So here is some practice work I started on November 2, 2012 and finished up on November 3, 2012.
I redacted out a name thus the block of white in the text.
As you can likely tell from the piece this piece was done using period style tools and materials I have acquired . A lead/tin stylus made the lines on the paper, feather quills cut by me, and ink made by me drawn from a period style ink pot written on a period style scribal desk.
As you can see the ink is alternately dark and light. I believe this was regulated better in period, at least in part, by the rather large amounts of gum arabic used in the ink compared to what we use today in modern inks. I actually have several plans for future batches of ink to test this but that is another blog post. One thing that happened while writing with quill and this ink was that a second stroke always dumped more ink into the existing stroke it came in contact with. So letters that have a secondary stroke near the top of the letter are more likely to be dark than letters that don’t.
Obviously I need to work with what I have and that means changing my normal rhythm of calligraphy to what will work for the tool and materials I am using. Dipping the pen more frequently and making sure to drain the excess ink before putting it to writing surface will certainly even out the look of the ink on the writing surface. Paper in this case is Bristol Vellum. Nice paper to work with.
You have probably noticed two different letter X heights. That is because I used two different quills cut to two different sizes. I also cut the quill slightly differently to see what would happen. I purposefully cut the tines of the smaller quill to be more shallow across the shaft of the pen proportionally speaking. In comparison to the larger pen with a proportionally deeper barrel at the tines was to release the ink in a more easy fashion. This caused the ink flow to be faster and made controlling the ink to be more difficult, thus causing the quality of the calligraphy to degrade.
What you’re probably not seeing is that the lines were spaced using a divider. A “Divider” is a tool that looks very much like the compass you use to draw circles. The difference is that instead of one point being sharp and the other being graphite both points are sharp metal points. You take the metal tips and place one on either side of the X height of a letter and from that you can walk the points of the divider down your paper or velum or whatever writing surface you are using. In my case from past experience I drew a line down the side of the paper first so that the tines would stay one on top of the other ensuring the distance stays the same between lines. Of course you need to prick the writing surface where you want the lines. I find it easiest to prick at every tine. And what I’ve seen from the manuscripts I’ve handled this was the practice. Not that you can broadly generalize over a 1300 year period for all of Europe nor should you.
Drawing the lines with the lead/stylus is actually very easy. Just be careful not to push down too hard as you can and will (I did) bend the stylus. After all it is a soft metal alloy. Also you can avoid bending the stylus not laying it down mostly sideways when you draw the lines. If it does bend, just gently bend it back while it is still warm and it will straighten back up nicely. Also you may have noticed the lines get lighter in the middle and darker at the ends. I pushed harder in the middle than I did at either end. Maybe a light hand is needed all the way or perhaps something else was happening. I shall test this another time.
Do you need to pounce the surface before using the stylus? I did not for this paper. I have been told doing so is best when using velum. Pouncing your velum before inking it is also a good idea so all around pouncing your velum before laying it out and writing on it seems to be wise at least for the writing area. If you are decorating EG painting maybe not, and for illumination (gilding) no, don’t.
Comments and thoughts are most welcome!