Calligraphy and Illumination Courses 2024

I am teaching two one-day courses at Sevenoaks in Kent (35 minutes by train from Charing Cross in London, and about 10 minutes from Junction 5 of the M25) in autumn 2024. The course on Saturday 21st September is ‘Quills and Calligraphy‘ and will be for both beginners – those just starting calligraphy – as well as ... Read more

The Glitterati of 2024

What a lovely three days we had in May when eight keen illuminators-to-be got together and produced amazing results in just three days. The courses are held in mid-May each year and are limited to eight people. This year there were two participants from Canada, an American and one participant from ... Read more

Trajan's Column II

Trajan’s Column in Rome, completed in 113 AD, commemorates the victory of the Emperor Trajan over the Dacians. It is stunning when viewed in real life as it towers over the ruins of Trajan’s Forum and Market, being 98 feet (30 metres) high. The main part of the column consists ... Read more

The Benedictional of St Æthelwold

A benedictional is a book of blessings given by a bishop; some manuscripts, such as the Benedictional of St Æthelwold (904/9–984), are richly decorated with gold and colour. Unusually we actually know who wrote this particular benedictional – the scribe Godeman as he included his name in a poem, probably ... Read more

St Martin's Church, Canterbury

It was fortunate that, when St Augustine was sent by Pope Gregory the Great in 596, landing probably in Ebbsfleet in 597, to bring Christianity back to England, there was already an established church just outside the city. It meant that his arrival was not met with hostility as could ... Read more

Victorian Radicals – the Pre-Raphaelites

The rather garish colours and attention to detail marked the work of those seven initial members of the Pre-Raphaelite Botherhood from that of their fellows. They followed the teachings of John Ruskin who encouraged getting back to nature and depicting that in finite detail. The figures in this portrait ... Read more

The Evangelists' Symbols

A number of saints are depicted with their symbol – St Jerome may be shown with a lion, as he removed a thorn from the lion’s paw and so it accompanied him as he worked, St Catherine is often depicted with her wheel, and St Lawrence with his gridiron, and so ... Read more

Heraldic Hatchments

Many historical churches display diamond-shaped boards on their walls. These have heraldic emblems on them, but what are they, what do they mean, and why are they there? They are called ‘hatchments’, from ‘achievements’ of arms, or sometimes called ‘funeral escutcheons’ (an escutcheon being an heraldic shield). An achievement ... Read more

'Makers' by Roger Lee

In the light of only a few weeks ago the government  indicating that it was ratifying the UNESCO Convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage in June 2024 it seems appropriate to highlight this book of fantastic photos of makers; traditional craft skills being one of the five domains specified in that ... Read more

Craft and the Effects of Brexit


At the outset, it is important to know that this is not a political blog.

There has been quite a bit in the news about the problems of musicians, pop groups, opera singers, orchestras, sound and light engineers, roadies and the like, post-Brexit. Restrictions on travel with a 90-day limit ... Read more

UNESCO Convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage

What a wonderful Christmas present for those of us in the UK when, on 23rd December 2023, it was announced by the government that it was going to ratify the UNESCO Convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in June 2024, after consultation until March 2024, see more here. This ... Read more

Vespasiano da Bisticci – 'cartolaio' of Florence

It must have been a very exciting time in Florence in the fifteenth century. The Humanists favoured Greek and Roman texts, rather than religious ones, and wanted them written out in luxury books. But who could procure the fine vellum needed, or the scribes to write the books in the ... Read more

'A Word for Autumn'

The changing of the seasons can be one of delight or one of apprehension. Winter to spring promises fewer cold days, the singing of birds and the appearance and flowering of bulbs. Spring to summer indicates the lengthening of days, increased warmth and new growth. Summer to autumn can be a change ... Read more

Grinling Gibbons – Master Woodcarver

Grinling Gibbons is probably the most skilled and most creative wood carver there has ever been. Stand in front of any of his pieces and marvel at the intricacy of the designs and the supreme skill in cutting into pale, almost white, limewood to create wonderful images in 3-D. This ... Read more

Bede and the Theory of Everything

Many will have heard of the Venerable Bede (673–735) and appreciate that, to have been given that title, he must have been rather special and probably really clever. This new book by Michelle Brown explains exactly that – and more besides. Bede was clearly a most remarkable man whose intellect ... Read more

St Enodoc Church, Cornwall

Finding St Enodoc Church, Trebetherick, North Cornwall, is not straightforward – but well worth the effort! Walking from Polzeath or from the carpark at Daymer Bay (much nearer!) a small signpost, which is almost hidden, indicates a narrow winding path, shaded and almost overgrown by trees. This leads out ... Read more

The British Library One Day Illumination Masterclass Course

It can be quite daunting signing up for a course which for many involves completely new techniques and tools. Most people haven’t picked up a paintbrush or dealt with paint since schooldays, and the thought of painting a mediæval miniature may be very tempting, but what if everyone else on ... Read more

The Sforza Hours

Imagine how Sir John Robinson from the Victoria and Albert Museum must have felt in 1871. He was in Madrid looking for manuscripts, and had heard of a ‘wonderful Illuminated manuscript.’ A priest was selling it and a price agreed. He put the peseta equivalent of £800 (£66,000 now) ... Read more

A Scribe and Illuminator's Workroom

Having just finished twenty-one new pieces for my forthcoming British Library book (this post is written in July 2023), I decided to re-cover my sloping board – something I do once about every 3-4 years, depending on how dirty it is. As it was so lovely and clean I ... Read more

The Glitterati of 2023

What a wonderful group of eight budding illuminators-to-be there was for this year’s intensive Tools, Techniques and Materials of Mediæval Manuscripts three-day course in May. It is always interesting to see how eight different people, complete strangers, from different parts of the UK and the world will react when ... Read more

'Hands of Time'

There is now only a handful of watchmakers in the UK which means that it has been in the Critically Endangered category in the Heritage Crafts Red List of Endangered Crafts since the first research was published. Hurray, then, for Craig and Rebecca Struthers who run their company, Struthers Watches, ... Read more

'The Lindisfarne Gospels: Art, History and Inspiration'

This new book by Eleanor Jackson, Curator of Illuminated Manuscripts at the British Library, on the Lindisfarne Gospels offers a fascinating insight into this magnificent manuscript. The fact that the Gospels are thought to have been created by one man, Eadfrid, Birshop of Lindisfarne, before 720 is quite remarkable. It ... Read more

Fear no More the Heat of the Sun

‘Fear no more the heat of the sun’ is a poem from William Shakespeare’s ‘Cymbeline’. It is a poem of reassurance at death – nothing can touch the deceased now, not sun, cold, thunderstorms, whims of monarchs or tyrants, or even ghosts or witches.

I had been wanting to write ... Read more

'Craft Britain – Why Making Matters'

It is not always the case that a new non-fiction book is a page turner, but ‘Craft Britain – Why Making Matters’ by Helen Chislett and David Linley is certainly one such. Page after page of beautiful photographs are surrounded by an informative, fascinating and interesting text. To be ... Read more

A wonderful Edward Johnston book

Sometimes the most chance encounters bring rich rewards! At a recent Christopher de Hamel lecture at the British Library, I overheard the words ‘Edward Johnston’, and my ears pricked up. It turned out that a church on the south coast had an illuminated book of the Communion Service written ... Read more

'Words Made Stone'

‘Words Made Stone’ records a ‘conversation’ between Lida Lopes Cardozo Kindersley MBE, one of the country’s leading letter cutters, and Marcus Waithe, lecturer in English at Magdalene College in Cambridge. The value of this style of gaining information was brought home to me when I interviewed a number of ... Read more

St Peter's Church, Monkwearmouth

In the seventh century it must have been amazing for the people at the time living near Monkwearmouth in Northumberland to see this building going up! The craft skills of building in stone were lost when the Romans left Britain at the beginning of the fifth century, and, according to ... Read more

HUGE Choir books

Producing books before printing was an expensive exercise. The text was written by hand and often detailed and precise illuminations were added. Whereas nowadays each member of a choir would usually have their own copy of the music and words, this was prohibitive in times past because of cost. ... Read more

Intangible Cultural Heritage and the UNESCO Convention

What links traditional craft skills with the Notting Hill Carnival, the Cornish language, the Norfolk rotation, Arbroath Smokies, sea shanties, and Plough Monday? They, and many, many more, are all part of the rich fabric of Intangible Cultural Heritage, or our living heritage, which make individual villages, towns, regions ... Read more

'The Posthumous Papers of the Manuscripts Club'

Christopher de Hamel is a wonderful and inspiring writer, wearing his scholarship lightly and introducing his readers to manuscripts, libraries, manuscript makers, and authors with the lightest of touches such that they hardly realise that they are absorbing so much knowledge. This is evident in all his books, but ... Read more

The Imperial Crown

The Imperial Crown in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna is an amazing example of craftsmanship and also of symbolism. It is quite a large crown, suitable for a king with a rather large head, and weighs a considerable amount with all the gold, gemstones and pearls which adorn it. ... Read more

Escomb Church

Escomb Church, probably built in the seventh century, is situated in a hollow just west of Bishop Auckland in the north east of England, and is one of only four complete Anglo-Saxon churches left in England. The many substantial slabs of stone for the building are thought to have come ... Read more

'The Fantasy of the Middle Ages'

Larisa Grollemond and Bryan C. Keene have written a fascinating book called ‘The Fantasy of the Middle Ages’ and the ways in which the images and ideas in manuscripts with the associated myths and legends, and our version of this period of time, have been interpreted throughout successive periods of history and ... Read more

'Penned and Painted'

This new book – ‘Penned and Painted’ – by Lucy Freeman Sandler looks at books from many different aspects and provides a cornucopia of wonderful images of pages from manuscripts. If you like looking at manuscripts and finding out more about them, then this book is for you!






Lucy ... Read more

Kedington Roll of Honour

All commissions present challenges, which is the joy of doing them, but some do create more than others! Such was the case with the Kedington Roll of Honour. This was to be a record of the the airmen who died and the few who survived in air crashes at ... Read more

A Gift for The Queen's Platinum Jubilee

It is unlikely that anyone will experience a Platinum Jubilee again, so the celebrations in the UK of The Queen’s anniversary in 2022 were particularly special. It is traditional for organisations and institutions to mark this by presenting the sovereign with a small gift, but how to make yours ... Read more

Stanford University Library Calligraphy Collection

Calligraphy is often a much neglected artform when it comes to being included in collections in libraries, galleries and museums, contemporary calligraphy even more so, yet is can be one of the most expressive combining text with colour, gold and illustrations. How wonderful, then, that Stanford University Library have decided ... Read more

Glitterati of 2022

Although it was a slightly depleted group due to Covid, ill health and travel challenges, there was such enthusiasm for the three-day May 2022 ‘Illuminating a Mediæval Miniature’ course. And, as always, only lovely people seem to come on these courses so it was a joy to spend three ... Read more

St Albans Psalter – New Ideas

The St Albans Psalter is an intriguing and somewhat puzzling manuscript. It is believed to have been produced in the twelfth century at St Albans Abbey and presented to Christina of Markyate by the Abbott, Geoffrey de Gorham. It shows magnificent English Romanesque miniatures. The nativity seen here exemplifies that – ... Read more

Trajan's Column

We have been fortunate enough to visit Rome in Italy a few times and on each occasion I make a pilgrimage to Trajan’s Forum intending to see if I can view the lettering at the base of the column. But every single time the Forum has been closed for renovations ... Read more

'Elizabeth and Mary: Royal Cousins, Rival Queens'

The story of Elizabeth I, daughter of Ann Boleyn and Henry VIII, and Mary, Queens of Scots, is well-known from films and TV series, but this exhibition at the British Library (October 2021–February 2022) approaches these two monarchs from the point of view of documentary evidence – and much ... Read more

The Glitterati of October 2021

This was the first time that I have held the 3-day course in October focusing on the tools, materials, skills and techniques of mediæval illuminators, and I think that those involved on the course will be keen to tell you why. We had challenges, but the results were impressive nevertheless, ... Read more

The Fully Qualified Glitterati

Another group of people eager to learn the traditional skills and techniques of mediæval illumination and miniature painting gathered in Kent, UK, in May 2021. This was a group who had planned to take this course in 2020 but the pandemic got in the way, so everyone, including me, ... Read more

'Findings' in the calligraphic work and teachings of Irene Wellington

Irene Wellington was an amazingly gifted and  accomplished calligrapher whose lightness of touch and stunning and complex designs belie the hours of thought and care that went in to her work. This little book considers and explains more about Irene Wellington’s detailed approach to her work, the planning and ... Read more

'The Inscriptions of Ralph Beyer' by John Neilson

Ralph Beyer really was a remarkable letterer and to a large extent one of a kind. The influence of his German parents just before the Second World War was considerable, and the rather peripatetic childhood that he had resulted in experiences that affected his later work.

This new book by ... Read more

'It is not yet spring ...'

Most calligraphers are always on the lookout for words and texts that appeal and can be written out and interpreted. I noted these wonderful words by Edward Thomas (who for a time lived near us) early in 2020 before the resulting pandemic became so restrictive. I wrote them out in ... Read more

'The Book in the Cathedral: the Last Relic of Thomas Becket'

This year, 2020, marks the 850th anniversary of the martyrdom of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, on 29th December, 1170 and the 800th anniversary of his shrine built in the cathedral itself. A large exhibition bringing together manuscripts and artefacts related to the saint was planned at the British Museum, ... Read more

'The Ins and Outs of Public Lettering'

This delightful little book ‘The Ins and Outs of Public Lettering: Kindersley Inscriptions in the Open’ by Marcus Waithe, Lida Lopes Cardozo Kindersley and Thomas Sherwood does exactly what it says. Following their books on the workshop itself, letter cutting, sundials, apprentices, cut letters in gardens and much else, ... Read more

The Wait

All those who love sport have been frustrated at either not being able to play it, or not being able to watch it, or both, during the spring and summer of this Covid-19 pandemic. Jimmy Lee from the England and Wales Cricket Board wrote a really poignant poem about this ... Read more

'…With Wakened Hands …'

I really like this quotation from D H Lawrence, although I do wish that he hadn’t excluded women – many of whom have wakened hands just like men! However, these were the times and the words resonated so much with me that I wanted to write them out.






As ... Read more

Red Squirrels and an Uplifting Quotation

This quotation by J B Priestly is new to me and as soon as I read it I wanted to write it out. At these challenging times (April 2020) the words hold just the sort of promise that we need – tomorrow is a new day, a fresh start, ... Read more

Self-isolating? Here's a treat

Writing this at the beginning of April 2020 we are in the throes of self-isolating because of the Covid-19 virus. My small contribution to others who are having to self-isolate as well are four different notices to put on your front door or at your window indicating that you ... Read more

Designing a vellum panel – the Kellogg College Grace

Creating a suitable design for writing out the Grace of Kellogg College in Oxford on stretched calfskin vellum created an interesting set of challenges. Unlike all other Oxford colleges, the Grace is in Welsh rather than Latin (or even English?) and I was asked to include a translation as ... Read more

Rectors of Chevening

Being asked to create a panel listing the rectors of St Botolph’s Church in Chevening, Kent, was a fascinating project with a number of interesting design challenges. The list goes back to Reginald in 1262 and there were 56 names in all. It’s always a problem working out the size ... Read more

No roses for Christmas

Each year I try to find something a little different for our Christmas card, and the Shakespeare quotation of ‘At Christmas I no more desire a rose Than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled mirth; But like of each thing that in season grows’, from Love’s Labours Lost, seemed ... Read more

Friendships are the best!

Calligraphers are commissioned to write out many varied texts, some of which appeal and sometimes, some not! These words very much appealed and they are sometimes used as a toast; surely most people would agree that actually the best ‘ships’ are friendships! This artwork was to be given to the ... Read more

A wonderful collection of manuscripts

Seeing a mediæval manuscript without any glass protection is very special. Imagine then, having a collection of manuscripts that you can see and handle anytime you want to, and how much it would be missed if given away. This was the case for the owner of a select and ... Read more

Props for film and TV

As a professional scribe and illuminator, I am often asked to make props for film and TV. These have ranged from 19th century petitions of ‘thousands’ of names, Elizabethan maps, writing in ‘invisible ink’ and making it reappear onscreen, any number of documents, poems and letters, and, a few years ... Read more

Dumfries House, Ayrshire, Scotland


‘There’s nothing that isn’t positive that comes out of this place.’

Dumfries House near Cumnock, Ayrshire, Scotland. is a unique place in many ways. The house was designed by Robert, John and James Adam, their first independent commission after the death of their father William. The building of the house ... Read more

Even More Glittering Gilders

Another group of keen potential gilders met in May 2019 to learn the craft skills of creating mediæval miniatures over three very full days. Their stunning results, albeit some unfinished, are shown here – just look at how shiny that gold is! The brilliance of this shine is really ... Read more

The Lost Words – Forget-me-not

It is always very sad when we lose words, not just because we can’t remember what to say in a conversation, but when the very words themselves seem to have lost their value. It was noted that a children’s dictionary decided to leave out words which it judged to have ... Read more

Quills and Calligraphy

Sixteen eager students were ready to start a day of learning and practising calligraphy as part of the events associated with the fantastic Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms 2018-2019 exhibition at the British Library. We were focusing on the Angled-Pen Uncials as in the St Cuthbert Gospel of St John, a very ... Read more

Plaxtol Roll of Honour


The vast number of people involved in the First World War is being highlighted during these centenary years. This huge number is perhaps particularly exemplified  in the small Kentish village of Plaxtol. Over 150 men, all former pupils of the local village school, went to the front, ... Read more

How Mediæval Manuscripts were Made

It really was a great joy and privilege to be part of the great Polonsky Project, which was a joint venture between the British Library and the Bibliotèque nationale in Paris to digitise manuscripts which from before the year 1100. They were keen to show how those manuscripts were ... Read more

A Celebration of British Craftsmanship

The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST) was set up by the Royal Warrant Holders Association nearly thirty years ago. QEST awards funding for its scholarships and apprenticeships in a whole variety of crafts. This range is shown in this splendid new book on British Craftsmanship. It is a huge ... Read more

How do you Want to be Remembered?

Thirty years ago Harriet Frazer MBE set up Memorials by Artists – now the Lettering Arts Trust, of which I am a proud patron. Harriet had had problems finding just the right headstone for her step-daughter who had died young. Not wanting the usual impersonal polished granite, with machine-made letters, Harriet ... Read more

Roman Capitals

Lettering at the base of Trajan’s Column at one end of Trajan’s Forum in Rome is regarded by many as one of the best example of Roman Capitals. These majestical letters, with beautiful proportions, are one of the purest guides for any who want to study the proportions of ... Read more

Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms

The Lindisfarne Gospels, the St Cuthbert Gospel, the Book of Durrow, the Alfred Jewel, the Vespasian Psalter, Beowulf, items from the Staffordshire Hoard, the Domesday Book, these and many other gems are all there in the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition at the British Library, from October 2018 to February 2019. ... Read more

A stunning Renaissance manuscript

BL, Add ms 19553

The British Library has a stunning array of manuscripts and one that has been recently digitised caught my eye because of its lively and idiosyncratic lettering; the shelf reference is BL, Add ms 19553. The page shown has typical Renaissance decoration – ... Read more

Recreating the 'Beatus' page from the Eadui Psalter

© 2018, Patricia Lovett MBE

© 2018, Patricia Lovett MBE

As part of the Polonsky project for the British Library and the Bibliotèque Nationale I was asked to show how mediæval manuscripts were made to create a series of short informative films. To show the process of completing a miniature we ... Read more

The Church of Saints Michael and Gaetano, Florence

It’s not often that you see a view or a vista that absolutely takes your breath away but this happened when we visited Florence and went into the church of Saints Michael and Gaetano in the Piazza Antinori. Hanging from the arches, stretched along horizontal borders, and placed over ... Read more

'Magic in Medieval Manuscripts' by Sophie Page

This delightful little pocket sized book by Sophie Page, published by the British Library, is lavishly illustrated by many mediæval manuscripts and explains the conundrum in the Middle Ages of angels and devils, magicians, magic spells and charms. The conundrum was that from the mid-thirteenth century there was a ... Read more

Illuminating a miniature

© Patricia Lovett 2018

Another group of lovely people started the day early at the end of May 2018 to spend three days learning the traditional skills and techniques of the mediæval illuminator. Usually the group is limited to eight, but someone was coming ... Read more

Another Graily Hewitt manuscript book

This delightful little book was written by calligrapher and illuminator Graily Hewitt (1864–1952). It’s the text of the Holy Communion written out for Clairice Gabbatt who lived in Petersfield. The book is in Graily Hewitt’s typical lettering style and it’s likely to be on his usual preferred writing surface of ... Read more

Quills and Quill Knives

An unusual quill knife in a manuscript image on Twitter made me look again at quill knives. This one had the necessary curved blade (don’t get me started on straight edges for cutting quills!) but a strange curved hook shape which seems to end in a point. I’ve really ... Read more

The Bury Bible

The Bury Bible is a stunner! It is thought that it was made about 1135 at the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk in the east of England. We even know who did the illuminations and who commissioned the bible (quite unusual for a book of this age). ... Read more

The Man in the Arena

One of the joys of taking commissions is being introduced to text that may not be familiar, and The Man in the Arena was one such. Written by Theodore Roosevelt it notes that it’s not those who criticise, or who stand on the sidelines heckling, but the person actually doing the ... Read more

'Cræft' by Alex Langlands

Many in the UK and elsewhere will be familiar with Dr Alex Langlands through his TV presenting skills and archæological and historical knowledge on BBC programmes such as Victorian Farm, Edwardian Farm, Full Steam Ahead and so on. However his interest, knowledge, expertise and skills in traditional crafts are perhaps less ... Read more

To My Dear and Loving Husband

The Art Workers’ Guild in London is a great institution, set up by followers of William Morris, and providing a forum for those who work in craft, art and architecture. Fortnightly lectures for Brothers and their guests on a variety of topics are held in the Lecture Room attached to ... Read more

Charter for Trees, Woods and People

© Patricia Lovett MBE/Woodland Trust 2017

The Charter for Trees, Woods and People has been created to record the importance of woods and trees to us all and also to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the 1217 Charter of the Forest which is now in ... Read more

The 'Countryfile' Experience

It was quite a shock to answer the phone when travelling by train up to London and have a researcher from Countryfile on the other end of the phone. They were doing a feature on endangered crafts, linking to the Heritage Crafts Association/Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts (see ... Read more

Mary, Queen of Scots' Book of Hours

This is such a delightful book, and being so small, is one where it is not difficult to imagine that the manuscript would have been often carried around and was a favourite of its royal owner, Mary, Queen of Scots (1542–1587). I had the privilege of studying this late fifteenth ... Read more

Disappearing fore-edge painting

In May 2017, the Heritage Crafts Association launched the Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts at the House of Lords. They listed over 170 traditional crafts and placed them in one of four categories (Currently Viable, Endangered, Critically Endangered, and Insufficient Data). There were seventeen Critically Endangered ... Read more

The Siege of Caerlaverock

Caerlaverock Castle is distinctive in many ways – for a start it is triangular! It is also distinctive in that it was the site of a siege between the attacking King Edward I of England and the defending Scots in 1300. In the grand scheme of things, this battle would ... Read more

Medieval and Renaissance Interiors

Medieval and Renaissance Interiors is a brilliantly colourful book published by the British Library and is generously illustrated with many high quality manuscript images. Eva Oledzka, the author, takes us beyond what we usually see – the figures – to the room that the people are in, their surroundings, the ... Read more

More Glittering Gilders

Another group of budding illuminators gathered at my studio to learn how to cut quills, make and lay gesso, treat vellum for painting, and the craft processes of the mediæval illuminator. I am always delighted when a random group of people get on so well – perhaps it’s that all ... Read more

Patricia Lovett: Exhibition at Sevenoaks Library 2017

I was delighted and honoured to be invited by Sevenoaks Museum to put on a small exhibition of my work at Sevenoaks Library. It is small because there are but two shelves in a display case. However, I was thrilled when Lord Sackville kindly came to see a piece I ... Read more

National Schools' Handwriting Competition 2017

Class A Winner, Age 5

At the recent All Party Parliamentary Group for Art, Craft and Design in Education meeting, a number of us who did not have close links with teacher training were shocked to hear that over the three or four years ... Read more

Art and History of Calligraphy

The Art and History of Calligraphy, published May 2017 by the British Library, does pretty much what it says on the tin! It covers writing from what is thought to be the earliest known writing by a woman in Britain in the first century, to the present day (as ... Read more

Vellum and Acts of Parliament III

This is not one of my usual blog posts. There are no pictures as what has happened is, in my view, very serious and needs no illustration. A clear decision taken by MPs in the House of Commons has been overturned by 3 members of a committee. The result is ... Read more

A single shivering fleck of sunset-light

How fortunate we are as calligraphers not only to be moved by the words of authors and poets, but also to be able to interpret that text visually. I had the task of creating a number of pieces of the same artwork for a special occasion – what to ... Read more

The Lindisfarne Gospels

The Lindisfarne Gospels are, in the opinion of many (including me!) the greatest treasure we have. This manuscript had, of course, to be featured in my book The Art and History of Calligraphy, published by the British Library in May 2017. The Lindisfarne Gospels were written before 720 and the ... Read more

The Vespasian Psalter

The Vespasian Psalter is an Anglo-Saxon book written, it is thought, in the second quarter of the eighth century. The style suggests the south-east of England, possibly St Augustine’s or Christ Church, both in Canterbury, or Minster-in-Thanet.
The large full-page illustration on the right shows an intriguing mix of Insular ... Read more

Making pigments at Guédelon

The building of a mediæval castle at Guédelon in France involves much more than simply the construction of the building. They are also looking into how the rooms would have been decorated and how the pigments were made. Jill Robertson, from Australia, who subscribes to my free online monthly newsletter ... Read more

Work, my workroom and 'Landlove' magazine, December 2016

Photograph © Sussie Bell 2016

I was very pleasantly surprised and delighted when brilliant journalist Kerry Fowler contacted me about being featured in the popular lifestyle magazine Landlove. This was not the first time that I’ve been in a magazine, but that was usually ... Read more

Rustics – not that rustic!

Rustics are very elegant letter-forms that have a distinctive diagonal feel to them, with the thickest strokes going from top left to bottom right. The fifth-century Vergilius Romanus, a manuscript now in the Vatican Library, shows one of the best examples of Rustics in book form. This is one of ... Read more

Making little boxes

There are occasions when you need a suitable container for a gift and there is nothing available. If the gift is small, why not make your own ‘wrapping’? These little boxes are really easy to make involving simple folding. They are so easy that children can make them if they ... Read more

A festive piece

Occasionally, just very occasionally, a project somehow seems to work without a great deal of effort, and this is what happened with this piece. I was asked by Landlove, a UK lifestyle magazine, to have ‘a festive piece’ ready to be photographed for their Christmas 2016 issue, when they were ... Read more

The Ramsey Psalter

The Ramsey Psalter (BL, Harley 2904) is a masterpiece of the tenth century; it was the manuscript identified by Master Calligrapher Edward Johnston at the beginning of the last century as a good example of strong letter-forms to start to learn calligraphy. Psalm 1 in the psalter ... Read more

The Art of the Bible

This book published by the British Library is an amazing feat. The book is huge and the dimensions of it are as large as some of the manuscripts in their collections, with the result that the detail is quite amazing. Huge enlarged images fill whole pages, and it ... Read more

'Waters Rising' – Sheila Waters

This month, November 2016, marks the fiftieth anniversary of a devastating disaster in Florence. On the night of November 4th a series of disastrous weather combinations meant that a vast wave of water rushed through the city, with the narrow roads acting as funnels and the bridges ... Read more

More Sheila Waters' prints

PLEASE NOTE: I am no longer selling these prints but have left up this post for interest.

This is Sheila’s wonderful Roundel of the Seasons. This is a tour-de-force of subtle colour change and inspirational strong and delicate calligraphy.




This intricate alphabet comes in green and pink. ... Read more

'Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts' – Christopher de Hamel

Any book written by Christopher de Hamel is always worth a second glance, but this new book – Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts – is one you will find hard to put down again! Christopher has such an easy writing style which, in this book, seems almost as ... Read more

Gilding and painting a miniature of a female martyr

I had been asked to speak at the Houghton Library, and teach and give a demonstration at Harvard as part of the wonderful ‘Beyond Words’ exhibition there. Taking a lot of tools and materials on a plane is not sensible, and so I decided to almost finish a ... Read more

The Brentwood Charters

One of the more unusual commissions I had recently was to copy out two thirteenth-century charters on to vellum panels, and write the translations underneath.



The charters granted the rights to a weekly market and an annual two-day fair to the district of Brentwood (Bois ... Read more

'Art of the Islands' by Michelle Brown

Michelle Brown is a prolific author, yet every additional book comes with new insights explained in her inimitable user-friendly way, and this volume is no exception. It covers the period from c. 450–1050 AD, that is from the departure of the Romans to the incoming of the Normans and ... Read more

Type is Beautiful

This new book by Simon Loxley ‘Type is Beautiful’ brings together fifty different fonts from Gutenberg (used from around 1454) to Zulia (designed in 2013) and many in between. It starts with a chapter explaining about type design, why we need more than one style, how letter ... Read more

An unknown book by Graily Hewitt

Graily Hewitt was a truly great craftsman. Not only did he write the ‘Illuminating’ section in Edward Johnston’s seminal work ‘Writing & Illuminating, and Lettering’ but his work is astonishingly fine, particularly his gilding on gesso. The gesso is usually laid exquisitely, with spine-tingling serifs, and ... Read more

Cobblers and cordwainers

The nursery rhyme says it all ‘Cobbler, cobbler mend my shoe’! It is cordwainers, not cobblers, who make shoes from new leather, and although the name is slightly archaic, it is still used by the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers, who received their first ordinance in 1272. There is ... Read more

Glittering Gilders

We had an early start at the London University Palæography International Summer School to ensure that the images of mediæval beasts were transferred on to prepared vellum, and the adhesive laid before a break for coffee. It was marvellous that everyone managed this, but hard and concentrated work!



So many people have asked about the Wolf Hall Book of Hours that I produced for the BBC series, and whether copies of the pages are available that I’ve had some little cards printed. They feature on the front the cutest red squirrel with long pointed ears ... Read more

Royal Regiment of Artillery Tercentenary scroll

Celebrating the 300th Anniversary of their founding, Wiltshire based Royal Artillery welcomed Her Majesty The Queen, Captain-General of The Royal Artillery, to Knighton Down in Larkhill, Wiltshire to attend a Review of the Royal Regiment of Artillery on 26 May 2016.
Raised ... Read more

St Clement Danes and the RAF

St Clement Danes, an ‘island’ church in the Strand in London, is thought to be situated on a previous church founded by the Danes in the ninth century; it is named after St Clement, patron saint of mariners. The other island church is St Mary-le-Strand and they are ... Read more

Gold on Parchment, exhibition at Cornelissen in London

It was a great privilege to work with L Cornelissen & Son at 105 Great Russell Street in London (just along from the British Museum) to mount the very first exhibition they have had at the shop. They are on a very busy thoroughfare and most people ... Read more

Wang Dongling at the V&A, London Craft Week 2016

The second London Craft Week proved to be even better than the first, if that’s possible. At the launch at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the world-renowned great Chinese calligrapher, Wang Dongling, demonstrated his great art in front of hundreds of people. It must have been ... Read more

Orpiment – it glisters but isn't gold

Orpiment, the word derived from the Latin Auripigmentum, and also known as king’s yellow, has been known since Roman times, and was a treasured pigment used in mediæval manuscripts. Its particular value was because it was yellow and could not only replace gold when it was unavailable or too ... Read more

Schools' Handwriting Competition 2016

Class A winner

Is handwriting still important and should it be taught in schools? Isn’t it better to teach keyboard skills instead?








Four year-olds. In each instance, the winner is on top, the runner-up ... Read more

Colour in the pen

Some people think that calligraphy is essentially black writing with perhaps a touch of red. How limiting! Calligraphy can be any and every colour. One way of using colour that I really like is where the pen actually mixes the colour, as on the right. It’s not one ... Read more

Sheila Waters prints

PLEASE NOTE: I am no longer selling these prints but have left up this post for interest.

When Sheila Waters, the ‘Queen of Calligraphy’, according to the great Hermann Zapf, visited last summer, she left me with some glorious prints of her works. Colour sings out from all but ... Read more

Vellum and Acts of Parliament II

Great news! There was a vote in the House of Commons on Wednesday 20th April 2016, on whether to continue to print Acts of Parliament on vellum or not. This is the record of the debate in Hansard. The vote was overwhelmingly in favour of continuing ... Read more

Graily Hewitt – some little seen works

Graily Hewitt was one of the first students to be taught calligraphy by Edward Johnston at the beginning of the last century and did a great deal to advance the knowledge and practice of gilding using gesso and leaf gold. In fact he wrote the ‘Illumination’ section in Johnston’s book – ... Read more

Ultramarine – beyond all other colours

The intense blue of ultramarine, from lapis lazuli stone, is like no other colour, as Cennino Cennini, at the beginning of the 15th century, wrote in his book ‘The Craftsman’s Handbook’ – a colour illustrious, beautiful and most perfect, beyond all other colours. It was the colour adopted for the robes ... Read more

Gappy – a celebration of a great Indian poet

It must be really difficult to write about someone you have never met but who is remembered with great affection in the family. This was the challenge for the daughter of a close friend of mine. Her grandfather was Edward Mendonça, a celebrated Indian poet, and his centenary was last ... Read more

Vellum and Acts of Parliament

Vellum has been used for printing or writing Acts of Parliament almost since they were first recorded. In 1999 there was a move to print these Acts on paper, which was defeated. However, on 14th October this year, William Cowley, who are the last vellum and parchment makers in ... Read more

Marbling paper

As with so many other aspects of writing and book binding, it seems that the Chinese and then the Japanese have been marbling paper for centuries before the Europeans. Marbling consists of floating ink or paint on a surface to create a pattern. The colour may be simply dropped on ... Read more

Sheila Waters' wonderful interpretation of 'Under Milk Wood'

Please note: I am not now selling this book but have left this post up for interest.

Once in a generation you come across a real tour-de-force, a masterpiece, and this is the case with Sheila Waters’ illustrated and calligraphic interpretation of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood. It is simply ... Read more

Mad about madder

The gorgeous rose pink used in many mediæval manuscripts comes from the root of the madder plant – rubia tinctorum. In my copy of the miniature David as a psalmist from the Westminster Psalter (see right), it is used both for David’s thick and luxurious ermine-lined cloak as well ... Read more

Illumination – Gold and Colour

It is always a great relief when a book is published and rough drafts that have been worked on for so many months or even years all come to fruition. This is exactly how I feel about my latest book – Illumination: Gold and Colour. This is just about ... Read more

Schmincke Calligraphy Gouache

It is often very confusing when starting out in calligraphy to be faced with bottles of different inks, some specifically for calligraphy, some for drawing and some for fountain pens. What’s best to use? To avoid any confusion I would strongly recommend paint rather than ink, and, in some ... Read more

Calligraphy and Ashes

Occasionally, it is so pleasing to abandon guidelines, formal letter construction, working out differences in size and script for design, incorporating illustration with lettering, and simply take a pen ‘for a walk’. I do this now and again after I’ve had a period of formal writing, as in the last few ... Read more

National Schools' Handwriting Competition 2015

In early June this year, there was an item in the news about crowd-funding to raise money to develop a font for computers. The font was based on the handwriting of Albert Einstein. The hard work had been done, but the designers wanted to add variations to letters so ... Read more

The St Cuthbert Gospel – new studies

I have already written about this gem of a book on my blog here, but this blogpost is about fesh studies on the manuscript in a new publication from the British Library edited by Claire Breay and Bernard Meehan – The St Cuthbert Gospel: Studies on the Insular Manuscript ... Read more

Teach Yourself Calligraphy

Teach Yourself Calligraphy was described by one reviewer as doing ‘exactly what it says’. It is, of course, always best to learn calligraphy from a good tutor, but for many people this isn’t possible. This book, then, could be the next best thing! It consists of the main four alphabets ... Read more

Vellum and Parchment

Most people are not aware that there is a difference between vellum and parchment – both being animal skin (not pretend ‘parchment’ paper). The names of skins are often used interchangeably and it can be quite difficult when looking at mediæval manuscripts to determine whether the substrate is vellum ... Read more

Eadui Basan – Edwin the Fat or Parchment?

Eadui Basan was a monk who worked from Canterbury in Kent during the earlier part of the eleventh century, and his distinctive hand has been identified in a number of manuscripts. One of the ones I particular like is that of the Eadui Psalter, on the right. The whole ... Read more

Mediæval Monsters

The British Library have done it again! This delightful little book on Medieval Monsters by Damien Kempf and Maria L Gilbert is the perfect introduction to all those fascinating creatures which delighted the mediæval mind as much as many of us today. Sometimes the monsters are familiar – the ... Read more

His Hands Magic – Michael Renton

Michael Renton was a jack-of-many-trades and a real master of all of them!  He started as wood engraver, having left Harrow Art School to ‘do’ rather than study. His apprenticeship lasted five years, but rather than the pedestrian engraving of his training, he wanted to do things more imaginatively. His ... Read more

David Kindersley Centenary Celebrations

I happened to be waiting in Exhibition Road to go into the Victoria and Albert Museum many years ago, and noticed the letter-cut sign on the wall. The more I looked at it, the more intrigued I was. The lettering looked so perfect and so even; it was cut over ... Read more

State Postillion's Jacket

At the launch of London Craft Week, Keith Levett, Director of Henry Poole & Co, tailors of Savile Row, was making a state postillion’s jacket – it was in pieces when The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall looked at it (click on the link ... Read more

The Double Crown Club

Before paper sizes were standardised as A1/2/3/4 etc, paper was named according to weight and size. Some may remember foolscap, and other paper names were Imperial, Elephant, Atlas and Antiquarian. Paper that was uncut, usually for printing had different names – Royal, Double Pott, Demy and Double Crown being some. ... Read more

Cotton to Gold Exhibition 31st January–19th April 2015

Two Temple Place is a fascinating building – it looks rather like a castle outside, built of Portland stone with a crenellated roof, stone carvings by Nathaniel Hitch, stone windows and a magnificent golden galleon weather vane of the Santa Maria, Christopher Columbus’ ship. The weathervane is significant in that it represents ... Read more

Cosmati pavements

The Cosmati pavement at Westminster Abbey, laid down in 1268 on the orders of Henry III, was covered by a carpet for over 100 years. It has recently been restored and the wonderful colours and riot of swirls and whirls has now been revealed. The pavement is particularly special because it is ... Read more

History of the Book in 100 Books

It would be difficult enough selecting 100 books just in Britain to represent the history of the book from scrolls to codices, to manuscripts to printed books to e-books. And then there’s what’s in the books – fiction, scientific books, company reports, instruction manuals, religious books – and what religions? ... Read more

Gilding and painting a mediæval letter

If you ever wanted to learn how to cut a quill, what the difference is between vellum and parchment, how to deal with real gold leaf and use it in mediæval miniatures and illuminated letters, and how to paint them, then this course is for you. We shall be ... Read more

MacDonald Gill's Westminster maps

Going in to the House of Commons through St Stephen’s Porch you pass two huge and magnificent wall maps painted by MacDonald Gill. On the left-hand side is a plan of the Houses of Parliament (see right) and on the right-hand side is a map of ‘The Cities of ... Read more

Memento mori – remember (that you have to ) die

Children dressing up as skeletons, skulls made out of sweet jelly and white chocolate bones are all part of Hallowe’en, but, as with so many of our customs, these sorts of symbols are not new. It was thought that the veil between heaven and earth was particularly thin on the night ... Read more

Gilding and Painting a Mediæval Letter Course

Comments from students on previous courses:

Wonderful fun atmosphere, made something I always thought was so difficult easy.

Patricia was very professional and enthusiastic.

Wonderful and enthusiastic.

Excellent. Very encouraging to all students.

I could see the improvement in my work and my confidence.

I have achieved a long-held ambition, and, thanks to Patricia and ... Read more

The stages in creating a simple commission

Calligraphy is a broad church, and just as there is a place for complicated, ‘designed’ pieces, with layered and textured backgrounds, and blocks of text of differing sizes and styles to create an exciting piece of work, so there is a place for pieces where the lettering is foremost ... Read more

The Art and History of Globes

Even around the time of Pythagoras in the 6th century BC, the ancient Greeks thought that the earth was a sphere, with Plato (c.429–347BC), a little later, likening the earth to a leather ball. Similarly, the heavens were considered to be spherical in form, and the Farnese Atlas (right) ... Read more

A sea of red poppies

Bright red poppies have become synonymous in the UK by marking the sacrifice given by those who have lost their lives in conflict. Many of us wear a poppy on Armistice Day (November 11th) having made a contribution to military charities to remember this.


A stunning display of brilliant ... Read more

Vellum 'music' book

I am always on the lookout for suitable quotations to write out, and, as I am keen on music, when I had a collection of phrases on the topic, I decided to do something with them.






It took quite a few years before I could get round to it, but I ... Read more

Mediæval stained glass at St Mary's, Fairford

Imagine what it must have been like for the typical mediæval worker in the 16th century. Rich dyes for clothes would still have been reserved for the wealthy, so the lives of ordinary people would have consisted of a palette of browns, dull dark blue, rust red, and a ... Read more

Holy Writ

Great calligraphy exhibitions in superb venues don’t come around very often. The last one, in my very biased view, was the terrific Calligraphy Today exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum Museum in Cambridge which I co-curated with the Keeper of Manuscripts and Printed Books, Dr Stella Panayotova. This was an exhibition ... Read more

Wall Memorials in Bath Abbey

We live in a different era now, and for many of us, name and life dates, and perhaps that we were a mother, father, daughter, son etc would be all we would want on our memorial. Not so in the eighteenth century when ostentation was evident not only in ... Read more

National Schools Handwriting Competition

Four year-olds hand writing

Each year schools up and down the country focus on encouraging their pupils to write their best handwriting for the National Schools Handwriting Competition, run by SATIPS and sponsored by the Manuscript Pen Company. The huge advantage of this competition ... Read more

Sand, sanders and writing

We’ve seen it so many times before. Someone in mediæval or slightly later costume picks up a full feather with a flourish, pretends to write on paper or skin, looks at what’s been written, then picks up something that looks like a salt pot, shakes a powder on the writing, looks ... Read more

Codex Amiatinus – a very English book with an Italian name

Abbott Ceofrid (pronounced Chalfrith) must have been a remarkable man. At the beginning of the eighth century, he was in charge of the twin foundations of St Peter’s at Monkwearmouth (now Sunderland) and also St Paul’s, Jarrow (right), both on or very close to the coast on the far ... Read more

Apples of Gold

Being a scribe and illuminator, I usually work in 2-D, but love, and am fascinated by, lettering in 3-D. I decided that I would experiment with the various ways of working when lettering isn’t flat and chose A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver from Proverbs ... Read more

Character Traits – Jean Larcher

Jean Larcher is one of the world’s great calligraphers. His skills and expertise in creating wonderful letter-forms is shown in many of his works, which always have an enviable  liveliness and vibrancy. He is also extremely generous. When I used to run a charity for children, schools and carers ... Read more

Shakespeare and writing

It is so heartwarming when production companies take their projects seriously enough to ensure that things are done properly, and this was the case with the forthcoming production of Shakespeare in Love in London’s West End.

I was asked to teach actor Tom Bateman (right), who is William Shakespeare in the ... Read more

A very special Book of Remembrance

I am often asked, when I’m talking to arts, general interest and history groups, what project or commission I have done which has meant the most to me. Without a doubt it’s the Books of Remembrance for Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children. This year I have been ... Read more

London Tube Typeface

The London Underground has a very distinctive and unifying look with the names of the stations, directions, and the distinctive roundel. This is due to one man, and he was the calligrapher Edward Johnston. Johnston could be said to have been the father of modern calligraphy working in the first ... Read more

Masters and Apprentices

The Lettering and Commemorative Arts Trust’s exciting new shop and gallery space at Snape Maltings in Suffolk has a new exhibition – Masters and Apprentices. It emphasises the importance of passing on skills, and focuses on the seven letter carving apprentices funded through the Trust, as well as four generations of ... Read more

Thomas Cromwell and quills

Writing with a quill is similar to, but not the same as writing with a metal pen. It takes a bit of time to get used to the pen being ‘featherlight’ and also to control the ink flow. As part of the preparations for the BBC TV Series Wolf ... Read more

A new Book of Hours (well 6 pages!)

Over the years I have produced a number of props for television programmes and films, and have also been filmed writing as historical figures with a quill or pointy pen, or demonstrating what I do – illumination with gold and egg tempera, and writing on vellum with quills – ... Read more

Marking the Magna Carta

The original Magna Carta, or the Great Charter of the Liberties of England, was sealed (but not signed) under oath by King John in 1215 on the bank of the River Thames at Runnymede in Surrey. It limited the powers of the king and accepted that no-one could be punished ... Read more

Sixty minutes make one hour, but why?

As children, when we start to count, we usually use our fingers. We have ten of them and so ten and multiples of ten would seem to be the most natural counting system. Yet time, and the angles in a circle, don’t use the decimal system. So, why is ... Read more

St Albans' Psalter

Christina of Markyate (c1096–1155, and probably on the right, closest to Christ), first called Theodora and born in Huntingdon, was clearly a stunner, as it is recorded that various men were attracted to her. The story is that she fled from Burhred, her husband, on their wedding night, having, ... Read more

The pound in your pocket

UK £1 2013-E

It is not easy to design something meaningful which is less than a couple of cm across, but those who work on our coinage do just that. A new set of pounds coins, based on the flowers and plants of the four countries of the UK, have been released ... Read more

What's on show at the British Library?

I thought it would be helpful to have an easy link to the manuscripts on display at the British Library. Thanks to Dr Kathleen Doyle for supplying the list. I plan to update this when new manuscripts are added or are removed.

These are they:

Harley MS ... Read more

Girdle Books

Taking a book with you to read on a journey was rarely an option in mediæval times. Vellum or parchment pages, oak boards and metal hasps and clasps all resulted in a heavy book, usually far too heavy to carry around easily – as with the book on the ... Read more

Any umb-er-ellas to MAKE today?

It was the son of a shuttle weaver in Derbyshire who gave us the umbrella shape that we are so used to today. Before Samuel Fox (1815–1887), a wire drawer, developed the u-shaped frame, the ribs of umbrellas and parasols were straight, with a hinge which allowed them ... Read more

Making paper

The Chinese clearly knew a thing or two and there is evidence of paper used for wrapping (hemp wrapping paper from about 100 BC on the right) and padding from the 2nd century BC. Finishing it so that it could be used for writing had to wait until the ... Read more

Children's Handwriting

To me, the value of teaching children to write is undisputed; it is a skill that everyone should acquire. Whether they do it well, and their handwriting is a thing of beauty, is not essential – as long as it’s legible – in the same way that most can ... Read more

All Party Parliamentary Group for Art, Craft and Design Education

Visiting the Houses of Parliament is always a privilege. It is not all as originally mediæval as I would like, in that only Westminster Hall, begun in 1097 by William II (William Rufus), and ready two years later, has original features. But the work by the architects Barry and ... Read more

Llandaff Cathedral – lettering heaven!

Llandaff Cathedral is situated on one of the oldest Christian sites in Britain, and was founded where the River Taff was crossed by the Roman road. The present cathedral building dates from 1107 when the first Bishop appointed by the Normans, Urban, replaced the earlier church.


There is evidence ... Read more

Gold and Parchment in Sydney

The highlight for me of our brief stay in Australia was the talk on Gold on Parchment that I gave at the State Library of New South Wales. The Australian Society of Calligraphers and the State Library had done a great job of advertising ... Read more

Christmas or Xmas?

There was an article in the paper towards the end of last year which posed the question of whether people would have Christmas or Xmas. The suggestion was that Christmas would be a time of having a loving day with family and friends, caring and sharing, and Xmas would ... Read more

The Lettering and Commemorative Arts Trust

The Lettering and Commemorative Arts Trust is now based at Snape Maltings, near Aldeburgh in Suffolk, and it is wonderful to have a showcase for all the excellent work that this charity does. It was set up as a result of the founder, Harriet Frazer MBE, not being able ... Read more

The Dering Roll

The Dering Roll is the oldest roll of English coats of arms and dates from 1270–1280. In the seventeenth century it was acquired by Sir Edward Dering (1598–1644) (right), from Dering in Kent, who is described as a knight and a baronet. He bought it in the seventeenth century, ... Read more

Sheila Waters at Eighty – A Retrospective

Please note: I am not now selling this book but have left the post up for interest.

This wonderful 50-page book was published when Sheila Waters was eighty, and encapsulates the incredible range and amazing creativity of her work. As written by her son Julian in the introduction: ‘Much more ... Read more

Heritage crafts and a National Honour

A great day for heritage crafts – the first national honour was awarded today, and what a day that was!



We had been advised to get there early, and so we were, and queuing with Brian Rea, from Northern Ireland Policing, and his family, at one of the wonderful ... Read more

Durham Cathedral – place of saints

It is said that St Cuthbert was the most revered saint in northern Europe before Thomas Becket was killed by the four knights in Canterbury Cathedral on 29th December in 1170. Cuthbert must have been a remarkable man for no other reason than Britain’s greatest treasure (in my opinion!) ... Read more

A modern flagellum

Beating the sin out of your body with a mediaeval flagellum may have worked in those times, but to me, this is a shocking use of beautiful writing and wonderful animal skin. I saw a flagellum first in the old British Library, when it was still housed within the ... Read more

St Vitale, Ravenna – secret pens and ink pots

Ravenna is one of the most amazing places I have been fortunate enough to visit. I was so bowled over the first time we went there that this year we went again, and if you haven’t been yet, don’t leave it too long before you go! For me one ... Read more

Golden Books – the Lindau Gospels and others

It is rare to get a ninth century book where the original jewelled cover is still attached to the book. The Lindau Gospels is one such. It was bought by John Pierpoint Morgan and was his first major manuscript purchase. The cover is simply amazing. The centre piece is ... Read more

St Cuthbert's Gospel – a rare jewel

St Cuthbert’s Gospels is one of the most covetable books I have ever had the privilege to see close up. Being within a foot or so of a seventh-century book that was found in the coffin of the important Northumbrian saint, St Cuthbert, was an amazing experience. When the ... Read more

Durham Cathedral all lit up!

Durham Cathedral like you have never seen it before. This wonderfully majestic Romanesque Cathedral, put up by the Normans to replace the original Anglo-Saxon White Church built to house St Cuthbert’s shrine, was more than colourful when, as part of the Durham Lumière Festival, images from the Lindisfarne Gospels ... Read more

Gold on Parchment

Quills, vellum and parchment (they are different!), real gold, egg tempera paints, the development of scripts, how manuscripts were made, how quills are cut, the sequence of manuscript painting, scribes, all this and more will be covered in the ‘Gold on Parchment’ session that I’ll be giving at the ... Read more

Worship and Glory exhibition

An exhibition of amazing craftsmanship and true artistry is on until December at the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace. The main attraction is the twelve Litany of Loreto embroidered pieces made in the early 20th century. Sadly the RSN website contains few images, but these ... Read more

Drawing the street

A wonderful new exhibition in Newcastle-under-Lyme library is on show only until November 30th, 2013 but is well worth making the effort to get there if you can. It shows a drawn record of the buildings on the streets mainly in and around Newcastle-under-Lyme.


Conservation Architect Ronnie Cruwys, whose ... Read more

On the rebound – a 14th century book

Many of us don’t fully appreciate the work that has to be done behind the scenes to ensure that manuscript books in exhibitions are presented in the best possible way. In the Victoria and Albert Museum, a choir book made in Tuscany, probably Florence, in around 1380 for a ... Read more

'Gutsy lettering' and all that jazz – Michael Harvey

Some of the names of the fonts available on our computers can be quite intriguing, and the stories behind them even more so. When Michael Harvey designed his first he called it Zephyr after the car he was driving, and his later fonts were named after his passion for ... Read more

Kites flying high!

I was asked to write out this poem for a special birthday present, and was delighted when the budget stretched to calfskin manuscript vellum, and real gold leaf on gesso base. As soon as I read the words, I had an idea of the shape and feel of the ... Read more

A 'must have' diary ...

The British Library Diary for 2014 is exquisite! Page after page of fantastic manuscripts, in rich jewel-like colours, greet each week. The images are taken from the collection of Royal Manuscripts given to the nation by George II in 1757, but with additional miniatures from selected other collections too. ... Read more

Are columns always straight?

Columns have been used for thousands of years to make impressive porches over significant buildings, or to record something important, such as Trajan’s or Nelson’s Columns, and the impression is that if they weren’t straight we would notice. However, if you look really carefully at columns, such as these ... Read more

Here lies the beautifully lettered gravestone ...

It is rare to get a whole batch of beautiful gravestones, and even rarer to be able to spot the hand of real craftspeople at work. This is clearly the case in the graveyard of St Andrew’s Church in Langar, Nottinghamshire. The church is a Grade I listed building, ... Read more

Gerald Cinamon – Man of Letters

Almost without realising it our book buying is influenced many times by the design. Without knowing the contents, we select or reject a book often simply by the cover.

Gerald Cinamon, Jerry, is a past master at this. A recent publication, coinciding with an exhibition of his work at the ... Read more

Luck be a Lady ...

In my view, calligraphy doesn’t always have to be two-dimensional. I really like pieces that aren’t hung on a wall, and making calligraphy books is a favourite. I had a different idea from a book, though, and that was to make some calligraphy dice, not just any old dice, ... Read more

Was Moses Born with Horns?

This very famous Michelangelo statue from the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome, shows Moses with the most exuberant and lush beard, which he seems almost to caress with his left hand, which is at the same time holding the stone tablets of law. However he also has ... Read more

New Illumination book on the way

After many delays I’m now getting very excited at the publication of my new book on Illumination. I’ve updated a lot of the techniques from my previous British Library book ‘Companion to Calligraphy, Illumination and Heraldry’ (can’t believe how long ago that was published!), and it links very well with ... Read more

MacDonald Gill exhibition

MacDonald Gill

Most people have heard of Eric Gill, the great letter cutter of the first part of the last century. He carved the Stations of the Cross at Westminster Cathedral and the Ariel figure for the BBC as well as many inscriptions. Others may ... Read more