Illuminated Writing

As I was drawing my crest I also started looking into how those where done in the middle ages and I researched a lot of old book art and discovered “Illuminated Writing”. It is the art-form of how all those incredible beautiful old books where done, where the lettering was adorned with gold leaf and some incredible borders and illustrations. Those books took some poor monk or scribe years to finish and that was why they are rare and priceless.

Years ago when I was living in London, I used to go to a lot of museums on the weekends in winter and the British Museum was one of my favored. They have an incredible section on old books and manuscripts there, I saw the Magna Carta and one of the original Gutenberg Bibles and many other extraordinary works.

Calligraphy has always held a strange fascination with me and I was meaning to relearn how to write prettily with a fountain pen, just like I used to do at school when I was a child, yes I am that old… We had fountain pens to write when I was in elementary and middle school, we where not allowed to use regular pens till high school and after that I simply did not need to write anything anymore as I was doing animation and drawing all the time and I am ashamed to say that I forgot how to write cursive over the years, since I never needed to. I also wanted to learn how to write those amazing letters with an old fashion ink pen, where you have to dip it, just like Harry Potter at Hogwarts.

Over the last few years I collected a feather pen that had a nib and a few more simple nibs and holders, I also found an intriguing gold/black ink that you had to dip with and I decided that I would finally learn my letters as I was attempting to create a Book of Shadows. So many things I had to look into, how to do the lettering, how to learn to write with nibs and pens and then start to draw borders and lines and other elements of calligraphy. There is a lot more to it than you think.

So here I was working on my family crest and at that time I was also writing my Book of Shadows. I decided, that if I was going to make it into one of those beautifully illustrated works of art I had to write the contents first, so I could edit and draw the layouts to design the book. You can’t just go back and rewrite everything if you forgot something… We are so spoiled today with our computers, where we can just go in and correct and rewrite, add on and insert art and all sorts and it is no bother. Well back in the day of old, from the ancient Egyptians to even just before modern printing with the help of computers, you HAD to put a lot more effort into planing and editing and designing the artwork before you went ahead to paint, write and draw the final product.

I am retracing the steps of oh so many scribes and monks as I embarked on this mission of working on my book the old fashion way, but I am discovering the joy of making art on specially ordered handmade paper. I am having fun writing in ink and drawing borders and illustrations and using gold paint to make it look precious. I have not yet learned how to work with gold leaf, but you never know, I might in the future. This is a labor of love and there is no time line as the book is just for me, but I am already proud at every little improvement on all those techniques I had to learn.

This is more about the journey than the end result, but it will also be an amazing reminder of that journey every time I turn a page of that book. You can do anything you put your mind to and never be afraid to try new things, it is the stuff life is worth living for.

The Wiccan Rede illustrated by Alexa Summerfield
Book of Shadows blessing illustrated by Alexa Summerfield.
History of Witchcraft illustrated by Alexa Summerfield.
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