How to Find the Script Your Persona Might Have Used

In Russian Persona

Recently on the SCA Scribes Facebook page, I came across the question “What script would my persona have used? The short answer is, “it depends.” Of course, there’s more…

So my newest readers know, an SCA persona is “the fictional person you wish to have been, had you lived prior to 1600 A.D.” It embraces your name and the circumstances you create for this fictitious, historic you. Some call this your persona story.

To answer the “script” question, you first need a persona developed further than name, date, and location. Baron Master Modar Neznanich’s 70 compiled persona questions show the information most consider needed for a well-developed persona. While these questions are not comprehensive, they are a starting point. 

I then want to know when and where your perona lived. If your persona is from a Latin script writing country and you are only interested in generalities I’d look at David Harris’ The Art of Calligraphy online page 13 and 14. I have the hardback book and love it. Sadly, it’s no longer in print.
If you want to be specific, the next circumstance is whether all people could read or write from your place and time. Did the “class” to which you belong (i.e., royalty, nobility, merchant, middle, artisan, slave, etc.) read or write? Also important might be your education, occupation, and gender. These details affect more changes more between individuals the later in time you lived. 

Your class is important because writing implements were not easy to acquire. Paper wasn’t available in Europe until after the 11th century and parchment making was a lengthy process. This limited who used writing skills. 

Depending on the time and place, scribes were found in king’s courts, Noble’s manors and businesses. They are the reason we have information on them today. It’s possible your persona might know how to sign their name, but not know how to write a sentence. 

If your persona would not know a Latin script, the questions still apply, but the resources and answers are different. In that case, I would start by asking someone with a persona similar to yours who has been in the SCA longer than you. 

If you live in the Kingdom of Calontir you might find someone by looking at the Calontiri Wikispaces‘ Cultures page. Be aware, although helpful, individual Wikispaces are created by volunteers. I found them encouraging springboards to further research.

Some persona details may lead to a dead end. For example, if your persona is female for a time, place and class you choose you may have to be creative for an excuse to be able to read and write. You won’t find that answer specifically. You’ll need to determine “why” your persona can or can’t write.

The gist is that details count. Each feature you add contributes to your persona’s strength. Whether you can only sign your name, keep a common place book, 
write a legal text or letter multiple script styles depends on these questions and the ones that arise from them. 


Me as Jehanne Bening

In the SCA I am known as Jehanne Bening. I am from the town of Bruges in the duchy of Burgundy. I work in the Sanders Bening‘s workshop, the father of Simon Bening.In 1486 he joined the Bruges Guild of St. Luke. Sadly my boss died in 1519. 

I began by looking on Medieval Writing’s index of scripts web page and found one 15th-century French cursive document hand. Unfortunately, the resource is too rumpled to use for analysis. Still, this web page offers many possibilities.

With the dates and location, I went to Pinterest to see if others interested in late 15th century Burgundy had pinned images with the script. The first one I selected, when going to its original site proved to be too early. At least the image went to a documentable source and not just a pretty picture. 

The second image I tried linked to a pretty picture that included the source. I copied the source into my browser and wallah it wen
t to at British Library manuscript, with tons of information and images with a script. The website provided the following information.

Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun
Title Roman de la Rose
Origin Netherlands, S. (Bruges)
Date c. 1490-c. 1500
Language French
Script Gothic cursive

Harley 4425 Roman de la Rose f.42

Everything I hoped for. The only thing better would have been if Sanders Bening had done the work himself. 

From what I’ve researched Sanders left no known works even though guild records show he was active then.

From the British Library’s digitized manuscripts, I can analyze the script and develop a style Jehanne would have known. To find other related sources I entered the specifics from the first source into the British Library’s advanced search. The search engine provided 20 manuscripts I might use.

Exciting. Looks like the next personal project for me will be developing a script Jehanne could have used.  

Related Prior Posts:

The Stalking Scribe
How To Google For Illuminated Manuscript Inspirations

Categories: How-to, Persona

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