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The Making of an Illuminated Manuscript

SWS Blog

The Scribal Workshop Blog


The Making of an Illuminated Manuscript

Lucas Tucker

First the the parchment is cut, guidelines and margins are marked (drawn with a lead stylus or pressed in with a bronzed stylus or penned with brazilwood ink)


Once this is done, the writing is completed with a goose quill and iron gall ink. leaving space for the illumination and capital letters.


Once the calligraphy is complete, the capital letters are drawn with a lead stylus (or pencil)


Once the capitals are drawn, the remainder of the illumination is drawn, attaching it to the capitals.


After the lead point or pencil drawing is finished, all of the underdrawing is inked with iron gall ink and a goose quill.


Once it is thoroughly dry (about a day) the lead point is erased with stale bread (or th pencil is erased with a rubber eraser)


The size (or glue) for the gilding is laid down, this is typcally gesso, gum ammoniac, or garlic juice and glair.


It takes 3-5 layers of gum ammoniac to give a lightly raised surface texture to the page, and about 1 day of drying.


All of the details that need to be gold must be layered with size.


Once the underlayment is dry, the size is lightly breathed on to make it sticky again, and the loose leaves of gold are layed and pressed onto the artwork.


It takes many sheets of gold to complete a piece this size, each square inch to be guilded taking special attention.


Once the gold has been left to dry for a day, it is lightly burnished and then a brush is used to remove the loose gold


Each outline is then cleaned up with a scribe's knife to remove any gold that is sitll hanging on in the details and crevices


Once the gold is cleaned up, each base color is mixed by adding the pigments to egg yolk or glair, and then painted on.


One color at a time


Once all of the base colors are finished, detail work can begin


The details involve highlight colos of each base color mixed with white, as well as just white. and some darkening with black and darker corresponding colors.


The final step is to outline everything with black


It is now a completed page, here is an image showing the detail of the historiated initial. The entire page is 9x11 inches, which is quite large for a historic manuscript.