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writing-inst-msg – 5/28/05

 

Period writing instruments other than the quill.

 

NOTE: See also the files: calligraphy-msg, inks-msg, iwandpc-msg, quills-msg, wax-tablets-msg, writing-desks-msg, sealing-wax-msg, parchment-msg.

 

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NOTICE -

 

This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I  have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.

 

This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org

 

I  have done  a limited amount  of  editing. Messages having to do  with separate topics  were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the  message IDs  were removed to save space and remove clutter.

 

The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make  no claims  as  to the accuracy  of  the information  given by the individual authors.

 

Please  respect the time  and  efforts of  those who have written  these messages. The  copyright status  of these messages  is  unclear at this time. If  information  is  published  from  these  messages, please give credit to the originator(s).

 

Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org

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From: "Victor Wong" <nospamvwong0360 at rogers.com>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period Writing Implements?

Date: Mon, 05 Jan 2004 21:38:55 GMT

 

"Julie" <j.golick at sympatico.ca> wrote:

> In my slow progress towards an authentic persona, I am looking for more

> information and I am hoping someone here can help.  I enjoy journaling a

> great deal, and enjoy keeping a journal / diary at events.  However, I am

> wondering what writing tool I should use to do this, if I want to keep my

> tools period.  Obviously, modern pens are out of the question, and probably

> so are most modern pencils.  On the other hand, I don't want to carry lots

> of cumbersome tools (eg: quills, ink fountain, blotter, etc.)  Therefore,

> what could I use that looks period but is still easily portable?

>

> For the record, my period is 12th century English.  I am willing to use

> anything from other SCA periods if necessary, though.

 

You may want to consider charcoal. Art supply stores usually sell this in

stick

format--sharpen with a pen knife and you're good to go.

A substitute would be conté, again in stick form, which is less likely to

crumble.

It also sounds like you're more worried about clutter than about

cumbersome tools; a portable writing desk can help you here. Places

for quills, inkbottles and wells, paper, and so on. I saw one at The

Quartermaster in Vancouver Island and it looks old enough to be

Renaissance, even though it's a tad on the pricey side.

 

Vincent the Calculator

 

 

From: mpalotaygoogle at yahoo.com (Martha)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period Writing Implements?

Date: 5 Jan 2004 12:15:37 -0800

 

Julie <j.golick at sympatico.ca> wrote

> I enjoy journaling a great deal, and enjoy keeping a journal / diary

> at events. However, I am wondering what writing tool I should use

> to do this, if I want to keep my tools period.  

> Obviously, modern pens are out of the question, and probably

> so are most modern pencils.  On the other hand, I don't want to carry lots

> of cumbersome tools (eg: quills, ink fountain, blotter, etc.)  Therefore,

> what could I use that looks period but is still easily portable?

 

If you want *actual* period tools, then you'll need to lose your

aversion to a quill and a bottle of ink. (A blotter is not really

needed.) If what you want is the *look* of period tools, then there

are ways to cheat.

 

For a simple 10-foot-rule-medieval pen, just glue the innards of a

cheap ballpoint into a feather. (Make sure to remove most of the

fletching from the quill, leaving only a bit at the end -- otherwise

it'll be uncomfortable to write with, not to mention looking like a

movie prop.) Or you can imitate the look of a reed pen by gluing the

pen innards into a thin stick of bamboo. Have a small bottle of

something ink-like nearby to complete the impression. (If the bottle

isn't transparent, it can even be empty.)

 

You could also go for the lead point or silverpoint look by making

your writing instrument look like a stick of metal. Get a pencil

without an eraser. Sharpen both ends: the business end to a normal

point, the other end just kind of tapered off. When you've got the

pencil shaped about right, paint it a nice dull metallic grey. You may

need to do some touchup whenever you sharpen it, of course. (If you

want, you could even get a real stick of metal to write with. Just be

aware that the impression will be much lighter than you are used to

with a graphite pencil.)

 

--

Just some ideas...

 

Martha/Márti

(don't google to email)

 

 

From: "Helen Pinto" <hpinto at mindspring.com>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period Writing Implements?

Date: Mon, 05 Jan 2004 00:22:45 GMT

 

If you don't want a travelling pencase and inkwell (not really cumbersome), try a pencil.  Really. The first record of a pencil is attributed to Conrad Gesner, a Swiss naturalist, who describes one in his "Treatise on Fossils", ca 1565CE.  He was interested in the graphite which had been discovered in Cumberland, England, and was used to mark the local sheep.  Lead styluses (which leave a light mark) had been in use since the times of the Romans, who used them to write on papyrus, and in period, they were used for lining pages for manuscripts and sketching. Graphite, however, left a much darker mark. Sticks of graphite began to be used by artists in the 16th c.  The sticks were wrapped with string or a piece of leather. Graphite is much more fragile than lead; a lead stylus might bend when dropped, but the graphite will break. Hence, the wrap.  (It's also neater.)  The big development was the pencil.  A square channel was carved into a long piece of wood; a slab of graphite was inserted into this channel and broken off level; then another piece of wood was glued over the top, completely encasing the graphite.  The pencil was then rounded off by hand or on a simple lathe.  Pencil-making was a local cottage industry and England had the market cornered- they were called "crayons d'Angleterre" and exported all over Europe.  In the 17th and 18th centuries, manufacture had spread, particularly to Germany, and some of the early companies, like Staedtler, are still in business today.  The earliest surviving pencil is a mid-17th c. German carpenter's pencil (flat, to prevent rolling) found in a thatched roof.

 

To get the look, you could try a modern carpenter's pencil- they are usually bare wood with a stamp, but that (or even a paint finish) can be removed with sand- paper.  Carpenters' pencils are sharpened with a knife.  Another possibility is a woodless graphite pencil.  Cretacolor makes them, and they are available in good art stores.  (The black or dark grey woodless colored pencil would also work; several companies make them.)  They are solid "lead", with a self-colored paint on the outside, plus stamping.  Wrapping them with string or leather, just like the originals, will hide the logo, and protect them, because they are a little on the fragile side.  One more option is a "porte crayon".  This is a split wood or metal lead holder, which has a slot to hold the lead and a slider to lock it in place. Some of them are beautifully decorated, but the earliest surviving examples I know of are 17th c. Dutch. Most sets of drafting tools (pre-CAD) contain similar lead holders. You could also use a thin stick of real lead, but it's much fainter.  I'd also wrap it, to minimize contact with the lead.  (Graphite is safe.)

 

                   -Aidan

 

 

From: beamarshall at juno.com (Betsy Marshall)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period Writing Implements?

Date: 5 Jan 2004 09:35:30 -0800

 

I also recall a treatise in TI once upon a time about "silverpoint"

-used by Da Vinci and others for drawing and sketching. Biggest

problem was it needs a specially prepared paper- extra rough for the

metal to scratch off onto it.

On the up side, when the silver Oxidizes you get that lovely sepia

tone!

and almost any small bit of silver wire (fine silver is softer than

sterling) in a holder will work. Quite like todays mechnical pencils I

should think, and lasts much longer than graphite.

Just my .02 Lira, Ker Megan

(Elfsea, Ansteorra)

 

 

From: Heather Jones <hrjones at socrates.berkeley.edu>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period Writing Implements?

Date: Sun, 04 Jan 2004 15:10:43 -0800

Organization: University of California, Berkeley

 

You could always use wax tablets and a stylus at events and

then transcribe the text when you get home.  (Wax tablets

were used for "scratch paper" throughout much of the

medieval period, and it seems to have been fairly typical to

use them to compose a text which was then copied in ink for

a permanent record.)

 

Tangwystyl

*****

Heather Rose (you may now call me Doctor) Jones

hrjones at socrates.berkeley.edu

*****

 

 

From: pdruss at aol.com (P D RUSS)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Date: 05 Jan 2004 04:56:06 GMT

Subject: Re: Period Writing Implements?

 

I saw a lady at an event with a PDA in a small hand built wood box (to look

like a wax tablet) and the stylus was fitted into a large feather.

 

Tamara

 

 

From: BSRLee <bsrlee at zip.com.au>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: period pencils?

Date: Sat, 22 May 2004 02:04:23 +1000

Organization: Pacific Internet (Australia)

 

On Thu, 20 May 2004 21:20:12 -0700, "Tony" <tony23 at dslextreme.com>

wrote:

>I was wondering if there was any sort of erasable writing/drawing tool that

>was used in period? Some sort of precursor to the pencil?

>

>Thanks!

 

In addition to what has been posted before, 2 related technologies:

 

1) the cartoon. A piece of vellum (or whatever) with the design drawn

on it, then small holes pierced thru. The design could then be

repeated at will, using charcoal dust, oyster shell dust or chalk dust

as apropriate to the page color - to place a network of dots called

poncing.

 

2) the scratch-awl. Used to connect the dots from the ponce of the

cartoon.

 

There is also a surviving example of a 'note book' cover with a

network of cords for embossing writing guide lines on new sheets

before they are added.

 

regards

Brusi

 

 

From: dingbat at codesmiths.com (Andy Dingley)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: period pencils?

Date: 21 May 2004 06:38:42 -0700

 

"Tony" <tony23 at dslextreme.com> wrote in message news:<10ar0rvn371rle1 at corp.supernews.com>...

> I was wondering if there was any sort of erasable writing/drawing tool that

> was used in period? Some sort of precursor to the pencil?

 

Shepherds in Westmorland (NW England) are sometimes said to have used

lumps of graphite for marking sheep from back in the Norse period,

although this is debatable. For one thing, the arrival of sheep in

large enough numbers to need serious accounting (i.e. for wool more

than lunch) only dates from the Tudor period. The usual fable told now

relates a lightning-struck tree in the mid 16th C. Lump graphite is

found fairly easily locally and there's still a significant

pencil-making industry (Derwent brand - world's best pencils). This

form of native graphite is generally known even today as "plumbago" or

"blacklead" (derived from the Latin name for lead as the ore looks

similar) but the local name is "wad" (Comments welcomed from Norse

etymologists).

 

The medieval period's first recorded pencil was a wooden clutch pencil

mechanism, using a stub of graphite about 1/4" diameter. I forget

where this is illustrated, but it might be the 1505 Nurnberg codex

that also describes the first carpenter's workbench with a screw vice.

Nurnberg was also significant in the German pencil-making industry.

Reproductions of these pencils show up on the UK re-enactor circuit -

clearly someone is making them today.

 

The cased pencil began as a wrap of wet rawhide (which shrinks on

drying). Plumbago is rather brittle in thin sections and so there's a

need for added strength, as much as keeping your fingers clean. The

wooden cased pencil is mid-16th C, probably from England, but with

natural graphite these were quite large and clumsy and weren't a big

success.

 

Natural graphite of adequate quality is hard to find and the modern

clay + graphite lead was developed as a replacement for this. It's a

French invention (by Conté, who still make pencils), from around the

time of the revolution. This finally established the dominance of the

wooden case, including the roll-resistant hexagonal body, and allowed

the hardness of the lead to be controlled.

 

 

From: "Lis" <liontamr at ptd.net>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: period pencils?

Date: Sat, 22 May 2004 17:03:39 -0400

 

Hi Tony---I went to a display at the British Library this past summer on

the Book of Kells and similar works. There WAS in use something like a

pencil, and it was lead---in fact the first documented instance of that to

their knowledge. The British Museum called it a lead point ( lump of lead

with a point) , and if you purchase the Book on the exhibit, it goes into

greater detail (there is both a tourist and a schoilarly version). It also

covers the inks and the manufacture of the book, the ink, the parchment,

etc...

 

Aoife

 

 

From: mikea at mikea.ath.cx (Mike Andrews)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: period pencils?

Date: Mon, 24 May 2004 01:18:44 +0000 (UTC)

 

Tony <tony23 at dslextreme.com> wrote:

> Thanks for the info - I'll have to check that out. I've heard that the

> "lead" is called that because it used to be the metal at one time, I didn't

> know it was erasable in some way. BTW, any idea how it would be erased?

 

I'm not sure that this will work for erasing lead-point marks on

parchment, but I know that bread is recommended in some period lute

tutors for removing body oils, fingermarks, and other soil from lute

soundboards, and that it works satisfactorily, if not perfectly, on my

lute.

--

Mike Andrews /      Michael Fenwick     Barony of Namron, Ansteorra

mikea at mikea.ath.cx

Tired old music Laurel

 

 

From: Gretchen Beck <grm at andrew.cmu.edu>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: period pencils?

Date: Fri, 21 May 2004 11:18:26 -0400

Organization: Carnegie Mellon, Pittsburgh, PA

 

I don't know about the Durham/Lindisfarne/Kells manuscripts, but in many of

the books of hours, they made a master copy, then poked holes around the

figures which pricked the page they wanted to illuminate -- the pricking

provided enough "outline" to draw what was needed.

 

toodles, margaret

 

 

Date: Fri, 21 May 2004 07:14:07 -0400

From: Cynthia Virtue <cvirtue at thibault.org>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: period pencils?

 

Tony wrote:

> Problem is - what I'm looking for is something that could be used to create

> the geometric basis for a page of knotwork or such and then be erased

> afterward, leaving only the illuminated page.

 

I think what I've heard is that they used a stylus to score faint lines

in the vellum, and followed those.  These stay on the page but you can't

see them in most circumstances.

 

cv

 

 

Date: Mon, 24 May 2004 21:16:26 -0500

From: "David J. Hughes" <davidjhughes.tx at netzero.net>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: period pencils?

 

Tony wrote:

> Thanks for the info - I'll have to check that out. I've heard that the

> "lead" is called that because it used to be the metal at one time, I didn't

> know it was erasable in some way. BTW, any idea how it would be erased?

 

Using modern tools, a standard red rubber block eraser works well.

Pure lead is a harder to erase than #2 pencil, and slightly harder than a #4.

Pure graphite ranges from 0.5 to 1 on the Mohs scale of hardness, pure

lead is 1.5, and the hardest graphite/kaolin clay pencils (#8) are

around 2.5.

David Gallowglass

 

 

From: "David W. James" <unend at aolDAMNSPAM.com>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: period pencils?

Date: Mon, 24 May 2004 09:21:01 -0400

 

In article <10asr9ij2eijo1a at corp.supernews.com>,

"Tony" <tony23 at dslextreme.com> wrote:

> That sounds like it might work - I assume the charcoal dust would brush or

> rub off fairly easily?

 

> Given that I'm looking into knotwork layout, the dots make a lot of sense -

> I'll have to try that sometime.

 

   Cartoons best known use was in frescos. Making the tiny amount of

charcoal disappear wasn't a problem.

 

   Dots or a light hand with the scratch awl seem like the best use with

paper and ink.  If you are painting using tempura, then using

silverpoint or lead might work, but note in the case of the lead I don't

know what the long-term stability of it would be in paper or vellum.  If

it forms or helps form an acid, that could be bad.  Note that any

material deposit may chemically combine with your paint and cause a

color shift, so test in advance.

 

David/Kwellend-Njal

 

<the end>



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Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org