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Book of Physick
Three Bestiaries, A Crescent Isles Herbal
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Lady Elizabeth Braythwayte's Book of Physick

When we came to bartering with Master Edward Braythwayte for his work on a pair of baronial coronets, one of the things he said he'd like would be a medical book of some form to go with the chirugeons' box he had made for his good Lady Elizabeth. Not a problem!

I set to and had a very hard think about how to achieve something that would be appealing as well as educational. And where to start? I figured a collection of all sorts of items, extracts and information would be the way to go about it; an approach I'd already been investigating with the Bespoke Book Project. So I started collecting material -- there are over 100 pages in my notes file covering all sorts of texts, books, websites, image collections, not all of it used, but contributing to what became a decent-sized tome covering a range of medical practices and ideas from the Greeks to the Elizabethans.

Lady Elizabeth's Book of Physic ended up being a collation of seven different A5 signatures, each 32 pages in length and each, for the most part, concentrating on a different area of medicine. It starts off with an introductory section, including a dedication based on that William Turner dedicated to the Duke of Somerset in his 1551 Herbal, an extract from Chaucer's Physician, the Rule of St Benedict and a calendar with various medically-inclined saints noted.

I had an interesting time fossicking about for printed examples of many of the texts, using them as the basis for doing title pages, titles and text layout. For the most part, the works have been set in Roman type, rather than the more-usual original blackletter. The idea was to give the feel of early printed medical works while still making the material readable to the modern eye.

Book II covered General Practice and Surgeries, including some rather sobering advice ranging over the 7th to 14th centuries on what to do if intestines have fallen out (involving a spatch-cocked puppy!), how to amputate limbs and replace them with artificial ones, and how to treat bladder stones. The 12th century Regimen Sanitatis Sanitanum provided lots of advice from the Medical School of Salerno -- much of it pretty sensible and as true today as when originally written.

Less popular now, despite its longevity, is the theory of the humours, but no period medical collection would be complete without something on it. I chose to reproduce, almost exactly, Peacham’s printed material from the far end of period, in 1612. I was particularly pleased to be able to take the English text of the Hippocratic Oath and lay it out in the cross shape commonly used in 12th-century manuscripts.

The Hippocratic Oath in 12C layout.

Celsus, with painted capital; printer prompt below.

Book III was a reproduction of Book III of the eight-volume De Medicina by Aulus Cornelius Celsus, a Roman medical authority now possibly more remembered for a critic who came after him -- Paracelsus. De Medicina was the first medical text to be printed, with that edition appearing in Florence in 1478 having remained a standard work for hundreds of years. The title page layout I used was based on the 1574 edition, with the text following the 1493 work, including indicating the printer’s prompts for where the illuminated capitals should go. The illuminator for the version I looked at had only done some of the work, so I followed suit, hand-painting the initial capital only.

Book IV was a herbal, consisting of a heavily edited selection of material from Cockayne’s Leechdoms, wortcunning, and starcraft of early England. Published in 1860, this work aimed to collect a pile of older material together, providing a look at the Anglo-Saxon approach to medical herbcraft covering a wide range of conditions. There are also entries on mandrakes, aconite, roses and tobacco, as well as Nicholas Culpeper commenting on John Gerard.

Book V covered astrological medicine drawing primarily from sources, treatises and other material printed in the 1500s. I included a couple of astrological charts to demonstrate the old square format, and had fun reproducing a zodiac. Paracelsus (aka Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim) provided a good source for the magical side of astrological medicine, with his instructions on how to create amulets, sigils and seals. Bhana Bhioncas Caristiona nic Beathain was of signal help in providing advice and inspiration for this particular signature.

Book VI was on the Plague, ranging from Boccacio’s description of what drove his company away from Florence to tell the stories of The Decameron, to Plague Orders issued by Elizabeth and James I, set to match the various desperate instructions printed in the latter 1500s as the plague ravaged England time and time again. The item which really appealed here was the Bill of Mortality for London – the one I reproduced was printed in 1665, but they date back in various forms to the time of Henry VIII.

Aside:I took my copy of the Book of Physic to Festival and it was quite handy in an impromptu class on period medicine. Mistress Filippa Ginevra went through the various causes of death in the Bill and explained the more obscure ones – death by being Killed by a fall from the Belfrey in Allhallows the Great is fairly obvious, but how do you die from Stopping of the Stomach or Rising of the Lights; and what’s Imposthume??

The final book, Book VII, was a reprint of my work on the Crescent Isles Herbal, a treatise on local perfumed plants which I’d undertaken some years back for a Kingdom A&S competition.

Master Edward had asked for a girdle book, and THL Isabell Winter kindly took on the task of binding the work in that format. She also very kindly bound a copy for me, with blind stamping on the cover and no facing end-papers, in lovely period style. At 200 pages, the signatures are around a centimetre thick in total; add the wooden boards of the bound covers and it really does feel like a period work.

I’d supplied her with the signatures I’d used as a proofing copy; proofing marks have changed very little between those used by period printers and the ones I learned sitting at a newspaper subbies-desk. It was good recycling and a chance to show people how this sort of thing is processed through the stages of printing.

If you want to track down the materials I referenced in the works, take a look at the medical section on the Bespoke Book Project page, where most of the references appear.

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A Crescent Isles Herbal

I did this herbal as an entry for the Midwinter Coronation Kingdom A&S Competition, which asked for A Treatise on the Properties of a Perfumed Plant (in the style of Culpepper). The lovely Luke from the AS50 list had this to say: "Well I have to say your herbal has left me in awe. I am in the mundane world a botanical librarian and your effort with it is excellent, positively first rate. I cannot begin to commend you for it." What a sweetie!


Herbal lore has a long and varied tradition, but the real flowering of the treatises known as "herbals" did not really get underway until the 1500s, fertilised by the development of the printing press.

In terms of British printed herbals, the first one of note was Banckes Herbal, an unillustrated tome published in 1525. The following year saw the production of Peter Treveris's Grete Herball, which was largely based on a French work, though written in English, and illustrated with almost 500 small woodcuts of plants drawn in outline.


Ball, Philip; The Devil's Doctor: Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science; Heinemann 2006
Crowe, Andrew: Which Native Tree?; Viking Pacific 1992
Culpepper, Nicholas; Complete Herbal (1653) Text
The English physitian: or an astrologo-physical discourse of the vulgar herbs of this nation. Peter Cole, 1652; Yale Medical Historical Library
Dioscorides, Materia Medica
Dodoens, Rembert; Stirpium Historiae 1583: Selection of absinthe illustrations
Eisenstein, Elizabeth; The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe, Cambridge University Press 2005
Fuchs, Leonhart De Historia Stirpium, 1542; Glasgow University Library, October 2002 Book of the Month commentary
Gerard, John; Herball 1597; selections from 1633 edition
Parkinson, Brian; Common Ferns and Fern Allies; Reed Books 1999
RSNZ: Royal Society of New Zealand, Transactions and Proceedings 1868-1961, Vol 24 1891
Salmon, J.T.; The Native Trees of New Zealand; Reed Books 1980
Shipbrook, Geoffrey (mka Jeff Lee) Fonts
Sim, Alison; The Tudor Housewife; Sutton 1996
Te Ara -- the Encyclopedia of New Zealand: Forest Mythology
Treveris, Peter; The Grete Herball 1526:
Via Libri description
Christies catalogue description
Turner, William; The First and Seconde Partes of the Herbal of William Turner 1568 Full facsimile
University of Delaware Library Special Collections: Horticulture (Turner)
The Art of Botanical Illustration Herbals and Early Works
Webb, Colin; Johnson, Peter; Sykes, Bill; Flowering Plants of New ZealandI; DSIR Botany 1990
Wright, Louis B. Middle Class Culture in Elizabethan England, Cornell Univeristy Press 1958
VAM; About Plant Motifs: Grete Herball illustration

The British botany scene finally got a solid locally-based herbal from William Turner, whose 1538 publication Libellus de re Herbaria Novus was the first to take a scientific approach to the subject. From 1551 to 1568, he published three volumes of A New Herball, notable for having significant coverage of native plants. Not all of his work was original, however, with the illustrations largely repeats of woodcuts from a 1542 work by famous German botanist Leonhart Fuchs.

John Gerard, of the still-consulted Herball of 1597, was the last of the great English herbalists to be published within the SCA period and he too, cribbed a lot of his material from earlier works including a translation of Dodoens' Latin herbal, published in 1583. Of the 1,800 woodcuts in Gerard's Herball, only 16 are said to be original to his work.

Nicholas Culpepper (sometimes Culpeper) followed on in this tradition. His best known work, the Complete Herbal, falls well outside our period of interest, having been published in 1653. Like earlier herbalists, Culpepper had a strong interest in the medicinal properties and usages of common plants, but he supplemented this with forays into the long-standing philosophy of the humours and astrological beliefs to a far greater degree than earlier proto-botanists. That said, like many herbals, a good deal of his content is based on earlier works, both of the Ancients and the then-Moderns.

I have chosen to base my treatise's content on Culpepper's mix of botanical, medical and metaphysical material in order to meet the requirements of this category that it be in his style. On any case, much of his material references earlier work, particularly the concept of the humours espoused by the Greek physicians Hippocrates and Galen, and the astrological lore typified by the likes of German mystic Cornelius Agrippa in the earlier part of the 1500s.

I have, however, decided to base the physical presentation of my treatise on that of William Turner's Herball of 1568. The approach of this work is reasonably comparable to that of Culpepper, as it too consists of entries for individual plants accompanied by woodcuts of varying quality. Its major distinction is in that it is a pre-1600 printed text - to the practised eye, Culpepper's printed works are clearly of the mid-17th century. (See the accompanying materials for examples of both which illustrate this.)

The Herbal (PDF, 2MB)
This is my full herbal in PDF form laid out to print as a quarto on A4 (ie four pages per A4 sheet, with a fold in the middle taking the final production size to A5). Three sheets of A4 are required, printed double-sided.

Treatise Content

The content, for the most part, follows Culpepper, although the preface at the start of my treatise has been adapted directly from Turner's own preface in his 1568 Herball; it's an appropriate choice for a Coronation entry given its panegryics to the Crown. My preface is considerably shorter, however, in line with the smaller nature of the treatise.

To the most noble and learned princesse in all kindes of good lerninge Quene Leonore who hath inspired His Majesty Edmund of Shotley to ascend to the throne of Lochac does katherine kerr wisheth continual helth of both bodye and soule and daylye encrease of knowledge and weal.
Most mightye and renouned Princesse
There wanted nothinge to the settinge oute of my treatyse/sauing only a Preface/wherein I might require some both mighty and learned Patron to defend my laboures against spitefull & enuious enemies to al mennis doynges saue their owne/and declare my good minde to him that I am most bound unto by dedicateing and geuing these my poore labours on to him. I did seke out euerye where in my mind.howe that I coulde come by suche a Patron as had both learning & sufficient autoritie/ioyned therewith to defend my poore labours against their aduersaries/and in the same person suche frendshippe and good will towardes me/by reason whereof I were most boune unto aboue all other. After longe turninge this matter ouer in my mined/it came to my memorye that in all the hole realme of Lochac/that there were none more fit to be Patronesse of my Booke/and none had deserued so muche/to whom I could dedicate & geue the same as Your most excellent sublimitie hath done: I haue dedicated it therefore unto Your most excellent sublimitie/and do geue it for the auoydinge of all suspicion of ingratitude or unkindnes unto You as a token and a witness of the inspiration which You do giue to all as Oure Quene.
From my manor house of the Hermitage the xuith day of Iune/ ASXLV

The dedication from Turner. Full facsimile.

My dedication to Queen Leonore.

The lengthy title is based on Culpepper's English Physitian and the Joyfull Newes Out of the Newe Founde Worlde, published by Frampton in 1577.

The Perfum'd Crescent Isles/ or/ An astrologo-phisickal discourse on the diverse and sundrie perfum'd plantes of this land/ being a compleat survey of the properties/ degrees and vertues of the same as were used in Anciaunt times as orfeyned for the hele of all most partickularly those who would scent themselves and their possessions so as to smell the sweeter; Also the portrature of the saied plantes very aptly discribed.
God save the Quene.
Imprynted at the Hermitage in the Barony of Southron Gaard by katherine kerr in the yere ASXLV/ at the tyme of the Coronation of King Edmund of Shotley and Queen Leonore de Scotia.

The title page from Turner. Full facsimile.

The title page from my treatise.

The acknowledgements at the front follow Turner's, but include the period authors I checked for this work.

Most herbals focused on the medicinal qualities of plants, real or imaginary. A plant entry would contain information on the name and locale, the therapeutic use and planetary influences, popular lore and alleged properties. Verbal descriptions were supplemented by illustrations, but the reliance on older works and translations of translations meant that the content contained, as Douglas Adams remarked of another work, "much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate". Wright characterises them as "little more than compilations of folklore, traditional commentary on plants, and folk medicine" (Wright, pg 575).

Culpepper's entries tend to follow a standard pattern of name and derivation thereof; physical description; place and time of growth and flowering/fruiting; and astrologically based government and virtues such as medical uses. He has very little to say on the nature of perfumed plants. Even the most obvious perfumed plants such as lavender or violets have that property mentioned only in passing as part of the description, with the bulk of Culpepper's commentary focusing on the medicinal applications, eg:

Violet Description. The root is perennial: it is long, slender, crooked, and fibrous, and the leaves are numerous; they are supported on long slender leaf-stalks, and are of a roundish figure, heart-shaped at the base, slightly notched at the edges, and of a dark green colour, several slender creeping stems or wires rise from among them, which take root at the joints, and so propagate the plant. The flowers are supported singly on long, slender, fruit-stalks, which rise immediately from the root; they are large, of a beautiful deep blue or purple colour, and extremely fragrant. The seeds are numerous, they are egg-shaped, and furnished with appendages.

The Plants and their Lore

Instead of the more obvious perfumed plants to be found in Europe, I have decided to indulge my taste for anachronism and have based my treatise on perfumed plants found in my own country of New Zealand, covering them in the same manner as Culpepper and presenting them as Turner would have.

A traditional lullaby tells us of the native plants used by Maori for their perfumed properties:

Taku hei piripiri
Taku hei mokimoki
Taku hei tawhiri
Taku kati taramea.

My little neck-satchel of sweet-scented moss
My little neck-satchel of fragrant fern
My little neck-satchel of aromatic gum
My sweet-smelling neck-locket of sharp speargrass.

Piripiri: Lophocolea allodonta et al
Mokimoki: Doodia fragrans; Microsorum scandens
Tawhiri: Pittosporum tenuifolium
Taramea: Aciphylla colensoi

Various aspect of these plants were used by both Maori and early European settlers. Colonial botanist Joseph Hooker described the Lophocolea mosses as having a "pleasant, powerful, and lasting" scent, variously noted as sweet, often fragrant and aromatic (RSNZ). Some ferns were known to be perfumed, with the small mokimoki being highly regarded, and recommended for its scent by gardening outlets to this day. The tawhiri tree, Pittosporum tenuifolium, provided a sought-after aromatic gum. The choicest and rarest scented gum was obtained from the taramea (Aciphylla colensoi), a very spiky alpine speargrass.

The gum of this plant was only collected through much labour, toil, and difficulty, accompanied, too, with certain ceremonial (taboo) observances. An old tohunga (skilled man, and priest) once informed me that the taramea gum could only be got by very young women-virgins; and by them only after certain prayers, charms, &c., duly said by the tohunga.
Hooker, Royal Society of New Zealand

The Maori lullaby uses the term kati taramea, referring to the sting, bite or puncture of the sharp leaves, a characteristic reflected in the European name Aciphylla (or needle-pointed leaf). Many of the period herbals considered the etymology of the names of plants, and tied these into their properties, and I have done so too throughout the treatise where possible.

Also in line with period practice, I have assigned aspect of the humours and attributions of various elements, qualities and temperament associated with those with each of the plants, based on their physical characteristics and typical location. Thusly:

Piripiri has the humour blood, the Element of Air, hot, moist Quality, a sanguine Tempermanet and is governed by the Moon
Taramea has the humour red choler, the Element of Fire, a hot, dry Quality, a choleric Temperament and is governed by Mars
Tawhiri has the humour black choler, the Element of Earth, a cold, dry Quality, a melancholic Temperament and is governed by the Sun
Mokimoki has the humour phlegm, the Element of Water, a cold, moistQuality, a phlegmatic Temperament and is governed by Mercury

Piripiri is a variety of liverwort, a type of mossy plant traditionally associated with blood. It was used by Maori as a scented lining for babies' napkins and possibly used by women during menstruation.

The tawhiri is sometimes called the black matipo, because of the sticky black seeds and its dark bark. This clearly gives it a relationship with the humour of black choler. According to Crowe, it has three distinct fragrances, from the crushed leaf, the flowers at night and the gum (pg 49). The latter was sought after by the Maori for scenting hair oil and making a form of flavoured chewing gum in conjunction with puha resin.

As a fern, mokimoki is found in damp environments such as on the river margins of coastal forests, so is naturally associated with water. Its fronds are sweetly scented - like marzipan -- when crushed, and were commonly used by Maori as floor coverings, in the same way Europeans used rushes.

Given the nasty descriptions of the taramea speargrass, it seemed more than appropriate to associate it with a choleric humour. I have played with the fact that an alternate name is Spaniard.

The various factual aspects of the plants regarding plant description, growth patterns and uses noted in the treatise text are based, for the most part, on anthropological or botanical sources, such as Crowe, Webb, Parkinson, the RSNZ and others. Other aspects are taken from similar plants cited by Culpepper. In the virtues, I have put a paragraph break between the ones based on actual botany of the plants from the Crescent Isles and the claims made by Culpepper for similar plants found in Europe. The "philosophic" names refers to the actual scientific names given to the plants.

Given the A&S category requires a focus on perfumed plants in particular, I have ensured that my text includes information on that aspect, although relatively little was available for the plants I chose. Here is the text:

Of a Fern Mokimoki.
Of this the Natives call the mokimoki is a fern smaller in partes than moste to be found in these lands/ being a handspan in length cover'd in brown scales lyke unto a lizzard. The leaves are divided and dented into long lobes/ paired as much as a score; some lie prostrated upon the grounde. In youth it presents as pink/ becoming green as it ageth. Its philosophic name takes from the Greek to mean of small stature and from the Latin its habit of climbing. They grow both on heaths/ and in shady places within the forests of the northern island/ seeking the cold/ moist aspects and climbs from its wat'ry base towards the air.

The Vertues of Mokimoki.
It is under the dominion of Mercury. The fronde emits a sweetnyss when crushed scenting the ground underfoot and it is used for this devise as other places use sweet smelling rushes. It some parts the scente is likened unto that of marzipane.
The roots being bruised and boiled in mead/ or honeyed water/ and drank/ killeth both the broad and long worms in the body/ and abateth the swelling and hardness of the spleen. The green leaves eaten/ purge the belly and choleric and waterish humours that trouble the stomach.The roots bruised and boiled in oil/ or hog's grease/ make a very profitable ointment to heal wounds or pricks gotten in the flesh. The powder of them used in foul ulcers/ drieth up their malignant moisture/ and causeth their speedier healing. Fern being burned/ the smoke thereof driveth away serpents/ gnats/ and other noisome creatures/ which in fenny countries do/ in the night time/ trouble and molest people lying in their beds with their faces uncovered; it causeth barrenness.

Of Moss hight Piripiri.
The Moss/ termed by the Natives as piripiri/ is of the liverworts/ its shape denotes its conneckion to the liver and to blood. There is no vein within the body/ nor waxen cover/ nor flowers nor seeds nor other aspect common to other plantes. The Moss/ growing in our moist Woods/ and the bottoms of Hills/ in boggy grounds/ and in shadowy Ditches/ and many other such like places where warmth and water mete. Most populous upon the mountainside named for the plante by the hamlet of Picton.

The Vertues of Piripiri.
The Moss hath a sweet fragrance which lasteth well/ being mete for use in places where flux/ faeces and other emanations from the bodie are like to gether viz. within the napkyns of babbies/ for womens Courses and the bloody flux encounter'd in Armys on the march. The scent dysguises the nature of the flow and a decoction is of good effect to stay Fluxes in man or Woman/ as also Vomitings or Bleedings/ the Pouder thereof being taken in Wine: It is very good for Women to be bathed with/ or to sit in that are troubled with the overflowing of their Courses
The Moss/ is held to be singular good to break the Stone/ and to expel and drive it forth by Urin/ being boyled in Wine and drunk: The Herb bruised and boyled in Water and applied easeth al Inflamations and pains coming of an hot caus; and is therfore used to eas the pains of the hot Gout. The Oyl of Roses that hath had fresh Moss steeped therin for a time/ and after boyled and applied to the Temples and Forehead/ doth Merveilously eas the Headach coming of a hot caus/ as also the Distillations of hot Rhewm or Humors to the Eyes or other parts: The Antients much used it in their Oyntments and other Medicines against Lassitude/ and to strengthen and comfort the Sinews. For which/ if it was good then/ I know no reason but it may be found so still.

Of a Speargrass hight Taramea.
The speargrass is aptly named for its sharp leaves designed to prick the unwary. The philosophers call it the needle point adding a further name to denote the wide spread of the plante which may catch the unwary; for some it is termed horrida. To some it is termed the Spaniard though why this should be the case when the plant is found far from those lands is a puzzle unless it means the harsh fiery nature of those people and their hot dry lands. The speargrass has many leaves half as long as a man is high. A large flower stalk stands upright like a tower and it has a head covered in long sharp spikes like needles that would do no shame to rest upon the polearms of any foot soldier. Male and female are the plantes with the male collapsing after fruiting with flower and the female carrying his seed.Many kinds are found from mountain to the sea and they live a long time compared to their gentler cousins.

The Vertues of Taramea.
Mars owns this plante; and it carries his effects very potently bringing fire and choler to any who draw too near. The choicest and the rarest scented gum from within the Crescent Isles is obtained from the speargrass and great grief somes to those who seek to collect it through much labour/ toil/ and difficulty for the plant will sting and bite and puncture those who do not treat it well. The consequent pains/ with loss of blood/ attending the collecting of its prized gum/ thus enhances its value and its exudation has long been used as a present for those of high rank.
Two spoonfuls of the distilled water of the flowers taken/ helps them that have lost their voice/ as also the tremblings and passions of the heart/ and faintings and swooning/ not only being drank/ but applied to the temples/ or nostrils to be smelled unto; but it is not safe to use it where the body is replete with blood and humours/ because of the hot and subtile spirits wherewith it is possessed. The chymical oil drawn from the speargrass is of so fierce and piercing a quality/ that it is cautiously to be used/ some few drops being sufficient/ to be given with other things/ either for inward or outward griefs.

My "woodcut" of Taramea

My "woodcut" of Tawhiri

Of Tawhiri-Tree.
The Natives call it tawhiri and some kohuhu/ that is to say in reckognition of the leaves being used like unto a palm frond viz to wave in welcome at the coming of Important Personages. Some call it the black matipo/ but the Philosophers name it from the Greek for the black and sticky nature of its seed and for the slender nature of its leaves. The tawhiri/ in the most natural places where it groweth/ is never very large/ seldom more than a score of feet high and in some places much lower/ with a stout trunk clad in dark grey-black or brown bark wherefrom issue many divers small and straight slender branches erect then spreading. The leaves alternate in placement and are leathery/ dark green above and lighter below/ some with wavy edges. The flowers are small and solitary and fragrant at night/ of a dark burgundy to black colour/ fleshy and hairy/ made of five leaves apiece/ after which follow black seed pods somewhat like that of a pea having a sticky red or yellow substance in them/ aromatical in scent. The most reputed natural places where this tree hath been known to grow/ both in these and former days/ are in the hills/ valleys/ and earthy grounds of coastal forests throughout the Crescent Isles. The flowers come forth within the early part of summer/ being the monthes of October and Novembe. From then follows the fruiting in late autumn.

The Vertues of Tawhiri.
This tree is of three separate vertues allowing three fragrances to issue forth; to wit one fromi the crushed leaf/ one from the flowers emitting at nighttime and one from the gum. The leaves may be crushed and held within a swetebag to emanate near the body of within a linen press; the cut leaves are found in the markets of London. From the body of the bark by bruising or cutting therein there issueth forth a liquor (which sometimes floweth without scarifying) of a thick whitish colour at the first/ but afterwards groweth oily/ and is somewhat thicker than oil in summer/ and of a scent to pierce the nostrils of those that smell thereto. When mix'd with oil it acts to scent the hair and likewise can perfume unguents made from the fat of the wood pigeon Likewise when mixed with the bitter sap of the cow thistle termed puha/ the gum imparteth a sweeter taste which can be used to scent the breath. The flowers make a green dye but yieldeth little from their smallness of size.
This tree is an earthy solar plant/ of temperature cold and dry in the second degree/ and is sweet in smell/ being of thin parts/ but the liquor is of good use against the poisons or infections of vipers/ serpents/ and scorpions/ the pestilence and spotted fever/ and other putrid and intermissive agues that arise from obstructions/ and crude cold humours/ to take a scruple or two in drink for some days together/ and to sweat thereon; for this openeth the obstructions of the liver and spleen/ and digesteth raw humours/ cherishing the vital spirits/ radical moisture/ and natural heat; and is very effectual in cold griefs and diseases of the head or stomach/ helping the swimmings and turning of the brain/ weak memories/ and falling sickness; it cleareth the eyes of films or skins/ and easeth pains in the ears: it helpeth a cough/ shortness of breath/ and consumption of the lungs/ warming and drying up the distillations of rheums upon them/ and all other diseases of the stomach proceeding of cold or wind; the cold or windy distempers of the bowels/ womb/ or mother/ which cause torments or pains/ or the cold moistures procuring barrennes. It provoketh the courses/ expelleth the dead and after-births/ cures the flux of the whites and stopping of urine; it cleanseth the reins and kidneys/ and expelleth the stone and gravel; it is very good against the palsy/ cramp/ tremblings/ convulsions/ shrinkings of the sinews and green wounds.


Printed herbals, whether in England or on the Continent, quickly took to illustrations, first woodcuts , later the more detailed works available through metal engraving. Copying, swapping and even repeating the same plates under different plant names were all common practices for the next 300 years (Glasgow).

A page from Turner. Full facsimile.

The mokimoki page from my treatise.

Early printed herbals, first appearing from the 1480s on, are notorious in printing circles for the amount of distortion and errors that crept in as woodcuts were used and reused, worn down, miscopied and mislabelled. The 1526 Grete Herball was described as "providing a remarkably sad example of what happens to visual information as it passed from copyist to copyist" (Eisenstein, pg 82). The difference between what contemporary painters were capable of and what woodcut engravers produced for herbals was considered "shocking" (Eisenstein, pg 219). This was attributed, in part, to the illustrators looking to illustrate the text descriptions rather than actually work from nature itself.

I have attempted to replicate the rather sketchy nature of the early woodcuts, following Fuchs' justification for his simple approach:

We have purposely and deliberately avoided the hiding of the natural forms of the plants by shadows and unnecessary things by which artists sometimes wish to win praise.

By the sixteenth century, attitudes towards such illustrations had changed, and they became more than simply a text accompaniment.

Authors, in despair at the inadequacies of purely verbal description, sought the aid of skilled draughtsmen and artists, trained to observe carefully and well.
Eisenstein, pg 220

One of these authors was William Turner, whose A New Herball is said to have been a "great advance" over others for the more accurate focus he paid to scientific observation of plants (Wright, pg 575). While my artistic skills are fairly limited, I have attempted to draw the plants from "life" (ie photographs) in line with Turner's approach. The scanned efforts have produced faint shading behind the drawings fortuitously akin to the block print that can be seen in some of the woodcuts.


While the initial herbals tended to be large folio editions, it wasn't long before canny publishers cottoned onto the idea that more convenient pocket editions would be popular for those who wanted to take their herbals into the field (Glasgow).

The man of wealth might procure a folio illustrated in colours, but always available were less pretentious books to fit the purse of the small tradesman and artisan.
Wright, pg 574

Banckes' quarto Herbal was often referred to as the "Little Herbal", to distinguish it from the Grete Herball, and its small size and relative cheapness made it a popular household reference. As interest in botanical studies grew, so did the size and complexity of herbals. By the time John Gerard printed his Herball Or Generall Historie of Plantes in 1597, herbals were running at around 1,500 pages of folio text and illustrations, coloured plates began to be used, and although the costs had risen significantly, there was sufficient demand for editions to sell out completely. I have chosen to present my treatise as a small quarto (ie a sheet folded in half to produce four pages).

A full facsimile of Turner's Herball is available online at the Rare Book Room. I have pored over the pages to develop a general style guide for this treatise. The layout is single-column black letter, right justified. I've used JSL Blackletter, Geoffrey Shipbrook's excellent near-period blackletter font, which is a reasonably close match to that used in Turner. Large drop cap woodcut-based initials contain flourishes and figures, and run from 3 to 12 lines in depth, depending on placement. The ones I use are comparable to those in Turner, as are the less historiated small drop caps.

The pages have running headers that are centred, and opposing page numbers at the top. The illustrations are unframed. Turner's run as a mix of single and double column with the occasional block insert within the text; mine are all single column. A Roman typeface is used for the captions; I have used JSL Ancient as a matching Roman font. Turner has used a mix of common names and more formal names (eg Aconite, Aconitum lycostonum, Wolfsbane), and I have followed this pattern in the captions.

I have omitted the Table of Contents which Turner has - my treatise is significantly smaller than his and has no need of one. Turner's work finishes with a small FINIS announcement, rather than the more elaborate colophon one might expect (perhaps that is in the third volume which I have not seen).

The paper is 90gsm Conqueror bond laid which is a readily available close approximation to paper used to pre-1600 printed works (I've looked at books from the 1500s in the St Brides Printing Library and was surprised to find just how close a match it was). As a small treatise, this work has not been hardbound, but simply stitched together with a pamphlet stitch using linen thread, itself a period binding practice.

I wasn't able to attend Coronation, so had feedback relayed via my lord who did. Next time I do a printed item, it would be a good idea to have a plain text printout for those who can't readily read blackletter (that's one reason why I use the Roman font JSL Ancient in preference to the more common-in-period blackletter for any of my printed materials intended for general use/distribution). Apparently those familiar with such texts thought that my herbal looked very genuine, and I gather a Gardening Laurel was heard to mutter something about a full Lochac Herbal!

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Ball Handbook

For Canterbury Faire 42 I was asked by Mistress Katherina Weyssin if I would do a ball handbook in a late-period printed style, with instructions and maps and suhlike. How could I refuse?

The 12-page handbook was graced with a picture of Caroso on the cover. In honour of the theme of the an Age of Explorers and Sea-Farers. I used the Windlass font in addition to the usual JSL ones, as it has a distinctly bucanneer/piratical feel to it.

I did like the inclusion of the Three Rules of of Dance Etiquette:

1. It is unseemly to always dance with the same person, therfore be courteous enough to invite strangers, travellers, those shy of nature or less sure of the steps to dance.
2. Lords may ask ladies to dance; ladies may ask lords. Lords may ask lords to dance; ladies may ask ladies. Venture forth and ask, so that all may enjoy themselves.
3. If attending a ball, you are clearly near enough in rank to any other that you may approach and ask them to dance, whether a King, a Duchess, a Baroness or a Knight.

It's always nice to try and encourage better mixing, even if it is usually in vain!

The four sets covered dances from England, France, Dances of Antiquity and dances from Italy, with the traditional Tassel Kick competition providing a break. Each section included the steps of the dance, an indication of its difficulty and a suitable woodcut or map from the relevant region. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Italian section was very long indeed, despite having far fewer dances than the English....

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I have printed playbills for the Half-Circle Theatre at Canterbury Faire, and for Master Steffan Glaube's Mandragola play at Rownay Festival. Here are the PDFs, sized for three to an A4 sheet to get the right kind of proportions.

Half-Circle Theatre (PDF A4)
Mandragola Playbill (PDF A3; Warning: 10MB sorry)

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Almanac and Prognostycacyon AS38

I wanted to produce something that could act as a souvenir for Canterbury Faire and be interesting at the same time. Long years as an astronomy writer, and as a sometime astrological chartmaker, suggested a possible tack, and thus the Almanac was born.

The research was a great deal of fun, in deciding what manner of predictions to include, how to modify the horoscope casting for period use and so forth. The most awkward thing was that I didn't have any extensive period facsimiles to work from, just the odd page referenced here and there. I'll have to see what I can find for any future edition to produce something more closely resembling what was printed in the late 1500s.

Here's the documentation for the current edition:

My Almanac cover

Telling the time and predicting the future have always been important aspects of civilisation. Roger Bacon (Opus Majus, 1267) was the first to use the Arabic-derived term Almanac to describe his set of tables of the apparent motions of the heavenly bodies. Early almanacs also used the term prognostications, supplementing astronomical and calendrical information with discussions of the influence of the heavenly bodies on earthly topics such as weather, health, romance, and national and international relations.

This 16th-century almanac starts with the Common Notes, being a list of obscure terms and data used typically to calculate moveable feasts, such as Easter. The dominical letter of the Gregorian calendar year is the letter label of the Sundays in the year; leap years receive two dominical letters. The golden number is a 19-year cycle related to the Metonic lunar cycle, and called such because it was written in gold in early church calendars. It is used in computing the epact, which relates the lunar and solar calendar. The Constantine indication is a 15-year cycle introduced by Constantine for tax reasons which, according to Madore, is "part of the computus but of no interest whatsoever except to decorate calendars". And The Answer is, of course, the Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything - there's got to be an anachronism in everything to avoid perfection and the potential for hubris, after all.

Almanacs traditionally had a section for the "Zodiac Man", which depicted the parts of the body which corresponded to astrological influences, providing medical and romantic advice (Lawrence, 1898). The text used in this section has been adapted from an almanac in use in 1571, with some material from William Lilly's Christian Astrology (1647) and William Ramesey's Astrologia Restaurata (1653).

Cerniglia notes that:
...many almanacs proved they were not too exalted for dull or uninspiring doggerel verse, even if the poetry appertained to medical advice. Likewise, some almanacs demonstrated sensationalism was not beneath their authors. Far-fetched prophesies, baseless political speculation and acidic social commentary could be found even in the most profitable publications.

This sort of information has, of course, been included in this version, with prognostications covering the weather, general predictions and astrological aspects.

The weather predictions are based on the NZ MetService summary for early February in Canterbury, with a suitably uninformative approach comparable to many found in almanacs throughout the 1500-1800s (or in modern forecasts for that matter!).

The general predictions are based on the 1591 satirical almanac A Wonderfull Astrologicall Prognostication, in ridicule of the almanac-makers, allegedly penned by Adam Fouleweather, and commonly attributed to Thomas Nashe. Also included are a couple from Rabelais's Pantagruelian Prognostications (Chapter 25 of the Third Book of Pantagruel; 1532) and a line from Merlinus Anonymous.


Benazra, Robert; The Predictions and Almanachs of Michel Nostradamus
Catholic ForumSaints
Cerniglia, Keith A. The American Almanac and the Astrology Factor
Forster, Jennifer; Anticipating the Apocalypse: An Elizabethan Prophecy, Historian, Spring, 2001
Lawrence, Robert Dean, Medieval Belief in Day-Fatality; Houghton Miffline (1898)
Lee, Jeff, typographer
Madore, David; The Calendar
Renaissance Astrology

The astrological aspects come from an event horoscope drawn up for the time of Canterbury Faire's opening court, using the interpretations provided by the Astrolabe astrological service, as well as relevant material from Lilly and Ramesey relating to the planets, signs and placements.

Almanacs also listed information about saints, often deliberately including fake ones and some decidedly unsaintly listings or datings. This almanac's saints (all real) were selected from the list maintained by the Catholic Forum; the datings (not all real) were developed based on those contained within period almanacs. I wrote the closing poem based on the famous opening lines from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

Almanacs were extremely popular works, and consequently were early to print; the first printed almanac known was by Purbach (compiled 1450-1461); the first English almanac is dated 1500, printed by William Parron, who was attached to Henry VII's court. The general approach is known to have stayed static for almost 200 years, so I have assumed it reasonable to use some post-period examples in deciding on the text and layout.

Almanacs were often produced as small booklets for ease of carrying and reference. The typeface used is JSL Ancient, developed by Jeff Lee based on the transitional typefaces used by English printers Edward Jones and J. Redmayne in the late 1600s; the text has been run through Lees' JSL Font Converter to produce ligatures. The cover image is adapted from the Prognostication printed in Lyon for Michel Nostradamus in 1555.

Almanac Text

Here is the text ot the almanac.

Being the Year of the Reign of our most gracious
Sovereign Majesties AEdward and Yolande
By katherine kerr of the Hermitage,
astronomer and printer

Comprehending the dayes of Canterbury Faire
From Opening to Closing Court
Calculated for the Meridian of the Barony of Southron Gaard
Lat. 43 Deg. 33 Min. South.
And Wherein is contained the Sun and Moon's Rising and Setting,
Judgment of the Weather, Saints Days, Astronomicall Bodies, etc

Common Notes for AS XXXVIII
Being a LEAP YEAR and the Year of our LORD
And Since Ned Stall gave louse to the beggar wench
Since Southron Gaard was formed
Since the Tydders stole the throne of England
Since Women did at Billingsgate first scold
Since Summer was hot weather, winter cold
Since Lawyers would no fees of Clyents take
Golden Number
Dominicall Letter
Constantine indication
By Julian count
The Answer

The Anatomy of Man's Body as govern'd by the Twelve Constellations

No part of man's body ought to be touched with the Chirurgicall instruments, or cauterie actuall or potencial, when the Sunne or Moone, or the Lord of the Ascendent, is in the same signe that ruleth that part of man's body. At this time look for the Kings Evil, sore Throats, Wens, Fluxes of Rheumes falling into the Throat, Quinzies. And with the Moone in Cancer, check for Whelks, Pimples in the Face, small Pocks, hare Lips, Polypus, (noli me tangere) Ring-worms, Falling-sicknesse, Apoplexies, Megrims, Tooth-ach, Head-ach and Baldnesse. If the same be for the Pestilence, the Phrensie, the Pluresie, the Squincie, or for a Continuall headach, proceeding of choler or bloud; or for any burning Ague, or extreme paine of partes, a man may not so carefully stay for a chosen day by the Almanack: for that in the meane tyme the pacient perhaps may dye. For which cause let the skilfull Chirurgeon open a veine, unless he finde the pacient verie weake, or that the Moone be in the Same Syne that governeth that part of man's body.

Seekest thou a Chirugeon for your ills, a water-bearer for your thirst.

5th Day of February

8.36 Waxing Gibbous

The windes will be NE or SW, or S and NW. It will be hotte when not colde. The blind will not see much, the deaf will hear rather poorly, mutes will not talk much. Court opens when the rising sign is in Aries, a Masculine, Diurnall Sign, moveable, Cardinall, Equinoctiall; in nature fiery, hot and dry, cholerick, bestial, luxurious, intemperate and violent. The Sunne in Aquarius brings new ideas, and the Moon in Cancer, its onely house, is Watry, Moyst, Flegmatick, Feminine, Nocturnal.

SAINTE: Agatha
Agatha, a most pious Sicilian lady, was of such beauty that Govenor Quintian made many attempts upon her chastity without success. In order to gratify his passions with the greater conveniency, he put the virtuous lady into the hands of a brothel-keeper, but the lady's chastity was impregnable. Quintian, foiled in his designs, changed lust for resentment and on her confessing to being Christian, he ordered her to be scourged, burnt with red-hot irons, and torn with sharp hooks. Having borne these torments with admirable fortitude, she was next laid naked upon live coals, intermingled with glass, and expired on February 5, 251. Her veil, carried in holy procession, averted eruptions of Mount Etna and her intercession saved Malta from Turkish invasion in 1551. Patron of bell-founders, breast diseases, earthquakes, eruptions of Mount Etna

6th Day of February

9.10 Full Moon

The windes will be SW or S and colde, or NE and NW and hotte. Manye shall goe soberer into Tavernes than they shall come out. The rich will be a little better off than the poor, and the healthy will stay better than the sick. For all these times herein this place, the stars say that you and your peers aspire to change your society with new goals, but these must be grounded on this Earthe in order to be accepted by the peoples. Venus is in Pisces so beware lest your privvy fantasies appeal more than things of the earthe, and be certes that those you assist are worthy of your devotion. In this signe is one prone to Venery, delighting in Baths, and all honest merry meetings, a Company-keeper.

SAINTE: Amand of France
When he took the cowl at 20, Amand's family were incensed and attempted a kidnap. Committed to a life as a mendicant preacher, Armand was assaulted by the ungodly in France, Flanders, Carinthia, Gascony and Germany, where his wanderings in beer and wine-making provinces saw him associate with brewers and vintners to his harm. He passed to heaven in Elnone in 679. Patron of brewers, innkeepers, wine merchants, vintners.

7th Day of February

9.39 Waning Gibbous

The windes will be hotte when NW, windy when NE, colde when SW or S. Of wheats, wines, fruits, and vegetables never have this many been seen, if the wishes of poor folk are heard. Mercury in Capricorn shows the need for much planning and direction, with earthiness of humour. Saturn in the sign of the Crabbe says that self-control will rule your days. The north node in Taurus shows that you wish the company of your peers, but let not mere self-service be your motivation. As for Travell, and whether such a Country, City or Kingdom will be healthfull or prosperous unto you, know that Venus in the Ascendant means you may safely travell or sojourn hereunto the place of Canterbury Fayre.

SAINTE: Thomas Sherwood
A draper's assistant, born of Catholic parents in Protestant England, Thomas was condemned to the Tower of London for his faith, and tortured to obtain the place from whence he had attended Mass, and while therein he ministered to other prisoners. He averred that Queen Elizabeth was excommunicate and denied her supremacy over the Church. He was martyred 7 February 1578 by dragging, hanging, drawing, beheading and quartering.

8th Day of February

10.04 Waning Gibbous

The windes will be windy when from the NW, NE and SW, and strong when in the S. Butter shall melt with the extreme heat of Summer; and those that are hanged shall never live to be drowned. Possessions have great import with Mars is in Taurus; jalousie may be raised between lord and lady. Look for one who is big in Face; large, strong Shoulders; great mouth, and thick Lips; grosse Hands; black rugged Hair. Jupiter in Virgo marks the sign of the Pelican, with dutie and responsibility justly rewarded. In shape and forme is found a small shrill voyce, all members inclining to brevity; a witty discreet soul, judicious and excellently well spoken, studious and given to History, whether Man or Woman.

This sister of Saint Congar lived a life of quiet sanctity and private vows. Once when she visited her brother in his hermit's cell he refused to see her, fearing that even the sight of his sister would prove a distraction. To prove her holiness, she summoned a wild boar, and miraculously caused him to obey her like a pet. He accepted it as a sign.

The Canterbury Pilgrims

And on the final page, a hopeful plea...

When in February the hot dayes do falle
And Skeiron blows his steady breath on alle
Sweeping the countrys roads north and west to bring
Lords and ladies, knightte, laurel, pelican and kingge
Hastening to Canterbury from far-off playces
To make new friendships and greete with joie familiar faces.

Predicting how all may goe is no easy task
Though stars and planettes tell those who aske
Oft-times their vaunted counsell is not right
Mixing boy babe for girl, victor and loser in the fight
The fault lies not in the stars, or so the Bard doth saye
But in ourselues; be certain then of this, come what may
Howe're your mien, spread joie and walke with grayce
And you will be thought well come into this place

Almanac PDF

Having finally sussed how to save PDFs out of Ventura, here is the full typeset version of the almanc as a PDF. It's laid out to be printed octavo on A4, double-sided.
Almanac (PDF)

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Concertina Quote Book

Following on from the production of the bookmarks, I looked to see what other applications I could make of the quotes I had found inspirational. When casting about for a gift idea for Queen Yolande's visit to Canterbury Faire, I came up with the idea of putting the best together in a small booklet. I had seen concertina books in modern books on art binding. I have also seen mention of concertina folding for vade mecums, and know of various other foldings used in printed materials, but the approach I used for this quote book has no specific documentation from period (shock, horror, gasp -- maybe one day).

I set a batch of quotes of relevance to the Crown in a variety of period style fonts, with some (electronic) rubrication and accompanying woodcuts or other artwork. The setup had two sets of four panels in landscape orientation per side of an A4 sheet. These were cut and pasted together in a line, resulting in 14 quote panels with the leading front and rear panels used as paste-downs to a pasteboard cover. The latter was covered in a leather skin with an inset of an cross-stitched borage worked on by my daughter Grace (then 10). A light cord with silver beads formed a tie closure.

Here are some of my favourite quotes, gleaned from a range of sources:

  • You Rule Because They Believe.
    (From the inside of the crowns of Caid)
  • Courtesy is owed. Respect is earned. Love is given.
    (Freya Manslayer)
  • Fealty does not mean following the King when he decides to gallop over a cliff. It means holding him back.
  • Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.
    (Shakespeare; my personal motto)
  • A frog has a microscopic chance to become a prince, but a toad is a toad forever.

Concertina Quote Booklet (PDF, 400KB)
Here's is a variant of the layout I used. You're welcome to use it as a template to construct your own booklet.

Update: I have since made similar quote books for our retiring Court Chamberlain, Condessa Catalina Orosol, and for Their Majesties of Caid when They visited Canterbury Faire in ASXLVI. For the latter version, the covers were in blue with a pewter Caidan Cross (originally a gift from King Edric many years ago) attached, closed with a blue-and-white braid done by my daughter Grace. The final panel, instead of the usual Death and the Knight Durer woodcut, had my version of the Columbus discovery woodcut, showing Caid, the Southern Reaches/Crescent Isles and Lochac.

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OK, so bookmarks aren't really a printing thing, but they are associated with book production, so here they are. I've been experimenting with producing stand-alone bookmarks for a while.

Initially these have simply been printed words of wisdom on stiff card, with woodcut illustrations. I haven't seen any indication that these have a period counterpart, as most histories of bookmarks start talking about independent paper-based ones as coming in from the 18th century onwards. That said, there have been examples of vellum strips and the like found in books which may well have been functioning as casual placeholders. I've done bookmarks of this type covering a range of topics, such as period bon mots, relating to the Crown and suitable as a gift for a wedding guest.

Typeset Paper Bookmark
Here are a couple of PDFs of a page set up to print 10 bookmarks on an A4 page -- print it on heavy, good quality paper of at least 120gsm, or paste it onto vellum or some other backing for bit of body.
General Bookmark Sheet (PDF)
Pelican Bookmark Sheet (PDF)

Single-Sheet Sonnet
This is really not a bookmark at all, but I'll put it here for the nonce. This is a small (A5) typeset version of Shakespeare's Sonnet No 40 When in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes. It's one I've recited as a presentation piece and I typeset this with a nice illumination as an anniversary gift for my husband and lord.
When in disgrace (PDF)

Historic Background

Bookmarks of some form or other are likely to have been around since book began. I do like the expostulation of the 14th century book-lover Richard of Bury, in his Philobiblion (1344), when he castigated some unthinking student who:

...when he tires of studying carelessly folds the page so as to remember where he stopped. Or it occurs to him to mark with his dirty nail a passage that amused him. Or he fills the book with straws as reminders of the interesting chapters. These straws, which the book cannot digest and which no one bothers to remove, break the joints of the book or end up rotting away inside the volume
Beryl Kenyon de Pascual

Richard was right about these practices -- the remains of straw, stems, string and other items have been found within the pages of medieval manuscripts, as have scraps of parchment and vellum used as markers. Roberts tells a rather sweet story of a 13th-century manuscript where three bookmarks of scrap vellum are noted by the current library as to be kept between the pages where they were originally placed, adding:

It is interesting to note that after nearly 800 years these bookmarks, which started life as nondescript scraps employed to do a temporary service, have become an integral part of the book in which they were placed so long ago, and that now the manuscript would somehow be a different document without them in their “proper places".

The earliest bookmarks appear to have been the register bookmark, made of cords of vellum, leather or string attached to the headband, knotted at the other end which projected past the text block. Some of them were simply looped through a tab or hole near the top of the spine (Roberts). Other materials, as noted above, were used; there are manuscript illuminations which show one of the bookstraps inserted within a book rather than holding it closed, presumably to mark a place.


Farley, Laine: Early Bookmark Technology
de Pascual, Beryl; The Bookmark: a Bibliophile's Necessity
Roberts, Frank; Medieval Bookmarks Lead the Way
Szirmai, J. A; The Archaeology of Medieval Bookbinding; Aldershot, 1999

Another variant Roberts mentions included a parchment disk attached to the cord halfway down. This had a rotatable column number indicator on it (I,II, III,IIII) as a further aide memoire for texts that had multi-column layout. There are 12th-century versions of these surviving in manuscripts held in Cambridge University and Hereford Cathedral libraries. Book publishers even produced built-in tabs in medieval times, with strips of vellum or linen thread being attached to the fore-edge of pages to mark certain sections. Some of these were fairly crudely done, but a 15th-century psalter has vellum tabs which have been decorated with coloured beads (Roberts).

As you may expect, the earlier the bookmark, the simpler. Szirmai (pg 123) notes how long triangular vellum strips could be rolled to form an anchor to which vellum thongs could be attached for an independent bookmark. Roberts' article shows one from Exeter Cathedral, which has five such markers. Another has linen strings (three white and two red, white and blue braided strings) attached to a wooden anchor.

Some bookmarks were attached not to the book itself, but to the chemise leather or silk cover (Farley); this was apparently a popular approach for Books of Hours, which were often covered in this fashion. In other cases, the bookmark is an independent set of cords, ribbons or other markers held in place by the button or bead sitting across the top of the text block. Medieval Clothing and Textiles Vol 3 covers a variety of bookmarks from the 12th to 16th centuries (pg 145-179). These involved rolled parchment "anchors" or round or flat bars otherwise made out of beads or bone, metal or wood; these are sometimes called pippes. Some of these were precious metal or inlaid with such, sometimes enamelled. To these would be attached fine cords, threads, strips of leather or ribbons, typically in even numbers ranging from a single pair attached to the anchor, to as many as 14. The ends of the cords would be finished with knots, beads, pearls or tiny tassels.

These types of bookmarks are depicted in paintings throughout the period, such as:
Jan van Eyck The Annunciation, 1434-1436: a flat, button-like anchor pippe
Hugo van der Goes: Maria Portinari with Daughter and Saints; book with anchor pippe showing
The Master of Frankfurt Saint Anne with the Virgin and the Christ Child", c. 1511-1515; shows ribbons with tassels and a disk-shaped pippe
The Master of the Catholic Kings; Christ among the Doctors, c. 1495/1497; a flat disk nchor, possibly leather with gilding

And here are some examples of the ones I have made. They're different sizes as they have been produced to match books in my library, particularly those ones which have multiple passages I want to mark (such as Machiavelli's Prince).

A variety of bookmarks in cord, silk, wool, with bead and tassel ends, and various objects as anchors.

There are some later references (such as here) to Queen Elizabeth having been presented with a fringed silk bookmark in 1584. The gift came from the Queen's Printer, Christopher Barker -- Elizabeth had awarded him a patent in 1577 which licensed him to sole rights to print the Bible, so there was reason for him to be suitably grateful. Apparently Barker was also a draper, which is where the silk came in. I haven't found any further descriptions of this, but shall be keeping an eye out.

One of the things which most intrigued me was a comment on the use of these bookmarks. Having multiple marks seems odd to a modern reader used to starting a book, reading through it and finishing it - we typically need just the one bookmark to mark literally where we are up to. Period texts, however, weren't necessarily read in this fashion - it was much more likely to skip around in a book, making the reader want to mark various passages in different places. That's particularly so in the case of philosophical or religious texts -- even today missals often come with multiple built-in bookmarks so that the priest may mark the various discontinuous passages necessary for conducting the appropriate service.

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The Tales of Canterbury Faire

The intent of this project was to produce a work which approximated the type and nature of a mid-16th century English publication, to showcase the excellent material resulting from the Bardic Auction at Canterbury Faire in ASXXXVIII.

The text was typeset electronically, primarily using the JSL Ancient and JSL Blackletter fonts, as developed by Jeff Lee based on the transitional typefaces used by English printers Edward Jones and J. Redmayne in the latter part of the 1600s. While technically outside the SCA period, Lee's fonts are very close in style to period typefaces used by printers throughout Europe. Ligatures were used for tied lettering, but, for readability's sake, the long s was not used nor were j and v converted to i and u, and w was used instead of, as per some period examples, a doubled-up v.

The second page of the contents, showing the exhortation to readers and the dedication.

The title-page follows standard conventions of the time, being a mix of fonts and explanations, along with publisher information including the timing and place of printing. Title pages were relatively late to develop, not being fully established until the 16th century according to Steinberg (pg 68). Their layout is very characteristic, and a number of excellent late-period examples are accessible via the Shakespeare's Sonnets Website.

A dedication was a common feature, though many period ones run to multiple pages of very flowery flattery (see A new Booke of Tabliture, by William Barley, 1596, used as the basis for the Tales' dedication). The text ends with a colophon; this tail-piece was typically used as the means "by which the printer-publisher proclaimed his part in the proceedings" (Steinberg, pg 60) and I've also used it to acknowledge source material. It was typically set with text centered as it flowed down the page or to produce a shape, such as a goblet or hourglass. l

The colophon, showing the printer's modest commentary and acknowledgements in a shaped layout.

The illustrations come from a wide variety of sources, most notably the Boke of Good Cookery clipart archive of period woodcuts. I developed others electronically, most notably the large capitals where suitably relevant illustrations and typeface have been combined following a very helpful suggestion from Master Crispin Sexi.

One of Callum's poems, the Brewer, showing the running header at the top of the page, the use of a scholar's column at left for subheads and titles, a woodcut initial and woodcut illustration.

The main criteria for illustration selection was their appropriateness for the period and nature of the printing - almost all are woodcuts or engravings from the 15-16th centuries - as well as their relationship with the subject matter.


Clement, Richard W.; Medieval and Renaissance Book Production - Printed Books
LaPlantz, Shereen,Cover to Cover; Lark Books, 1995
Lee, Jeff, typographer, fonts based on A compendious view of the late tumults & troubles in this kingdom by way of annals for seven years, by James Wright, printed by Edward Jones, 1685; Ars Pictoria, or an Academy treating of Drawing, Painting, Limning and Etching, by Alexander Browne, printed by J. Redmayne, 1668
Middleton, Bernard C; A History of English Craft Bookbinding Technique; Oak Knoll Press & the British Library, 1996
Roberts, Matt T & Ehterington, Don; Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books - A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology
Steinberg, S.H.; Five Hundred Years of Printing; Oak Knoll Press & the British Library, 1996

The general layout of the work, in terms of pagination, running heads, use of illustrations and capitals, design format etc was developed after many, many hours poring over large numbers of period examples in texts, online and in museums. In particular, a visit to the Gutenberg Museum of Printing in Mainz provided access to a huge range of period printed samples, though the lack of any substantial captioning in English was a tad frustrating.

The paper used is laid, cotton-based, 100gsm cream Conqueror, folded to produce a quarto (roughly A6). It is a reasonable approximation of the type of paper in common use for printing in later period, described by Middleton as of linen or cotton rag content with a yellowish tint and well sized (pg 3). This book is some two centuries away from the first recorded use of paper, which was in 130,8 for the Register of the Hustongs Court of Lyme Regis.

The basic binding techniques used are period ones, for the most part using period-style equipment, including a book press, bone folder, basic sewing frame techniques, linen thread, beeswax, bodkin and hammer. A list in Middleton (pg 245) gives the equipment inventory for the 16th-century bindery of Nicholas Pilgri, stationer and binder of Cambridge (d 1545), which included:

  • planyge press
  • sewing presswes
  • gluynge pan
  • betynge hammer
  • pair of pynsers
  • a raspar
  • calfe skynnes
  • plowghe
  • cuttyng Knyff
  • bodkyns

I chose to use Plastipad for gluing, a glue used by modern bookbinders. I did not want to experiment with period wheat-paste starch in the limited timeframe available, particularly because these were intended for gift or sale. That's a project for another day. Codex binding has not changed a great deal in its basic approach over the centuries and books by modern craft binders such as Shareen LaPlantz and Arthur Johnson provided a useful adjunct to more academic works.

Soft-Cover Mass Version

Almost 50 copies were made of the soft-cover Tales, with almost half designated as gifts for participants and supporters of the Bardic Auction. In 16th-century England, small books were often sold in blue or brown paper wrappers, or often no covers at all, and stab-stitched through the side with three or five holes. These books were neither trimmed along the edges nor lettered on the outside. (Middleton, pg 11).

The soft-cover Tales follows a similar approach in a two-signature, pamphlet-stitched format, sewn directly through a fold in the cover. It has been bound in burgundy book leatherette, used because a large quantity was freely available (an important consideration when producing 50 copies!). This approximates the right look, colour and style of the cheaper printed works of the mid- to late 1500s.

Alison Plowden, writing in Elizabethan England, Life in an Age of Adventure (Readers' Digest 1982), noted: "At the cheaper, and more remunerative, end of the trade, books and pamphlets sold for sixpence or a shilling (the equivalent of modern paperbacks) were illustrated ith woodcuts and either just sewn together or roughly bound in a limp vellum cover." She also noted that the maximum number of copies for any one edition as laid down by the Stationers' Company was 1,250. If more were needed, you had to reset all the type! Presumably this was intended to ensure even distribution of work amongst the printers, but I suspect that few print runs made it to this level in any case.

My soft-cover has a jute string band fore-edge closure with a scallop shell token. Wrapping bands with ornaments were a common feature of books, (I chose jute over leather strapping purely for economic reasons). Wrapping bands are typically wound round the book over the fore-edge two or three times with the end (often fitted with an ornamental piece of bone) being tucked in between the strap and the lower cover. (Middleton, pg 127). In the early days, heavy metal clasps were nailed onto the wooden boards; for some reason, the English did their back-to-ftont to everyone else and had their clasps on the upper cover and the catch on the lower. From the 12th century, binders started to use large plaited thongs with loops which fitted over bone pegs set in the edge of the lower cover. By the time lighter pasteboard came into use, linen ties became popular as a lighter, more economic approach. These would typically consist of two pairs of 15-20ml tape, (green, brown or blue) threaded through holes about 10ml in from the foreedge. Leather wrapping bands and linen ties remain in common use in hand-bound books -- I've seen lots of close-to-period examples in bookbinders' shops in Florence and Venice.

The decorative tokens on the cover are made of plaster, using the Canterbury Faire mould; similar bosses made of metal were common decorative and protective fixtures for period books.

The draft production of the Tales of Canterbury Faire. Ignore the ribbon ties, as that was just a trial for a suitable closure.


The presentation hard-covers are based on the common Tudor and Stuart practice of binding books with embroidered covers, usually of velvet or satin with gold, silver and silk needlework. According to Middleton (pg122), large areas of the velvet covers were typically left untouched because of the difficulties involved in sewing piled materials, and applique decoration was used to overcome this, as has been the case with these examples. Various leathers were also popular for binding -- goatskin, doeskin, deeskin, pigskin, sealskin, sheepskin and calfskin, with the latter most common.

The hard-cover decorations have been based, for the most part, on the devices of the people for whom each book is intended. The embroidered Y, for Yolande, is based on the initial I developed for a broadsheet of Lady Theodora's poem for the then-Queen of Lochac, using crown and borage symbols relevant to Yolande and her lord. The embroidered C is based on a common technique used to produce capitals, whereby a border motif or woodcut area is overlain with a capital letter. In this case, the C is for Master Crispin Sexi, who provided me with ideas and inspiration regarding this approach to developing the large caps in use throughout the Tales; the motif comes from a section of Ravenscroft's Pammelia (1609) , which Crispin provided.

C for Crispin Sexi, in late-period font style.

A crowned Y for Duchess Yolande.

The hard covers use archival mounting board, comparable to the pasteboard that replaced wooden boards in the early 1500s. The signatures are sewn over tape through recessed sawn cuts to produce a flat spine, a period approach still in use in fine binding today. Although leather over cords produces the raised effect often thought of as an older style of binding, flat spines were in production in England from the 7th century, and proactively recessing cords or tapes was common in the 16th century (Middleton pg 17).

The endpapers consist of four leaves sewn in as part of the text block. Middelton says that "the outer two leaves…were often stuck together to make a stronger pastedown while the two inner leaves were sometimes pasted together to [make] the flyleaf" (pg 19). Plain endpapers were common in Elizabethan publishing, often made from waste paper or reinforced with vellum; marbled endpapers weren't used in England until 1655, as it typically lagged behind the Continent in terms of technique and practice. Using a plough (an implement somewhat akin to a carpenter's plane) to neaten the edges of the paper was reasonably common by the mid-1500s, but I've chosen not to do this. the smaller signatures of the hard covers don't really require it for alignment purposes, and the soft-covers wouldn't have warranted the additional work.

One thing I would like to have included was headbands, which were coloured silk threads, usually in two colours, used to cap the endges of the signatures within the spine for added strength and protection -- you can see them still on well-bound books today. Bookbinders began to use stuck-on headbands (rather than sewing them in from scratch) in the 16th-century, and headbands of this type are still available today. Time constraints precluded their use in this project, but I hope to learn how to make them for future efforts.

One of the presentation books has a tied closure, commonly found in fine binding from 1530 to 1640 (Middleton pg 125), when such ties replaced the heavier metal clasps associated with older, wooden covers.


This shows some of the equipment used in the production of the Tales of Canterbury Faire, as well as the various stages of production and techniques used. Click on the image for a larger pop-up view.

On the book press plattern (at left) are the archival pasteboard and spine sections; unwaxed , unbleached linen thread; beeswax; and a bone folder (actually a Viking pendant which was the right size and shape for folding and creasing pages!). Next to these is an example of the six-signature text block (used in the hard covers) sewn with cotton tape prior to casing in. The white bottle contains book-binder's Plastipad padding adhesive. Other basic equipment not shown: newspaper, greaseproof paper, brushes, board-based sewing frame.

The hard cover editions are in velvet, with individual embroidered appliqued motifs. The one with my kk sigil (on the right in green velvet) has a tie closure, used because the test spine was cut too narrow and the book has a tendency to sit open. The black velvet books have motifs for, from back to front, Master Crispin Sexi, Baron Callum Macleod and Baroness Chrettienne de Haverington, and then-Queen Yolande. The soft-cover edition demonstrates the double-signature binding sewn directly through a folded section of the leatherette cover. The left-hand example shows the jute string strapping band with a scallop shell token (repeating the title page symbol), as well as the plaster Canterbury Faire boss.

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