Most Common Mistakes

Alarice Beatrix von Thal



This generally won't result in your scroll being returned, however there are some basic rules about what materials we use. We hope that the scrolls we are producing today will last without fading or cracking through at least the recipient's lifetime, perhaps longer. (Just think - the scrolls we are trying to emulate lasted for centuries!)


Any heavy, parchment type, acid-free paper is fine.


You should onlyuse permanent ink - it is generally a darker, more solid colour, and of course, it is permanent.We would recommend Calli, Rotring Opaque and Higgins (all retailing for around $8-10 a bottle which lasts forever).

If you are rubricating (calligraphing with coloured ink - popular in gothic styles) we would not recommend the coloured inks which are available. They tend to be watery and fade easily. Instead, try watered down guache.


Do not use acrylic paints, textas or felt tip pens. You should only be using Designer's Gouache (any brand). The most widely available is Windsor & Newton. Gouache is similar in consistency and behaviour to the paints used in period, and generally does not fade. When it dries it can be used again by watering down (so you won't have to waste any - one tube will last for years if looked after), and it can also be used as ink (see above). A basic set of period colours from the Windsor & Newton range would be as follows:

Red: Cadmium Red Pale

Yellow: Cadmium Yellow Pale

Blue: Ultramarine

Green: Mistletoe

Purple: Spectrum Violet or Purple Lake

Black: Lamp Black

White: Zinc White or Chinese White

Other colours from the W& N range may also be useful, depending on the style of scroll you are doing.

For metallics, you can use either leaf or gouache. Once you've mastered the art of laying gold leaf, you may find it easier than using the paint. Instructions are readily available in art books. Leaf is readily available at art supply shops (anywhere from around $40-$50 per 25 sheets) as well as the gum needed to lay it.

If you don't wish to use leaf, or can't afford to, then metallic gouaches are fine. I would suggest that you do a couple of coats to get it even - it takes practice.


You should really outline your artwork - particularly the device. Theoretically you should do it with a very fine brush and black guache. Most people find it easier to use a technical drawing pen (such as Rotring). This will give your scroll a much more "finished" look.



Take Care! This is by far the easiest and most common mistake to make - and the hardest to fix. Watch out particularly for hard to spell names (such as Welsh), repeating/missing part of a word (such as maintaing/ maintainining), ending one line and beginning the next with the same word (unto whom these presents shall shall have come...), and of course, simple spelling mistakes. If the mistake is in the name, blazon or Royalty names, then it will have to be returned to be re-done. Other mistakes may be ignored if they are minor (after all, period scribes made spelling mistakes too!)

You may find it easier to write the text in pencil first, so that you have something to follow. Avoid sing-a- long music, television or conversation while you are writing - there is a tendency to write what you are hearing rather than what is on the page.

And of course, ALWAYS do the calligraphy first - it is much easier to fix an illumination mistake than a calligraphy one - and illumination takes many more hours.


I should be giving you the correct dates. I generally give both mundane and Society dates so that you can double check. If you work it out yourself and the dates don't match, call me and I will tell you which is right. I makes mistakes too.


Follow basic grammar rules - first word of a sentence, names, place names should all get capitals. So do titles such as King/Queen, Prince/Princess and so on, and Kingdom/Principality. This may be inappropriate for certain calligraphic styles, in which case, just use common sense to preserve authenticity and legibility. In blazons, the only word to get a capital is Or (the metal), to avoid confusion with the conjunction.


Don't forget to add in Rex/Regina, Prince/Princess (Princeps/Princepessa) or Viceroy/Vicereign, as necessary, so that the Royalty know where to sign their names. The space for the signature should be before the title - so that it reads correctly (John Rex and Jane Regina). If it is not clear where you are expecting them to sign, rule a faint pencil line as a hint (it can be erased later.) Never actually put the name in where they are to sign - sometimes the appropriate royalty cannot be found and current royalty will sign for them. The signatures can be either above or next to the appropriate titles. A space for the Crux Australis or Vesper Principal Herald to sign is generally optional.


Rule your lines evenly! Try not to miss a line! This sort of mistake can be very noticeable. In the case of pre-printed scroll blanks, take the line spacing from that already on the page, and try to fit the wording in such away as to disguise the fact that it is pre-printed.

And try to match the pen size and script!



We frequently get scrolls with minor mistakes in heraldry. For instance, getting counter-changed colours around the wrong way, having a charge face the wrong way, or having the wrong charge altogether. These days I am enclosing pictures of the devices for everything I assign - this is usually black and white. If for any reason you are unsure about the heraldry - PLEASE CHECK IT - either with your local herald or me, or from a source book such as Fox-Davies (be careful though - some SCA conventions are different to mundane ones - for instance we draw our acorns the wrong way round).


Quite often the scrolls I receive have very watery colours. The scrolls in period tended to use very strong colours, although reprints may look pale because after sever hundred years the colour has faded. This is something of a matter of taste, but my experience is that strong colours look better. At any rate, the paint should never be so thin that it is very uneven, or that pencil lines can be seen underneath.


It can be very easy to forget to colour tiny details. Before you decide the scroll is finished, check it over thoroughly. Check every gothic leaf, every piece of clothing, every capital and so on.

(Personally I prefer to see white details - particularly backgrounds in devices - painted with white guache. Although it is often hard to see the difference between the paint and the paper, in some lights it looks very different, and painting in the white gives a much more "finished" look. But make sure you don't miss a spot - that becomes obvious too.)


Correcting mistakes in illumination is generally pretty easy, provided you have used designer's guache. Always colour in light colours first - if you make a mistake you can go over it with a darker colour (ie. if you have a device with a yellow background and a black chief, do the yellow first; if you go over the line the black will cover it.) If you've made a major mistake (such as getting the colours the wrong way around), with care, you can fix it. Wet the spot with a fair amount of water, leave for ten seconds or so, and then with a clean dry tissue or cloth, press down and quickly lift off the guache. Repeat until almost all the colour is gone (some may soak into the paper fibre - you can't change this). When it is all off, you should be able to paint over the stain with a fairly thick guache. Take care not to wet the paper too much - it may warp. If this happens put some heavy books on it and leave it for a few hours. Also take care not to smudge the colour onto the surround paper.

If you do get smudges of ink or guache on the paper, try rubbing it out with a soft rubber (for faint guache) or apen/typewriter rubber (for ink). Then buff the paper with a shiny stone - it should become unnoticeable. Don'trub so hard that you make a hole! Some high quality paper (not that which we use for AA blanks), and vellum, is able to be scraped back with a scalpel with undetectable results.



Leave at least 2 inches as a margin. Remember that it is likely that the scroll will be framed.


Make sure when you are working on your scroll that you don't bend the edge over the desk. This will produce a crease which is virtually impossible to remove. And be careful when transporting them too!


Don't forget to sign the back. Not only does this give the recipient the chance to thank you, but it also lets me know who is doing the work and what standard it is at. Sign in pencil, or in pen behind some dark illumination. Press very lightly so that there is no impression showing through on the scroll. Some scribes like to leave their mark somewhere in the illumination - if you do this make sure it fits in with the feel of the scroll and sign the back with your name anyway.


Leave plenty of room for the seals. The general guide for Kingdom seals is 5cm diameter for the Kingdom and 3.5 cm diameter for the herald. For Principality allow larger than this as both seals are larger (7cm for the Principality and 5cm for the herald). These are the actual dimensions of the seal, if you don't want wax covering your illumination allow a bit more than this. Wax can be temperamental, and very difficult to confine to a small space. The more space you can allow for the seals, the less likely it is that the wax will cover some illumination or text. On original scrolls, you can provide ribbons from which the seals will be suspended. Keep in mind that this will be more difficult for the recipient to frame.


Try to stick to period elements. The College in Lochac has achieved a reputation for excellence throughout the Knowne World, and much of this is due to the emphasis we have placed on maintaining a high level of authenticity. You don't have to document everything you've done (although I like finding out where you go the various elements from), however I think you'll find that many libraries and bookstores have books of period manuscripts which will provide all the inspiration you need to do your scroll in a period manner. Straight fantasy elements will be looked down upon seriously (possibly returned). When colouring the pre-printed AA blanks, keep in mind the sources from which these were designed and colour them accordingly.


Don't hang on to an assignment which you don't think you will finish Swallow your pride, hand it back, and when you have the time again, ask for a new assignment. Remember, somebody could be working on it now!


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Authored by Jehan, Giles, and Yseult AS XXXVIII (2003)