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Stefan's Florilegium


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Documentation-art - 8/22/04


"Documentation - a Quick and Painless Guide" by Ld. Daniel Raoul le Vascon.


NOTE: See also the files: 12thC-Hole-art, AS-compet-msg, AS-cont-docu-msg, 5x8-Doc-art, AS-events-msg, AS-ideas-msg, AS-food-msg, Narfing-Iron-art.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set

of files, called Stefan’s Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at:



Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be

reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first

or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


                               Thank you,

                                    Mark S. Harris

                                    AKA:  Stefan li Rous

                                         stefan at florilegium.org



Documentation - a Quick and Painless Guide

by Ld. Daniel Raoul le Vascon


   This is intended to be a general over view of how to document an Art/Sci entry and as such it is offered as a guide to the process.  Regardless of what your entry is the procedure I will outline will give you the basis for putting together documentation that will do your entry proud.  For many people documentation is at best an after thought.  Unfortunately that is putting the cart before the horse and needlessly complicates the documentation process.  In a way you should try to think like a good forger, be it of art or antiques, because what in essence you are trying to do is create an entry which hopefully could pass for period.   The first thing you should do is identify a period example of the item you are trying to create.  To do that you must go to a source of documentation for the object.


   There has been a lot written about sources but essentially they are broken down into three categories; primary, secondary and tertiary.  In truth I have heard a lot of opinions about what constitutes a primary source.  In my opinion primary sources are written records, depictions or items created in the time period by someone who knew first hand the item in question.   A secondary sources essentially the same as a primary source except that the creator did not have first hand knowledge and may or may not be from the correct time period or place.   A tertiary source consists of unverified research which probably uses secondary sources, possibly primary sources but includes a lot of unsubstantiated conjecture.  Avoid tertiary sources.


   As an example of a source, in the Norton Museum there is a period Flemish painting of St. Jerome. There are a number of items in the foreground and background of that painting. A ten-bead rosary, a pair of eyeglasses, a quill pen, an ink well and a small mortar and pestle. This painting is arguably a primary source for the recreation of those items. I recreated the ten-bead rosary. Even if the painting should prove to be a forgery it is at least a secondary source as the forger would have had to do his research to have it pass for real.  An even better and less arguable primary source would be an actual 10-bead rosary from the period. While I did not find such an ideal object I did verify that such rosaries were depicted in a number of painting from the period.  Thus you select an item to serve as your model.


   You then proceed to recreate the object in a manner as close to period as possible.  You use period materials, or as close to them as you can manage.  You use period techniques and period tools, or as close to them as you can manage.  How do you know these things? You let your documentation guide you.  Ideally it will tell you what techniques, tools and materials you should use.  


   You then should proceed to put your documentation together.  At a minimum I suggest that it should consist of the following.  A title page, a short introduction, an explanation of the item recreated, an explanation of the materials used both in period and any substitutions you made, an explanation of the techniques and tools used both in period and any substitutions you made, an appendix of copies of critical reference passages and illustrations and finally a list of references.  


   In your introduction state what it is you were trying to recreate and from what time and place it originates.   Proceed to explain further what it is you are trying to recreate referencing your sources and appendix.  In your explanation of the materials used tell what various materials were available in period and which materials you decided to use.  Document this by referencing your appendix and references.   Proceed to explain what tools and or techniques would have been used and which techniques you decided to use. Document this by referencing your appendix and references.


   Always explain what substitutions you made by reference to what was used or done in period and why you made the substitution that you did.  Valid reasons for substitutions are cost, general unavailability of specific tools or materials, hazards to health or safety and legal and moral restrictions.  To explain with and extreme example the original period object may have been made of lacquered wood, ivory, gold, and tortoise shell and served as a repository for a period cosmetic whose primary ingredients were white lead and saltpeter obtained from a white dog turd.   The period red lacquer used contained mercury a health hazard, so you use a modern substitution.  You have moral objections to the use of ivory and use bone.  Gold is expensive so you gild instead.  Harvesting tortoise shell from modern sea turtles is illegal so you substitute horn or even a modern “tortoise shell” plastic.  If you decide to represent the cosmetic you use a modern substitute because white lead is a health hazard, saltpeter can ignite and you don’t know where to get white dog turds.


   You are now at the Art/Sci competition.  You lay out your creation artistically arranged on some backdrop, a piece of velvet perhaps.  You wait for the judges with confidence because your creation is as close as you could make to what existed in period and you have the knowledge to explain it and the documentation to back it up.  



Copyright 2000 by Daniel C. Phelps, 3359B Trafalgar Square, Tallahassee, Florida 32301.  email: <phelpsd at gate.net>. Permission is granted for republication in

SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in

the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also

appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being

reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org