the two mixed together that the brush has picked up in earlier brush strokes
------- This is important for the remainder of this process ------

If the colours aren’t ‘coming up’ and mixing, use a tiny bit more water .

You will probably need to add more yellow from the palette as you create the orange..

To continue the blending of the orange being created with the red of the rest of the teardrop. Clean the brush and then do small strokes in the other direction (red into orange)

  • Keep this blending area to 2 or 3 mm wide (adjusted to the size of the overall area you are dealing with)

  • While going in the red->orange direction, be careful not to go outside the border of the intersection of the red and yellow and end up mixing heaps of the red base into the yellow. It will darken the mixed highlight colour (the orange) too much. More work should be done orange-> red than red-> orange because of this.

  • If too much water is added and the brush is ‘wading’ in watery paint, clean and dry the brush and use it to pick up the extra. Let it all dry and have another go.

Let it dry for 5 minutes. The colour blending and mix will look better (and different) when dry.

Have a look at the colour of the highlighted area. A bright orange colour that is distinct from the red and the yellow is wanted over the whole of the highlighted area

If it is too dark (you’ll be able to tell with experience) add more yellow from the palette pan and mix lightly into the existing paint., repeating the process above.

Also look at the edge between the orange and the red of the rest of the teardrop. It should be blended gently.

You can try some more of the blending process above, but be very gentle. You don’t want to tear up the paper.

“Lymning” is a good idea at this stage :-

Load all amount of slightly watered down paint onto the brush and do tiny tiny strokes with a light hand. This is the process of “Lymning

Come back with a clean, wetter brush and blur the edges of any of these strokes that stand out too much.

The above should result in something that looks like this :-

5.Laying Fresh Highlighting colour for Intensity

When the orange paint is dry, lay in some more yellow just at the edge of the teardrop where the light would hit it.

  • If the brush picks up orange colour when you are laying the yellow, the paint isn’t dry enough.

6. Blending where the Red and Orange meet

The process of blending the red and the orange edge together was described above.

Repeat this to blend the yellow with the orange.

  • Again, be careful not to touch the yellow beyond the borders where the two colours touch. You want the yellow to be as bright as possible.

Let it dry.

If necessary, when the paint is dry, add a little more yellow at the outermost point of highlighting for greater intensity of colour. This can be done by lymning, or by laying a block of paint and the blending the edges again.

A fine line of the yellow right at the edge may or may not work. It may stand out too much, or it may fit in perfectly. Have a look at the example at the very beginning of this. The examples below don’t have that extra fine line of yellow.

Here’s another one I did. You can see that it’s slightly different, because the process isn’t mechanical – it’s play so they will turn out a bit differently each time.

Possible Problems, Illustrated

A paint ridge at the edge - Here (and it’s hard to see) – the white paint has been built up into a ridge at the edge of the teardrop. It is easy to see on the original and just visible on the screen – which is the problem.

If a ridge begins to build up, use a little water to dissolve and disperse it.

A tide mark - Here there is a distinct watermark between the light blue (the mix of the blue and the white) and the base blue. This is as a result of using too much water. It’s not possible to fix without adding a lot more paint to cover it over, which may create problems in itself.

A Word on the Paint Colours Used for Blending in the Soft Method

Whichever method is used to add one colour on top of another to make a highlight or shade, the base paint underneath is often re-activated by the brush, damp with paint in the new colour, going over it multiple times as the area is worked. It’s something to be avoided when limning or dry brushing, but it is actually part of the process in the Soft Method.

In the Soft Method, the colours are actually mixed together on the page to produce an “intermediary colour” used for part of the highlighting.

It’s important that the base and highlighting colours used DO mix to a suitable intermediary colour. It won’t work if the mixed colour turns out to be mud.

The best book I know that teaches you how not to mix mud colour is “Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green” 2nd edition (preferable to the 1st edition, which is much shorter) by Michael Wilcox.

My way of Lymning

Personally, I can’t lymn as it is described in the books and documents I’ve found.. I’m not patient enough, or don’t understand the process or something.

I suspect that I am too heavy handed with my brush. I’ve read of miniatures created with the lymning method that can take months, and thousands of tiny strokes to create. (Marie Angel, “Painting for Calligraphers”)

When I lymn, I :-

1. Lay the base colour and let it dry

2. Load all amount of slightly watered down paint onto the brush

3. Fill in the area to be highlighted with tiny, tiny strokes with a light hand, developing the area where the most highlighting occurs (the edge) the most.

4. Come back with a clean, wetter brush and blur the edges of any of these strokes that stand out too much.

The ‘going back over with a damp brush’ is not a standard step in the limning process.

- This is what a teardrop looks done like this :-


- It works well done in this way as part of the soft method described above or by itself. It depends on whether I want a softer effect (using the methods combined) or a “choppier” effect..

Traditional Lymning

To lymn in the traditional way is to :-

1. Lay the base colour and let it dry.

2. Lay in very tiny strokes with the highlighting colour. (I describe this further below with reference to Marie Angel’s book)

3. Thin the highlighting colour with a little water

4. Lay another layer of tiny strokes.

This is the technique described in “Basic Painting Techniques”, written by Lady Cinara beguy Urdina.

Refer to her paper in the Files section of the SCA_Scribes_and _Illuminators yahoo group

for a more complete description of the process.

I’ve just described it in a very small nutshell and missed many details.. It’s a wonderful paper that also describes how to lay down gouache paint correctly.

Cennini describes this method with a slight variation.

I really should say that Lady Cinara describes the variation, because Cennini was definitely around first!

The piece he is describing is of a light red colour, being shaded with dark red.

“Then take … the dark red and mix it thinner on the hand or in a shell with pure thin gum water, so that it really is thinner

Then take the same thin dark red (and paint the shaded part, over the light red base colour)

Then take again dark red and temper it with gum water, not too strong, and also not too thin, that is to say as ink, which is not too thin, so that it flows easily from the brush. With this you shade the light red, namely with the watery red, with little strokes, …..”

He means “a drop or two of gum Arabic mixed with distilled water” when he refers to “gum water”. This is providing some binder so the thinned paint will stay on the page. I don’t know the exact proportions.

Lymning using several different colours is used when painting feathers and fur.

Marie Angel describes this at some length in her book “Painting For Calligraphers” and the points seem to apply in general to lymning :

She mentions that :-

  • The first layer may very well be visible in the final version, and each layer will affect the appearance of existing and subsequent layers.

“The brush-strokes of the first layer of colour are the most important. It is very difficult to correct later brush-strokes that are not laid precisely in the right direction or strokes that were too long or too short and not in proportion to the size of the drawing….it is essential that the first layer of brush-strokes should be made without interruption to achieve a smooth and regular finish. It is not easy to paint the hair-strokes evenly as any undue pressure of the brush will lead to some strokes appearing darker than others.”(page 61)

  • The colours should be “fluid – but not so wet that the brush-strokes closely laid together are blurred or run into one another, nor so dry as to cause the brush to drag. If the colour is the right consistency, a large number of strokes may be made with one brush-load of colour and this helps towards uniformity of tone”(page 61)
  • Stir the paint in the palette frequently (page 62)
  • Occasionally stand back and look at the work from a bit of a distance, to gain perspective. (page 62)
  • “… care has to be taken to avoid overworking or the final result will look heavy and unsuitable for a miniature….finally I add finishing touches to details …..”(page 62)

Examples of Traditional Lymning

These are some links to some images where the use of limning can be seen fairly clearly :-


if you click on the image to expand it to the full size, you can see the limning strokes used to make up the man’s purple overdress (I don’t know the correct term for it. Surcoat?)


shows another man in a lymned purple overdress, with white added to show the light shining on him.


shows another man in a limned pink and umber overcoat, with a darker brown (burnt umber or sepia?) added to show the shading on his garment


you can see the wateriness of the shading lines if you blow up this image


shows leaves and flowers

Graduated Colour

The Graduated Colour method is used mostly for blending, but you can blend the colour up into a highlight or down into a shadow.

This method is where several tints or shades of the base colour are mixed into separate palettes and consecutively laid down, with their edges gently blended together by another of the methods described here.

This is “Leonard” – a grotesque from the Luttrell Psalter that I painted. Leonard is my own name for him

Click on him to see him so that you can see the differing shades of orange, and the blending of them, on the main part of his body.

When blending main part of Leonard’s body, I used 3 different shades of orange. Mixing paint on the page resulted in an additional 2 shades (darkest -<> lightest orange), achieving the graduating colour seen above. So it’s a combination of two different methods – my “soft method” used to blend the edges of several tints of orange together to achieve a dark to lighter to dark again effect.

This process is described in more detail in the mails authored by

Master RanthulfR AsparlundR (Randy Asplund) and THL Suzanne de la Ferté (Suzanne Booth) archived in the mailing list for December 2004 under the thread name “Painting Question ….. “

Dry Brushing

Another method, which gives a result that looks a little different on the page is ‘dry brushing’. There is another important reason for using this method rather than the wet one – the colours used, as discussed in the problem section above.

I use a small old brush for this. It does tend to destroy the brush in the blending part of the process (step 4).

1. The base colour is laid down and let dry.

2. The highlighting colour (at normal gouache consistency, or if anything, a tiny bit thicker) is loaded onto the brush, and then wiped off on the edge of the palette.

I then wipe it against the back of my hand so that I can see exactly how paint is left in the brush.

(Using scrap paper would be equally as effective)

Only a tiny bit of paint should be left in the brush.

3. To lay down the highlighting colour, the brush is stoked firmly in the direction of base colour towards and into the area to be highlighted, being careful not go outside the edges of the shape

  • The dry brushing should be heaviest where it matches the highlighting colour, and get lighter and lighter, with fewer layers of build up as it progresses across into the base colour, to create a gentle blending of the two.

4. , To blend the edges of the highlighting colour into the base colour, quickly and before the paint dries, stroke over the border of the highlighting and base colours, towards the highlighted area, hard – right down to the ferrule of the brush without actually scraping the paint.

It’s not as clear on the screen as it is in the original – but doing this does make quite a difference to the blending of the two colours.


Angel, Marie – Painting for Calligraphers, The Overlook Press, New York, 1989.

Lady Cinara beguy Urdina, A.S. 39, Shire of Cae Mor, Basic Painting Techniques, Files of the SCA_Scribes_and_Illuminators Yahoo Group, 2004

Master RanthulfR AsparlundR

THL Suzanne de la Ferté

Painting Question …..” thread, December 2004

Thompson D.V., translator - Cennini, Cennino, : The Craftman’s Handbook, The Italian “Il Libro dell’Arte”, New York Dover Publications, 1933

(Available on-line at

Wilcox, Michael “Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green”, 2nd edition, Search Press Ltd, England, 2001


copyright Elmsley Rose 2006. Feel free to copy, but please do keep my name attached to it.

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