The 15th c. Style Schiff Book
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To the art process
This page includes images of the final Sciff book's full page illuminations and the binding process.

The illustrations below are raw photos which may be included in that book in some form. Please be sure to check out my articles on Making Medieval Parchment and Making the 8th c. Style Ecclesiastes book.

15th c. style illuminated Schiff Book art 1
The fronticepiece is a badge depicting a ship. The sail bears the initials of the client JS and the motto supports the ship on waves of genuine lapis lazuli.

15th c. style illuminated Schiff Book art 2
    The second magor illumination is a zodiac page. The sun and moon are gilded with genuine gold and silver leaf on three dimensionally raised gesso. The sky is a combination of lapis lazuli and azurite. The night sky is warmed with a hint of insect red. The soft yellows are weld lake, and the deepest blues are made from genuine English woad. In the landscape many greens were used, but prominent among them is Iris Green that I made from purple Iris Germanica petals according to a late 14th c. recipe from Italy.

15th c. style illuminated Schiff Book art 3
    The John on the Island Of Patmos shows John being interrupted from his copying of the Book of Revelations by a devil who has stolen his ink pot and penner set. The Eagle who dictates the story is fighting to get it back. Below John, on the border are two demons attempting to steal the gems out of the painting. All of the many colors you see in this art are the same as would have been used about 1500 AD in northern Europe except the cochineal from Mexico, but that was very similar to the European cochineal and Kermes insect colors in common use at the time.

15th c. style illuminated Schiff Book art 4
    This illustration depicts Saul's son Johnathan making a covenant with David. He presents David with his clothing and sword. Their lasting bond is symbolized by the skulls in the foundation below. In the border at right King Saul scoffs while below him David embraces Johnathan. Through the widow we see more of the palace, and below are nude figures of the dead in the flames of impiety. David's robes are painted in a red I made from madder roots. The floor used weld (Aarzica) yellow and malachite.

15th c. style illuminated Schiff Book art 5
Psalm VI is David in his Penance. He is dress in armor painted with my lapis lazuli and madder root red. The city of Jerusalem in the background is also lapis shaded with woad. Arzica lake pigment from weld plants is a prominent yellow in the figures, and the cornflower supporting the butterfly is pained with blue made from cornflowers, so it actually is exactly what it looks like. He prays to a miniature of God appearing in the sky above him on a golden nimbus made from buckthorne yellow.

15th c. style illuminated Schiff Book art 6
    Here is Job on the dung pile, being comforted by his friends as he scrapes away a boil on his skin with a piece of broken pottery. A demon flies overhead, laughing, but Job just accepts it all. In ancient times the filth, including all trash and dung, was just tossed outside of the cities and burned. That is why sometimes the scene says "dung pile" and at other times "trash heap."  In the background a peasant tosses more trash on the fire. It is visually in line with Job's head as a symbol of being dumped on directly. In the border gems are almost every color that I own. Arzica, yellow buckthorne, sap green, verdigris, madder, red lead, azurite, lapis, cornflower, carmine, gold, malachite, sap green, and many more are featured. Many are very precious, expensive and rare.

15th c. style illuminated Schiff Book art 7
    The final illumionated page of the Schiff book is this Memento Mori, a reflection of Death in the mirror to remind us all that we are mortal. From the dust we came, and to dust we shall end. The Litera Bastarda script is flourished with cadels.

The 15th c. Gothic Binding of the Schiff Book

Medieval book binding 1
    I built a medieval sewing frame so I could get the feel of medieval bookbinding. Notice the lack of screws to raise and lower the bar. They are uneccesary. The book block is supported on two boards to raise it enough to get my hand into the book comfortably. The book block is sewn with linen thread onto soft leather thongs which are suspended between the cross bar and through a slot on the base board, where they are pinned.

Medieval book binding 3
    The quires (folded gatherings of pages) are sewn with authentic weight linen thread to leather things. These thongs are split and wrapped by the threads. We see fake raised ridges on the backs of fine books today because in the old days these were the structure that made the ridges. The quires are added one at a time until the whole book block is secured to the thongs. Sometimes double cords were used on gothic bindings.

Medieval book binding 3
    In the middle ages the typical method for triming the book block was to use a draw knife. This made the book edges flat because when the gatherings are folded the innermost of the nested pages stick out further than the ones on the outside wrapping around them. This produces a dog-ear effect, so it has to be shaved down.

Medieval book binding 4
    The wood boards are shaped by hand, and then holes and channels are carved by hand in them so that the leather thongs can be woven through them. The leather will be flush with the surface when finished.

Medieval book binding 5
    As the thongs are laced through the heavy oak boards of the cover, I glue them with hide glue and secure them with wooden pegs seen being pressed in place. When all is dry, the pegs and remaining tails of the leather are sliced away. Then the spine will be lined with parchment on the outside, and I usually fill the gaps flush with gesso so I can tool the leather cleanly.

Medieval book binding 6
    I made the bosses for the cover of the Schiff book from brass. In this image you can also see the intricate carved brass clasp hardware and strap.. These will all be attached to the wood with trenails.

Medieval book binding 7
    The domes on the Sciff book were made by dapping. This is a process where I pound a ball die into a half round cavity. Once the dome is right, I then cut out the shape with a jeweler's  saw and file it. The medieval artisan would have used a chisel to cut it. You can see the inked design on the left. .

Medieval book binding 8
    I hand engraved the scripts on the Schiff Book bosses the old fashioned way, with chisel gravers. The brass is inked so I can see what I am doing. On other books I have used acid etching, but that is later period than most of the books I make.

Medieval book binding 9
    I also make bosses and clasp hardware by lost wax casting. I have been doing this at the studio of a fellow artist who has the facilities to do substantial bronze casting. Many medieval bosses were cast rather than cut. In the picture above, I am making the original wax models. These were then cast and used to make molds for pouring a great many waxes..

Medieval book binding 10
    This is a small amount of wax models being produced back in my own studio. The next step is to attach them to sprues of more wax. The sprue is the branch system that metal flows through on its way to the pieces inside the mold..

Medieval book binding 11
    This is my friend Tomak of Nethercraft Studio pouring molten bronze into the large ceramic mold for my pieces. When it cooled I next broke off the ceramic with a hammer and chisels. Pieces fly everywhere! I need to wear goggles..

Medieval book binding 12
Sawing off the pieces from the sprue tree. They need a lot of clean-up with files and polishing.

Medieval book binding 13
    The dark blue goat skin has been adhered over the wooden boards with wheat paste, but the edges have not been turned in yet. The ridges of the spine are given definition by tightly tying the wet leather with cords. The bevel edged boards are used to keep the cords from also marking the face of the book.

Medieval book binding 14
The flaps are called turn-ins. They are pasted down and the corners mitered. While still wet, the leather at the joint is pushed together to obscure the seam. The book is closed and allowed to dry. Then the harware is attached wit trenails. I bury the ends of these into channels so they do not dent the pages in the book and cause wear. If the book will be tooled, it must be tooled before the hardware is attached. When you look at some of the covers done for the Jeanne d'Arc books you will see some have gem stones inlaid into the covers. I also inlay colored leathers. .

Inlaid leather book cover
A book of love themes. Back cover showing red and white leather inlay.