Ellesmere Chaucer: Medieval Manuscript Reproduction

In November of 2009, I finished a full-scale reproduction of a folio of the Ellesmere Chaucer manuscript, one of the earliest and most important manuscripts of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

Ellesmere Chaucer Reproduction: finished recto
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I stove to be as absolutely authentic as possible in creating this reproduction. I spent weeks studying and practicing the Anglicana script of the original scribe to get my handwriting as close to his as possible. The reproduction is on calfskin vellum. I was going to use iron gall ink, but the ink of the original manuscript is quite brown, so I used walnut ink instead because that made it easier for me to match the color. The paint is gouache. I used 22-karat gold leaf and gesso based on a medieval formula. I even reproduced some of the imperfections of the original: the top of the page has been cropped, cutting off some of the decorative border, and there are smudges in a few places.

This was a really exciting project! I had to learn a lot, but it is all stuff that I had been looking for an opportunity to learn anyway – writing on parchment, using gold leaf. I feel very intimately acquainted with the scribes and artists who created the original Ellesmere Chaucer: it was a joy to study their work and to appreciate their skill. I hope I can create more manuscript reproductions in the future!

The photo gallery shows every step of the process. I also recorded some videos of the work:

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