A bit of Philosophy, a bit of Advice, maybe even a bit of History...
This started out as a sort of 'Advice to Scribes' thing, and has become more of an infrequently updated journal of my thoughts on the scribal arts...
So you've got yourself a pen, and maybe a book or two, and you want to give this calligraphy thing a try, eh? Good. The East always needs new scribes. We give out many awards in any given reign, and the more that can be spread out over many hands, the better. Mistress Michel Almond de Champagne is currently the person who is in charge of the Scribes of the Kingdom, and if you contact her she will be more than happy to start you on your scribal journies. It can be tremendously frustrating, as well as tremendously rewarding.We certainly feel that the latter is the better choice, and I personally live for that moment in court when they say "scroll by Adhemar de Villarquemada" and turn it around. Try really hard to do it because you enjoy it. Don't feel obligated, don't feel pressured. I know this is easier said than done, but try. Another thing is DON'T BE DISCOURAGED!! I know there are people in the kingdom who are better than you. I know there are people in the kingdom who are better than me. It needn't matter. there will probably always be those who are better than you. This is true even amongst the Laurels. We tend to be our own worst critics in scribal matters. Do your best work now, strive to make it better than the last time, don't quit and don't be self conscious about your progress. If you do this you will be amazed at your progress. I personally never thought I was going to get much better than a certain point, but I recently looked at a scroll I did a couple of years ago and I am amazed.
For the most part scribes work alone, but there are a number of Scriptoria, or groups of scribes. This can be a great deal more interesting than just sitting alone at your place and writing, rubricating, foliating and illuminating all by your lonesome. I run a Scriptorium on Tuesday nights, at my house, and I have about 8 people who regularly show up. Sometimes I teach calligraphy, sometimes illumination, sometimes document wording, or heraldry or history. Sometimes we just sit around and argue about angels and pinheads and the like. I really think it's important not to operate too much in a vacuum. I can bounce ideas off my students, they can bounce ideas off me. And when it happens just right there is nothing like the silence of a room full of scribes concentrating on their work. It's tremendously fulfilling. Also, another main point, we share books. I have some, they have some, and they wander back and forth. That is a real help, as many books are quite expensive.
You will probably become a bookaholic. I spend a great deal of time poking around old book shops looking for out of print books on wildly obscure topics. Be careful what you buy, though. There was a great deal of stuff put out in the 1800's, during the Gothic revival, and it is mostly awful, third hand copies of copies, edited and arranged by the author/artist. Try to avoid these, and go for books that have pictures of original pieces, or that are reproductions of actual books. On the library page there is a list of books that are really good, put together by myself and Mistress Eloise. Some are expensive, some are not. Ditto with the in print status. Take your time, build a library as you can. Also don't be shy about using your local libraries as sources. Its cheaper than buying them, is less permanent. Drop hints around Christmas/Chanukka/Solstice/Whatever or your birthday, and save your pennies.
I haven't updated this in a while, so here goes. At 12th night several years ago the Crown of the East took leave of their senses, and made me a Laurel. Which, I have to say put a huge brake on my productivity as a scribe, though I can't really say why. I hardly sat down at my drawing board for a long time after that, and didn't do a productive thing, scribally at least in... well, a long time. I will say that this coincided with my getting a fairly well paying job, which lasted about a year (a consulting position that was supposed to last only a couple of weeks at best...) and resulted in an explosion of my library, which was very nice. And also in some personal issues that led to the closing of the Scriptorium that I had been running for a while. But still, it bothers me that I slacked off so badly. It's not that I haven't done other stuff, I did a lot of research that I'd been meaning to do for a while, so in an odd sort of way it was liberating, but the fact remains that I have not actively practiced the art for which I received my Laurel since, well, since I received my Laurel. Thus the image you see here, with the presentation of swords. I'm not sure whether I would have burned out anyway, I was kinda on the edge of it, but I guess I got all unfocused when the Peerage thing happened... It was definitely a double edged kind of thing.
So, I spent a lot of time doing other stuff, and doing the Calligraphy and Illumination stuff as a sideline. Did a lot of garb research, a lot of persona research, slowly started to do some more scribal things, but it was mostly peerages for friends, and a couple of last minute things on behalf of the Crown, and some research into period wordings for scrolls. That was some fun, and I taught a class in it with some good results, and enjoyed it. But I wasn't really ready to get back into the grind. I'm still not, really. I have a fairly large personal backlog to work through, and I seem to have become incapable of meeting a deadline, scribally at least, and that's not really a good place to be as a regular working scribe. I mean, I suppose it's what I get for wanting to do really 'over the top' stuff for friends, and I have certainly pushed the envelope of my skills beyond what it was in a number of ways. I've gone to using more period styles, using hands constructed from the examplars I'm working from rather than a generic hand, using more period methods and more period wordings. I have come to learn, however, that all of those improvements add to the time it takes to make a document so I have also learned to look closely at what I am doing before I start doing it, and that I need better time planning skills, or perhaps more realistic expectations of what is going to happen when. And a realization that 3 hours of sleep a night for several weeks on end leads to crashing hard eventually, and that eventually usually translates to the week before the event, when the document is in the final crunch of needing to be done. Until I can learn to do that, and until I can get through a significant portion of the backlog I already have, I'm not sure I can work for the Kingdom with any clear conscience. I am actually getting more into scribal activities than I had been recently, starting to do more work again, and to actively make an effort to clear the backlog. But I find I don't really care for the 'scroll grind' that working for the Signet's office involves, and I'm not sure how far back into that I'm willing to get. The burned child, and all that...
What has been a big factor in renewing my interest in all the scribal arts is my apprentice. I used to run a weekly scriptorium in my local area, and it was a lot of fun, and very productive for a while. Then for various personal reasons between the members it basically collapsed, and I went back to being a solo scribe. I had forgotten what a pleasure it is to be teaching somebody, and to have someone in the room when you're working. That quiet camaraderie that comes of being able to look up in the middle of a sentence and say to the room at large 'How the Devil do you spell...' and have someone actually respond, that give and take of 'Are you sure that's really what you want to do?' and 'Oooh, yeah. Lets do that!' and of course the frequent classic 'Silly monkey, WHAT were you thinking...'. It's really given a new boost to my work, and to his as well, and also a new drive to my desire to move to and work with period materials. We've just put up the whiteboard to list all the prospective projects and researches we want to do (in a number of fields, not just scribal stuff. It's going to be a wide ranging list...), and we're planning on putting up web-based how to's of pretty much everything, taking pictures of stuff as I teach him and webbing them for the general edification of Scribes everywhere. See the Laboratory for what we've got up so far, and check back for updates. I hope to have something up on a monthly basis, but I can't guarantee that... We will do as best we can. All in all I'd say it's been so far (and bids fair to remain...) one of the most valuable relationships I've ever had... I can't remember when I've had this much fun.
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