Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Really Cool Marginal Note

Diana asked if my posting these calligraphy/illumination projects is tempting me to get back to those hobbies. The answer is a resounding, emphatic NO! They are a lot of work, and I've become accustomed to one-layer cards that generally come together in ten minutes or less if I'm lucky. Call me lazy.

Now, bookbinding...that's something I've done off and on for years and truly love, but it doesn't have to take three months like that Psalter for my mother did. I've unearthed several small books that I want to share over the next few days. Today's is, like yesterday's, inspired by the middle ages. It combines calligraphy, rubber stamping, and heat embossing for (I think) a pretty neat effect.

First, the story behind the contents of this book. I found this quotation taken from the margins of a medieval Irish manuscript: "Pleasant to me is the glittering of the sun today upon these margins, because it flickers so."

I loved the idea that a scribe got bored copying a book and took time to share his personal observation in the moment. That quotation inspired this book, which uses a very large background stamp with an early medieval script and some Celtic knot stamps. I chose black for the book because the metallic ink and embossing would show up so beautifully and glitter in the light.

Clean and simple and black exterior of a simple hardcover accordion book.

The entire book, open. Click to see it bigger.

Pages 1 and 2. Title: Marginal Note

Pages 3 and 4.
Gold and bronze embossing combined
with a silver calligraphy pen...sparkly, no?

Pages 7 and 8. Isn't the style of the F and K charming?
Descenders rather than ascenders...scripts can be so engaging and interesting!

My book is stylistically very different from an actual medieval manuscript (well, they weren't accordion books for one thing!), and because the marginal note is the most important thing, I made it the biggest thing...much bigger than the Latin text of the "book" to which the marginal note was added. I scattered random knots around simply because that's what the Irish scribes often did, filling an empty space with some pretty or whimsical image. Obviously those scribes were far more artistic than I will ever be.
If you are interested in making books, I heartily recommend THIS BOOK by Alisa Golden. It's the first of many bookbinding books I bought and one of the best, with very good instructions. There are a few supplies the average papercrafter would have to add to her/his stash before starting serious bookbinding (as opposed to, say, flippant bookbinding!), and like anything, it gets easier with practice.

Fine binders study for years as apprentices to masters...needless to say, I don't do fine binding! Artist books, however, like the ones shown in Golden's book can be very accessible and fun.

I hope you're enjoying these unusual posts. If not, rest assured I'll get back to posting cards soon. After all, the new OLW is posted at Jennifer's BLOG, and I just HAVE to play along!!!!


  1. Thanks again for sharing these pictures. I might start practicing my calligraphy again (I took a course several years ago), but I never tried illuminations and I don't think I will! ;-)

  2. This book is so beautiful, Susan! I can't imagine how painstaking, and time-consuming this was to do, but the final result is absolutely stunning. Once again, I am in awe of you.

  3. I'm a calligrapher - I started stamping to illustrate my calligraphy, and now stamping has really taken over. I am trying to get back into calligraphy more. Your lettering and illumination are beautiful, especially the book you made with the flickering sun quote. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Thanks, everyone! Beach Girl 115...good for you getting back to it!

  5. (This comment has nothing to do with your current post!)
    Just wanted to let you know that ever since finding your blog it has become my favorite. I am very fascinated by your cards (so much that your OWL challenge was, and still is, the first and only challenge I have participated in, so far), especially because the girls I stamp with LOVE layers. And embellishments. Lots of them. And I am getting more and more tired of all those busy cards in the blog world.
    I also love your writing. You make me laugh and think about things. I like it so much that I read your whole blog and even your other one (QMI) which I just finished this evening. (Hope you don't feel stalked now...)
    Before reading your blog I didn't know that there were other people who kept buying beautiful notebooks they weren't using! So I am not alone!
    Before I had kids (my boys are almost the same age as yours) I also collected fountain pens and wrote a letter almost every day!
    Thank you so much for sharing your cards and thoughts!

  6. oh my gosh what a stunning book ~and what a talent!!
    vanessa xx

  7. I also love the beautiful quote. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Oh my Susan......yes, I know from experience exactly how much time all of this took.....tell me.....what pen and 'ink' medium did you use for the gold writing before embossing it? It is all very commendable indeed.....I most do much plainer writing which is the norm over in the U.K. Foundational hand and Italic are the most common.....can do but am not asked for Copperplate/'s not my speciality.
    Great to hear that you are encouraging others to take up their pens again....the number of times I've heard 'I've got all the pens at home'!!!
    Loved your books! Thanks for showing them to us.

  9. Joyce, that gold writing was a stamp, not my calligraphy. My calligraphy was the marginal note and title only. That would, indeed, have taken forever to pen! As it was, this project wasn't nearly that time-consuming because of the stamping.

  10. This post and your last one have given me fond-ish memories of my bookbinding days -- that's where I started, too. I have a couple of Alisa Golden's books still, but I never really developed the discipline to do fine work like yours! I guess I'm not AR/OC enough :)

    The skills do still come in handy, though, especially for book repair. Thanks for sharing -- I'd love to see more!

  11. Susan, that is stunningly beautiful. I've always loved to look at illuminated manuscripts ever since I started my career as a librarian working in the Fine Arts reference department of the Vancouver Public Library - one day I discovered the Book of Kells and I couldn't look at it enough - it truly is art.

  12. Fabulous project Susan, I love the fact that the monk made little comments in the margins! It's years since I did any calligraphy, I used to love illuminating the first letter of the script:)
    Val x

  13. Susan, I want to highly recommend a wonderful novel called PEOPLE OF THE BOOK by Geraldine Brooks. It is a fascinating story about an ancient book found and to be partially restored which brings out lots of questions. My book club is discussing it on Monday. Can't wait!

  14. susan, i love your blog and like others read both of them daily. tons of ideas. also enjoyed your journey to the new home. i was wondering , and looking , to see what replaced the orange on the house. lol would love to see the new color . your library is also awesome. have a great weekend

  15. Flippant book-binding, ha! I love it.

  16. I had no idea that you are a calligrapher. It's an art I'd love to learn. This is beautiful!

  17. me again ~ just popped over to your "questioning autism blog" and become a follower,already a follower of this blog ...seems alot of us crafters have boys(and some girls) on the autistic spectrum....i have two boys both on the specrum one 14 and the other 8 years you think there is a connection??
    i really struggle with "simple" cards ,as i put everything but the kitchen sink on my creations!!~so your blog is an inspiration
    vanessa xx


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