Calligraphy Mistakes, Making And Managing Them

If there’s a way to make a scribal mistake I’ve probably made it. Especially in calligraphy. 

I’ve miscopied words and lines, skipped lines, repeated words, misspelled words, and been misinformed. I’ve spilled ink, changed hand style, and misjudged line spacing. 

Being tired, too caffeinated, stressed, or rushed adds to my shakiness. 

There are things I do to limit Titivilus reach, that scribal patron demon. 

When I was Calontir’s Backlog Scroll Clerk, I created scrolls for all reigns, so I learned to double check all names and dates. (I verified the recipient’s authenticity too, which is automatic when working with current monarchs.)  

Depending on the scroll style (century, culture, and source) I have different ways to layout spacing. To draw lines I’ve used the wonderful Ames lettering guide, made tic marks with a ruler and pencil, or used a computer mock-up and light box to design my spacing.  

I’ve never been able to memorize the text. I’m insecure even a few words at a time. I either pencil in the text on my pre-drawn lines and callig over that or write over the mock-up text in the appropriate calligraphy style. Even so, there are the long “s”, abbreviations, and ligatures to include. Practice is the key.

I’ve spilled ink and drink on my script too. I keep both well away from my scroll. I use a cover sheet over completed sections, particularly when I get to illumination. 

Pen problems also plague me. Even when I practice the script to judge the letter size or develop a new script hand, I check my pen before writing the text. I clean nibs and sharpen them gently, regularly and as needed. I check the ink thickness and its current quality. It may have deteriorated or need thinning since last used.

I practice the script to reduce inconsistency, more when it is new to me.

With all this, mistakes still happen.

I have a knack for having to start over at least once, omitting a line or misjudging line spacing. I make sure I have back-up Bristol board or pergamenata available for these. (Much later, I will scrape off all ink from the pergamenata to use the other side for a different scroll.)

While misspelled words are period, all proper names and dates must be correct. If I make an otherwise small spelling error I might leave it or insert the letter near by. I may also write over the very dry error and using a sharp, curved knife gently scrape away the undesired letter parts. It’s important to not gouge the support or over-work this.

To my thinking, illumination is easier to correct than calligraphy. After laying out my design in pencil I always go over it with a black .005 Micron pen and then completely erase the pencil. If my design doesn’t work out just right I might add an extra leaf or ten, change the border’s size, change the color. 

For color in the wrong place, the wrong color or small smudges, I first apply fresh water, then blot it with a clean small piece of paper towel. This may take a few tries. After letting it thoroughly dry, I might also carefully use an eraser to remove more color. Because white gouache covers well, I sometimes use it over the initial color before painting my alternate choice. It may takeIpaint one or two coats of the proper color.
If I make the silly mistake getting paint in my calligraphy, besides using one or two of the previous hints, I’ve sometimes covered it up with little appropriate leaves or flowers. Which creative cover-up depends on the scroll’s style. 

Hopefully, these are all the possible errors. But if there’s a will to make more I will find the way. Solving mistakes is how I learn best. Many solutions are given in this excellent Lochac Scribes’ College web page by Alarice Beatrix von Thal

If you have suggestions to help mistakes my readers and I would love to read them. Please, leave them a comment below. Help us fight Titivilus together.

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