The challenge for today is to use vintage lettering in your art work. This can be copyright free images from the internet or letters you make yourself.
I’m currently reading a biography of a person from the 1400’s. In this book are several examples of ornate lettering from historic documents. Due to the time period of the persons life, many of the documents are from church records and royal decrees. I am fascinated by the elaborate way in which these documents were written. Since only the very wealthy and highly educated of the time could read and write, other than those within the clergy, few would have been able to read them.
The tools used to create these breathtaking works were miserable at best. Pens were made of cane, reed, bird quill or metal. To make a quill with cane or reed, first they removed the center of the cane-the pith-then carved the tip to a point or an angle. Lastly, a small slit was cut in the tip. The hollow made where the pith was removed held the ink, which flowed through the slit to the tip. Feather quills were made in the same way and were usually more flexible and lighter than a reed or cane quill. While the metal pens were durable, the others could be quickly sharpened or adjusted by cutting with a pen knife to suit that writers preference.
The pen knife had many uses for the scribe. Not only could it sharpen the quill, but it was also used to scrape off their mistakes. It was the ancient scribes eraser.
The parchment used was made from the skin of animals, usually cows, sheep or goats. The methods used to make the parchment weren’t consistent and also cost a lot of money. There were times a scribe would be writing on their parchment and come upon areas of hair. The use of pumice stone helped smooth the uneven parchment with limited success. The most costly parchment was usually reserved for monks who were transcribing the Bible. Legal and historic documents were put on lesser quality parchment.
Because there were no reliable light sources, other than daylight hours, the scribes worked as long as they could see to do so. Candles provided little light to help the scribes produce the intricate letters and decorative elements you see in these fascinating works.
And even though there are errors in some of these parchments, the efforts made by these dedicated scribes should be greatly admired. Their working conditions were miserable-imagine working hunched over for hours at a time in blistering heat or frigid temperatures, year round, with poor tools and lousy light. The monotony of transcribing must have taken a toll on these unsung artists as well.
So take a bit of time to admire the beautiful lettering and the dedication of the scribe. Truly one of the hardest working and least appreciated group of artists ever.