14th century Italian Document

This piece is based on the Visconti Hours, made in Milan in the late 14th century.

I made this piece for my friend Francois, to celebrate his many years of service – a Grant of Arms within the SCA Kingdom of Lochac. I had not done any scribal work for some 20 years, so it was good to get out my kit and polish up my rusty skills…

Parchmentine with ink, gouache, gold leaf, size (Image from two old scans)

Research and Design

This piece was inspired by the magnificent Hours of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, which was made between 1385 and 1395 in Milan, Italy. The pages of this manuscript are so varied in illumination style, you could believe they were from different works.

In fact, there are two books that make up the set – Banco Rari 397 (BR) and Landau-Finaly 22 (LF), which were illuminated by different artists (Meiss & Kirsch 1972). The Banco Rari volume has been digitised, but the Landau-Finaly volume is only available in reproduction.

The Hours are written in Gothic Rotunda, set as a single column of text within a heavily illuminated border. Some of the leaves have rubricated elements, and decorated versal capitals. Some of the illuminated initials are full column, while others are smaller, with text beside.

I copied the border elements, but removed the right hand border (as seen on some other pages of the Visconti Hours). Finding a good place for the shield and seals is always a challenge – here, I replaced some elements on the base border, but kept the bar.

I also moved the initial to the top of the page, inverting the M to make a W and simplifying the decoration.


Once I was happy with the design balance, I added extra noted about text placement, and gave it off to my fellow scribe Noel Fergusson to letter, together with some sheets of parchmentine with the text area pencilled on.

Once he returned a clean copy, I copied the illumination design to parmentine in pencil using my light table, then inked it. Once dry, I erased all the pencil lines and started on the gold. laid the gold size (flat gold, not raised), waited until tacky and laid the gold leaf. Once dry, I cleaned up the edges and burnished.

I painted the device, the laid in the base colours, working one colour at a time. Then I added the shading, and highlighting – such a vibrant palette! Then the highlights – white for red, blue and purple; yellow for the green and orange. I re-inked the outlines and added the fine dots and twiddles, then added some final highlight in shell gold.

And done!