SCA Award V. Medieval Illuminated Art. What’s the difference?

A scroll created to appear
like a two page spread.

Recently a beginning scribe asked me, “What’s the difference between a scroll and a period manuscript?” I thought you might also want to know. 

When you receive an SCA award you’re given a fancy commemorative document. We call these “scrolls”, even though they’re seldom rolled up. 

The biggest difference you’ll find between a scroll and a medieval manuscript is their layout. SCA scrolls and historic manuscript pages both lay flat. But our scrolls are commonly designed to be single page works. Manuscript pages were planned in groups with two facing pages sometimes designed as one visual work. 

The second difference you find is their purpose. Illuminated texts were usually multipage reading materials. Religious, educational, literary, or historical books. Although some were rolled up prayer rolls, genealogies, and almanacs, that were used like personal infographics.

The oldest known illuminated charter.
1159, for Scottish King Malcolm IV  

SCA scrolls are our “legal document”, giving the receiver rights to be in a Kingdom or Baronial order. Few Medieval legal documents were illuminated. Although the earliest illuminated legal document was an 1159 charter for Malcolm IV, King of Scotland, it isn’t until late SCA period that dramatic illumination frequently decorates them.

So Medieval manuscript layout relates little to SCA customs. Your challenge, as a scribe, is to combine Medieval manuscript art with SCA required elements, such as the seals, signatures and personal details.

The SCA scroll process is different, too. 

Pre 13th century illuminated manuscript parts were worked on by several skilled people within one scriptorium. After that book artisans had their own business or worked for one that was near others in the lay book trade. 

Omitting the parchment maker, material preparer, and bookbinder because we commonly don’t do similar skills; design, gilding, calligraphy, simple and complex illumination were done by separate people. In the SCA an original award is designed, gilded, calliged and painted by one person. Preprints or charters have one person design the award around the planned text, work up and outline the design but it is painted by many throughout the Kingdom.

Because scribes work alone we are encouraged to learn and master all the scribal skills. That takes time. Until then you share the tasks. With careful timing, you hand your beautiful work to someone you trust to do what you haven’t learned yet. Or that person might show you how they do it. 

There are two forces that influence an SCA scroll, the historic and the current middle ages. Balancing their impact on a scroll’s creation is a goal you seek to reach.

Related Prior Post:
The Scribal Yin Yang Puzzle

Categories: Musings

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