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This work was done by Julia Silbermann in Raleigh for the session “Carolingian and Carolingian Variations”, in 26 Seeds: a Year to Grow.

“The Scribe”: A quote by an 8th century scribe.

Materials: 19”x25” Arches Watercolor Hot Press, Alizarin Crimson and Prussian Blue Gouache, Miniatum Ink, 23K Patent Gold, Instacoll, metal nibs.

A scribe from the 8th century took the freedom to leave this quote in the margin of a book on Burgundian Law, which he had to copy. The words truly speak for themselves. They also made me take a closer look at all the techniques and materials that the ancient scribes had to know and use, apart from the actual writing: preparing the vellum, grinding the pigments, using binders and glair, knowledge about storing everything correctly, cutting quills and reed pens, ruling lines, etc.

I wanted this work to be a kind of homage to the ancient scribes and depicted many of these techniques and materials in the flourished borders that surround the writing. There are 20 little illustrations hidden in them, which I created a little legend for, so they are easier to find.

The flourishes in the borders are made up of the typical variations of acanthus leaves, found in the Fleuronnée initials, that started to be used in 12th century France. I also added a few celtic knots, spirals, and key patterns as a referral to the earlier insular decorations.

The whole piece uses old design elements, but I also wanted it to have a more modern feel. I tried to achieve that, by detaching the Initial “O” from the beginning of the text and putting it into the middle of the layout, so it would become more of an illustration that balances the two heavy borders.  Originally Fleuronnée was used to decorate initials and drag the flourishes along the text to create delicate vertical borders. Instead I used them in a horizontal position to create a rich framework for the writing. The original Latin quote is written in Carolingian with Miniatum ink on a flat writing surface with a Brause nib with reservoir, and gilded with 23K Patent gold. The English translation is written in pressurized Italic on a slant board with Gouache and a Mitchell nib without a reservoir


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