How To Layout A Scroll

Scroll creation is like cooking. You begin the creative process knowing for whom you want to cook and when you want to serve it. You collect the essential ingredients you want to use, calligraphy, paint, and support. Using medieval sources, you add a pinch of intuition, a dash of inspiration, stir them together hoping for a tasty result. The best scroll art harmonizes flavors to create an effective dish, sometimes with spices of surprise or humor.

The backbone ingredient of cooking an SCA scroll is the layout. A thorough layout plan saves preparing the dish by ruling, and lettering, only to realize you have insufficient space for illumination and standard framing. With a thorough layout, you know the space the text and illumination will occupy and even plan wiggle-room. You may also change ingredients to enhance the scroll’s visual impact.

Scroll layout–design element’s page placement–can come from a recipe. However great scrolls happen when the scribe cooks with quality ingredients, experience, intuition, and planning.

Scroll size, format, level of sophistication in calligraphy and illumination, and style are left to the scribe. There is no hierarchy of scroll sizes or calligraphy and illumination sophistication required by the award’s level. I try to include real gold and vellum when provided to me for peerage scrolls. I use pergamenata and gold gouache for lower level awards. Those are my options. I would change them if I were tapped to do a scroll for a close friend.

While my first love is illumination, the text is always the primary motif ingredient. I plan any art around the text. When I plan ahead there are times the text arrives too late or too lengthy for my intended design. That can be handled by doing a small picture first and lettering a mostly unilluminated writ when the text arrives. 

Layout of a simple scroll

A simple page layout, like the one to the right, is a basic recipe for lettering a couple of lines, a current certificate or calligraphy art. But scrolls are different than modern certificates. They use layout and design differently than today’s graphic art. An SCA scroll’s purpose is to emulate a medieval manuscript or legal page. Many graphic art “rules” don’t apply. Scroll layout is based on page design found in medieval manuscripts.  

The best way to learn about SCA scroll layout is to look at a huge number of historic resources from all period times and places. And continue looking at them. Also look at as many other scribe’s scrolls as possible. Notice the paper size, letter size, lettering position and how illumination elements such as drawings, painting, color, lights and darks create a feeling of unity and balance. Look at the amount and depth of the details. I never get over looking at the enormous skill and detail displayed in the best medieval manuscripts. 

The next step is to experience the process yourself.  Stir your curiosity, creativity, and skills together and cook some medieval style manuscript art or a tasty SCA scroll.

Related Prior Post:

What’s an Award Scroll’s Purpose?

6 Scroll Design Tips

My Related Pinterest Board:
Manuscript: Layout

Related Class Handout:

Scroll Layout a detailed outline

Related External Webpage:
Calontir Scribes’ Handbook

Categories: How-to

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