Tools of the Trade

More likely than not, future manuscripts will be produced with more authentic materials.  The last-minuteness of this project has affected my ability to lay hands on real goose feathers, for example, and precluded the creation of my own inks (using this recipe for iron-gall ink: Monastic Ink: Linking Chemistry and History).  Still, I’m working with the most authentic resources I can as supplied by the local and wonderful Asel Art.

Here, then, are my tools of the trade for this project:

When I was an undergraduate, my mentor was Dr. Mark Allen at UTSA.  He hosted weekly one-hour sessions for a few friends and I with topics that centered on the medieval, but included things like the Pre-Raphaelites and creating modern copies of manuscripts.  This book — Edward Johnston’s Writing, Illuminating & Lettering — was originally shown to me in one of these sessions and introduced to me as something that previous students of Dr. Allen had made use of in their experiments with quill-making.  Naturally, when I decided to make my own manuscript this was the first tool I sought out.  It is an invaluable resource to anyone looking for a guide to producing hand-lettered, illuminated works.

In the first meeting of my class at the Southwest School of Art, we were asked to think about what type of book we wanted to make and how big.  We were then given sheets of blank paper and allowed to make mock-ups of our books-to-be, which you can see in this picture.  After deciding that I wanted to illuminate my book, I went out and found the necessaries for laying gold leaf: the leaf itself, pounce, the red base coat and adhesive, and fine brushes for painting on the glue and laying the leaf.

At this point, with five weeks to go and a full-time job taking up most of my days, I decided to give in and buy some ink.  I was scrupulous in my choice and bought something as close to natural as I could.  The feathers I bought in an attempt to make quills were, however, very far from natural.  They were foul, synthetic things, but as it turns out it is really hard to get real goose feathers in South Texas.  Imagine that.  In the end, I will probably use a modern calligraphy pen.

Next time I hope to use more “authentic” materials, but for a first attempt I think these will work out nicely.


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