12 years in the making – Nihthauk’s Bronze Ring Scroll

On March 31, 2001, Damian Nihthauk was elevated into the Company of the Bronze Ring the highest level order for fencing in the Middle Kingdom.  Finally on July 6, 2013 he received his scroll commemorating his elevation.  Here in the Midrealm of the SCA it is normal to receive your scroll the day you are admitted to an order or are given an award.  The story of why that didn’t happen is one filled with people who were commissioned to do a scroll but never completed it.  This blog entry however is about the story of the scroll being completed.

I was in need of fencing armor.  My current set of armor is five years old and only barely passed the last drop test it was given in April, 2013.  I had commissioned two people to make fencing armor for me starting in May of 2012.  Both flaked out on me leaving me without new fencing armor.  Finally I contacted a friend of mine who is known for her excellent fiber arts skills Mistress Isabel Moundoghter, OL.  She agreed to make me armor for cash.  At the fitting done in May, 2013 she asked if I was willing to do trade for the armor instead.  Trade  was fine with me and I was commissioned to do her husband Damian Nihthauk’s Bronze Ring Scroll.

I had been doing research into documents that granted arms of various kinds and found one that was the perfect inspiration for Nihthauk’s scroll.  It was a Patent of Arms from 1573 written by Queen Elizabeth I.  As Nighthauks’ pesona is that of an Elizabethan Privateer, I could think of nothing better to use as my inspiration.  The original document was  24 inches by 30 inches, (609 mm by 761 mm). The scroll I did was not so large being only 11 inches by 14 inches (279 mm by 356 mm).   Inspiration means to inspire, not to copy exactly, I was not trying to make a replica document.

I did do two rather modern things with this scroll.  First of all in the inspiring document you will note that there are no paragraphs. At this point in time they did use punctuation and paragraphs for many documents they did not do so for this document. They had a lot to say and a fixed amount of space to say it in.  I was not so constrained by the volume of my text and I wanted to make this piece pleasant to the eye of the person for whom it was being made.  The other modern thing I did was the gilding of the illuminated initial.  I used 23k patent gold which is much thinner than the gold sheets they would have had in period.  I overcame this simply by laying down multiple layers of the gold during the gilding process.  Excess gold flakes were collected as much as could be and put into a plastic container to be made into shell gold at a later date.

I used sheep skin parchment I had made.  My research has shown that legal documents were almost always done on parchment that was not from a cow.  Cow parchment (velum) can be erased without it being detected apparently, but on other parchments it can be detected.  This was a form of medieval tamper resistance.  For ink I used one of the Iron Gall Inks that I took 1st place with at the Midrealm Kingdom A&S competition.  I wrote using a quill pen. The script is a version of Gothic Literra Bastarda. So now you know why I spent some time with the Book of Hours – Tours looking at the script.  I shamelessly stole the “a” from this script as I find it more please than other “a”s from I’ve seen in other versions of this script.  I lined the scroll using a lead/tin stylus and left the lines in as you may recall from the inspiring document.  Though their lines were almost certainly drawn with ink.

So without further ado…


By the way the lighting one uses to take a picture is very important.  Below is practically the exact same picture with better lighting.


Of course these are just the text.  Here is the scroll in its entirety.


You may notice that the bottom looks a bit curled and that I’m using “weights” at the top of the scroll as well.  Yes, I stored the parchment rolled up and had to flatten it.  Unfortunately it didn’t flatten all the way by the time it cam to ink the scroll.  The scroll will flatten out just fine in another week or two if stored flat.

A closer view of the script and oh yes the illuminated initial.

A closer view of the script and oh yes the illuminated initial.

For some reason the quill pen was giving me some problems at the beginning of the scroll and I think it shows just a little.  I first tried sharpening the quill pen but that didn’t solve the problem.  I ended up re-cutting the quill and from then on everything went well.

Who is that person in the illuminated initial?

Queen Elizabeth I gilded in the illuminated initial.

Queen Elizabeth I gilded in the illuminated initial.

Doing proper research of materials, tools, and manuscripts changes your view on how things were in the late middle ages and early renaissance.  In fact it changes your view of most things.  Learning to use and work with the tools and materials used in period creates an understanding and knowledge that simply is not possible any other way.  As you can guess from this blog I am all for learning and researching by reading authoritative articles and books on the subject matter.  Learning by doing is also very important. And to get a true understanding of this art form, you must do both in my opinion.

It was an honor to be asked to do this award for Damian Nihthauk.  He and his family have always been kind and helpful to me and my family.  When I stayed the night at their place for Kingdom A&S, I of course took time to look at the court scrolls they had hanging on their walls.  I had already been commissioned by Isabel to do Nighthauk’s Bronze Ring scroll by this time.  In looking at the scrolls on their wall I would have been remiss not to comment as both a scribe and a fencer that I noticed he was missing a scroll.  His response?  “Yes, THE scroll is missing.”

Nihthauk, you can fill in the empty space on your wall now.


One response to “12 years in the making – Nihthauk’s Bronze Ring Scroll

  1. Pingback: The Year in Review | scribescribbling·

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