Guide To Blank Border Scroll Creation

M. Rolf Hobart’s blank border entries
at the Barony of Mag Mor’s 2017 Cattle Raids.

At last falls Cattle Raids event in the Barony of Mag Mor, I was asked by a passing RUSH student, “What are those?” as he pointed to the blank scrolls’ displayed. I admit they might look a bit lost to the scribal-less-aware. So, what are they?

The short answer is: Blank borders are the illumination only part of a scroll. The Royal Scribe uses them when Their Majesties want to give a spontaneous award that isn’t done by a preprint. 

Blank Borders give us so much more. They are a good way to transition from preprints to original scroll creation, especially after you’ve received several compliments on your preprints. They are good for anyone that’s concerned about deadlines. They are also good if you want to try a new illumination style or you just have the itch to paint. And blank borders are a low-stress way for a scribe to contribute to their Kingdom. 

If you are new to doing Blank Borders, there are a few things to be aware when you’re doing one:

  • You don’t have to use expensive animal skin vellum or pergamenata unless you want to. You can use heavyweight, acid-free paper such as smooth Bristol board you buy at a convenient craft store. 
  • Use a size that is close to a standard size frame. It saves the recipient money if they avoid a non-standard custom frame and instead use one that’s stock.
  • Leave plenty of room for text and margins. Save at least an 8×10 inch general area for text if the paper is 11×14 inches. Margins should be at least 1/2 inch or more. Tip: If you keep your illumination to the top and left sides the calligrapher’s efforts aren’t limited and signatures and seals aren’t constrained. 
  • If you are new to original scrolls, know that you can use the same gouache you use for preprints. Outlines can be inked over light pencil with either small tipped black Pigma Micron pens or pointed dip pens with black ink.
  • Since the blank border may be used for any award not done by preprint or SCA charter, keep the art generic and SCA proper. Don’t include peerage-style art or gory miniatures because you don’t know the context in which the blank border might be used.

Once you’ve completed your illumination give it to anyone serving as retinue at an event. Or if you aren’t attending one soon, give it to a friend to hand-off for you. Retinue know what to do with it and take care it gets to the Royal Scribe.

In Calontir there are recurring event’s that often have a Blank Border Competition, such as Lilies War and Coronation. These are fun because you get to see what other illuminators create. 

The specifics for the 2018  Lilies War Blank Border Competition were: 

  • Leave a space for text no smaller than 6”x 9”.
  • Include a space/circle for the award (if you would like it to go for a specific award, which might help you tailor your illuminations, you may paint the award in).
  • Include a space for the device of the person receiving the award, so it is more personalized (not a requirement, but it is a thoughtful touch). 

At the end of the competition all entries will be given to the Crown as largess, so make sure to take pictures/scan your Blank Borders before you go to war! These borders help TRMs out by being on hand when they want to award a Grant on short notice, which also keeps the pressure off the scribes. 

Judging will be based upon Kingdom Criteria for illumination (to be found on the A&S website), and basic documentation (3”x5” card) is required, but more documentation is always better! (If you cannot be at war on competition day, but would still like to enter, your border may be delivered by someone else in your stead.)  

Is there a Prize? Yes! A handmade period style blank book. 

The coming Coronation has a Largess Display. This isn’t a competition, but anyone that has made things for the coming reign to give to others will have their work shown for all to see. Blank Borders fit nicely in that display too. I hope you do a blank border soon. Your Kingdom appreciates your service.

Categories: How-to

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