Medieval Life, Personages, Celtic Art, Calligraphy and Illuminated Manuscripts

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Video Documentary on the Book of Kells

I came across a documentary video on the Book of Kells today and I’m sharing. This is part I and, if you follow it to YouTube, you will find the rest of the documentary. Enjoy.

October 27, 2011   1 Comment

The Medieval Scriptorium Has Been Hacked

This has happened before with the notorious Pharma Hack that hit WordPress sites last year. It was a nightmare cleaning it all up and hardening the site. After that happened, I started an account with HostGator and moved some of my sites there. I left this site on Dreamhost with some sites that I run for other folks. I wanted to compare the two hosting services. Hostgator is far more secure but pages hosted there load VERY SLOWLY and you lose traffic. Also, they have this ridiculous practice of not backing up your files. Sites at Dreamhost load fast. In fact, they load up to five times as fast as HostGator BUT Dreamhost seems to be a cesspool of hacking. Nothing is secure there.

I’m in the middle of a bit of a crisis in the real world with my brother in the hospital and his wife who has dementia going off the deep end, so fixing this site will have to wait until I have my brother home and safe with a care-giver. The hack is not malware and it will not hurt you. Links to not so nice sites that are not G rated have been placed on some pages.

If you see strange things happening here, it is happening because I’m cleaning up the mess. I apologize.

UPDATE: I’ve removed the nasty links from the offending pages but I have not had time to reset the security so they may come back.

UDATE No. 2: FYI for anyone else experiencing this hack, the links were hidden in a file named cashe.php. That is not a typo.  The code to call it was in the header.php. Delete cashe.php and upload a clean copy of a header.php and the offensive links will be removed.

UPDATE No. 3: The vector for the hack appears to be in the main .htaccess file. I’m restoring that now. Hopefully, this will be the final chapter in another hacking story.

Last UPDATE: Google has finally crawled the pages that were displaying the foul links and all is clear. I try to keep everything that I do online strictly G rated and it was painful to see such revolting items in the keywords used to find this site.  At least 80% of the people using the offensive search terms, were from Iran. What does that say about oppressive regimes?

July 28, 2011   Comments Off on The Medieval Scriptorium Has Been Hacked

News – Codex Calixtinus Stolen

Codex Calixtinus Saint JacobOne of the rarest and most beautiful illuminated manscripts dating from the 12th century is missing from the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. It is the Codex Calixtinus. The miniature of Saint Jacob above is from this guidebook. It is a book that will literally take your breath away with it’s beauty.  Here is the link to the story on the BBC News site.

Here is a second link to the story in the Guardian with a beautiful leaf from the codex.


July 7, 2011   3 Comments

The Medieval Take on Anthony Weiner

Wife of BathI want to  share a link on the NY Times site to an Op-Ed article by Sara Lipton on Anthony Weiner and other public figures with the same propensities. Lipton is an associate professor of history at SUNY-Stonybrook. I think it is an interesting and humorous perspective.

Also, I’m working on the next tutorial on illuminated writing and I should have it up very soon.


June 17, 2011   Comments Off on The Medieval Take on Anthony Weiner

Making Your Own Illuminations Part 2 – Superman Comics, Medieval Illuminations and Miniatures

Frater Rufillus of Weissenau

Frater Rufillus of Weissenau self-portrait in decorated initial from Medieval Illuminators and Their Methods of Work

Did I get your attention with the title of this lesson? I hope so. Besides medieval history, one of my interests is comic book art. Until recently, when digital methods superseded hand-drawn art, comic books were made in the same way that medieval artists created their magnificent illuminated books. There are three parts to creating the figure art in a comic book. The penciller draws the comic in the familiar framed format of the comic book, the inker inks over the lines drawn by the penciller and the colorist colors the image to produce final art. One person or many people may be involved in this process. This is exactly how medieval artists created their books and it is how we will create our illuminated writing.

This will require a few simple tools. The first, of course, is paper. My personal preference is 500 series Strathmore Bristol plate surface. Your choice should be made based upon your materials. I use watercolor, ink, some acrylics and colored pencils for my writing. They all work well on this surface. Since this is all for fun and for learning and for making mistakes, feel free to use whatever you have on hand. If you decide to continue beyond these simple tutorials, then you can purchase more expensive supplies at that time.

Many folks feel great anxiety when faced with drawing anything. If this is you, you might want to consider purchasing transfer paper. If you’re scared, intimidated and freaked, relax. You can choose images you want to replicate and transfer them to your drawing surface using carbon paper. Something like was done in medieval times and you can do it, too. You can even do it on the cheap. Take a piece of cheap printer/copier paper and cover one side with lead from a 2B pencil. This is a little messy but it will allow you to carbon transfer your image.

Planning the writing, requires ruling the page. A ruler will suffice. A ruler and a triangle are better. In addition to the basic tools, I have a series of french curves and ellipsoid templates. These are very useful and speed the process.

Finally, we come to the actual tools used to put design and color on the page. You will need a pencil, not too hard and not too soft. You will need something to make a permanent fine black line such as a Pigma Micron or Copic multiliner/marker.  I use a fountain pen and/or a dip pen with Noodler’s Ink  for my writing.  You don’t need to get fancy and a simple finepoint black Sharpie marker will do.  Use what you have and keep it cheap.

I’ve left color and illuminating gold for last. How you do this depends on what effect you want to achieve. Is this just a fun exercise and you’re doing it all on the cheap? Fine, use some watercolor and/or colored pencil. Are you trying for the look of an old book or do you want your writing to have the look of a brand new manuscript? What we see today are faded versions of the original writing. The colors were brilliant and intense when the original pages were created but the palette was limited. Look at the decorated letter at the start of this tutorial. Notice the little bowls of color the artist is using. You will need only a basic color set in whatever media you choose.

Derwent Inktense Watercolor Pencils

Do you want it all in a simple package? Derwent Inktense Pencils are fantastic tools for creating bright, bold colors and outlining with “ink”. The smallest set will provide all of the colors you need.  The very nice part about these pencils is that they come with a black (ink) outlining pencil that is waterproof.  It’s all there except for the illuminating gold. I use these pencils all the time and you can get many different effects with them.

Dr. Ph. Martin’s Hydrus Fine Art Watercolor Sets

I use Dr. Ph. Martin’s Hydrus  Watercolor to color my writing when I want striking brilliant color.

Illuminating Gold

I use a gold paint from Golden Acrylics called “Iridescent Gold Deep (Fine)” for illuminating my writing. To start, I suggest you use one of the many available metallic gel markers. They’re cheap and easy to find.

That covers everything you will need to get started. In the next lesson, we’ll start looking at putting design on the page. Have fun with this. You might find a hobby that will last a lifetime. Finally, invite a friend to try it with you. It’s more fun that way. Here’s my friend. He’s always eager to give me a helping hand….

May 22, 2011   2 Comments