April 2018 – German

In the joyful springtime
when blossoms are springing,
when limes bud all over
and green grow the beeches,
the birds with good reason
fall gaily a-singing,
for love, they discover,
again in their reach is,
each finds a mate,
then their mirth is great,
whereat I wax elate,
for all their songs were hushed by winter’s treason.

(Heinrich von Veldeke/ Minnesangs Frühling (12th C.) 

Calligraphy and Illumination by Lady Altani Khatagidai

Persona: Mongol from the Ordos region of present-day Inner Mongolia, c. 1300.

Why did you choose this culture? I am currently learning German mundanely, and a German friend of mine (who is also a SCAdian) suggested that I do a page in a mediæval German style. Granted, modern German and Middle High German are… different, but it was also a fun foray into a style I hadn’t previously explored much.

What is the inspiration for your piece and why did it appeal to you? I tend to prefer geometric/botanical forms when illuminating scrolls, and figured botanical imagery would lend itself best to the springtime. The Eberler Bible (1464) provided numerous examples of illuminated floral motifs (as well as exquisite historiated initials), and the helpful supporting researchers behind this year’s calendar endeavour directed me to a handy text in the form of a song from the Minnesangs Frühling, a collection of mediæval German songs about springtime and courtly love. The selected song is called ‘In dem aberellen’ (‘In April’).

Materials used: Ink/gold leaf/gouache on pergamenata.

Other notes of interest about your piece: The songwriter depicted in the historiated initial I is Heinrich von Veldeke, the 12th-century author of the particular Minnesang from which the text is borrowed. His appearance here is based on a painting of him from the Codex Manesse (early 1300s).

The first line of the featured stanza was changed from the original wording (‘In April’ became ‘In the joyful springtime’, as best as I could translate) when I first began scribing this page, as I was under the impression that although the other spring months were still available, the month of April had already been spoken for. I found out later, once the page was nearly finished, that April was up for grabs again. Oh well! 🙂

What drew you to participate in this project? TL;DR I was asked very nicely. 🙂 I actually had been out of the scribing game for a while due to some hefty shifts in mundane life, and Mistress Rhonwen happened to find me right as I was considering jumping back into the fray. This was an opportunity I was honoured to be presented with, given the artistic proficiencies of my fellow scribes of the East.

What is your favorite medium to work in? In the SCAdian context, I love working with gouache, as I find it to be a very forgiving paint (provided I don’t accidentally drip water on what’s already painted!) Mundanely, most of my doodles never make it beyond the pencil stage, although the pencilling can become rather detailed.

What is a C&I technique that is challenging to you, or not your favorite? The hardest part of a scroll for me is simply the initial layout – walking the thin line between too sparse and too crowded, and making sure border, text, device, and everything else can come together in a way that satisfies the mediæval aesthetic (which changes, depending on the style of a given scroll) without overwhelming the modern eye. I have taken to playing around in photo-manip software with resizing text and image elements to conjure layouts, ensuring that I have a workable concept before I even put pencil to parchment… although this approach is admittedly overkill at times.

What is a piece of advice you would give a new scribe? Take all the time you need in learning the art of scribing – practice makes perfect (or should I say ‘Übung macht den Meister’ here?), and accept that you will, at first, make mistakes… but over time, your technique will improve, your ink and paint will flow more naturally, and you will, hopefully, continue to find inspiration in the works of your fellow scribes – from the Middle Ages and from the Current Middle Ages alike. And remember to enjoy what you do!