Great book

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Middle Kingdom Great Book

The History of the book

This first entry is by Fern de la Foret. Fern was the Queen of the Middle Kingdom when the Great Book Project was initiated. This is her story of that beginning.


Memories and History

12 April 2006

The idea for the Great Book of Ceremonies came from the Barony of Caer Anterth Mawr, Valerius' home barony. This group included some of the brightest and most innovative minds of the Midrealm at that time, such as Sir Andrew Greencloak, Mistress Arianwen Telynaur, Master Will of Wiltshire, and Christian Roguespur (now Count Sir Alfred, in Caid). I have no idea who originated the idea, but Valerius broached it to me during our reign as a suitable project for the Midrealm Laureate. (Valerius, remember, had been a member of the Laurelate for several years, so he had a good appreciation of their overall activities, and for the abilities available within that group.)

The first idea was to have some sort of showy, grandiose project to showcase the Midrealm Laurelate. We thought that the Midrealm Laurels would like the opportunity of combining their talents to produce one outstanding work of art. The concept of an illuminated manuscript seemed like a wonderful chance to recreate one of the most beautiful and symbolic artifacts of the Middle Ages. The second idea was which kind of items would be worthy of inclusion in the Book. During discussions with the Great Officers, it was easy to choose the listing of the Royalty and Peers of the Midrealm, (allowing some room for additions), but what else should be included?

Graihne the Dragon Herald was immediately struck by the possibility of writing down the major ceremonies used by the Dragon Herald. She said she always felt underdressed when holding a typed copy in a binder at Coronation and at Knighting ceremonies (the only two occasions with a standardized ceremony at the time, and very fine ceremonies they were, too).

As more chapters were proposed, it became obvious that the number of pages far exceeded the number of Laurels with calligraphy and illumination skills. Therefore it was an easy decision to include various highly recommended non-Laurels (many of whom would presumably be advanced to the Laurelate after their work on the Great Book was widely seen and appreciated).

After discussing it with the Great Officers and with various calligraphy and illumination artists of the Midrealm, who all thought it was a wonderful idea, Valerius and I announced it to the Kingdom, using the form of a Royal Missive in the April Pale for 1985. We made it a Royal Commission, to be sponsored by the Midrealm Laurelate and continued beyond our reign, for the future glory of the Midrealm and in honor of the fine Midrealm artists.

Later in April as one of the final acts of our winter Reign, we sent out an individual letter to all Laurels, Pelicans, Territorial Barons and Baronesses, and Great Officers of the Midrealm, explaining the project as it was conceived up to that time, and asking for contributions. Although the whole project was greatly dependent on Valerius' ideas and advice, this particular letter was distributed under my signature only, due to the tradition of the Queen being the Patroness of the Arts and Sciences.

As I recall, in addition to the calligraphy and illumination pages (which were all supposed to be signed by the artists so they could receive their proper credit with each reading), other parts of the project were accomplished as follows:

Cloth protective wrapping--Mistress Greya Ankayrlyn, Barony of Northwoods. The badges of the Midrealm orders (six at that time, the Willow, the Silver Oak, the Purple Fret, the Dragon's Heart, the Dragon's Tooth, and the Queen's Favor) were embroidered in their heraldic colors in silk over a black silk background.

Forged lock and key, from Viking pattern--Master Einar Lutemaker (now Mistress Elli Lutemaker), Barony of Nordskogen. Master Einar also mentioned making a pair of period eyeglasses (for which he was famous) to assist in the reading of small print.

Handwoven lining for the box. White with silver stripes--Blind Lord John of Calador (now Master John), Barony of Caer Anterth Mawr.

Handwoven ribbons for markers--Mistress Enid d'Auliere, Barony of Andelcrag.

The Book was assembled in time for the SCA 20 year celebration in Texas in 1986. Part of the time at that event, it was in my possession at my campsite and I was very proud to show it off to many people. I was even able to get a decent photograph of it in the Texas sunlight. Now, of course, it is kept under much better storage conditions, in a climate-controlled room in the library at Western Michigan College thanks to the supervision and care of Mistress Siobhan O'Rouke (now deceased).

As I look back on this project, I see two important principles were demonstrated. The first one is that the construction of the Great Book is the perfect example of the magic of the SCA. SCA-folk have the power to create beauty out of thin air. We can take something that just a good idea--just words on a page--and turn it into a beautiful object that can be seen and touched. This happens all the time at events--we take an empty room and turn it into a castle, or a royal court, or a village fair.

The second principle is that good ideas can come from anywhere. The idea for the Great Book came from a bunch of fighters, not from the best calligraphers and illuminators in the Kingdom. Of that initial group, all the guys were "just fighters". Yes, three of the group were Laurels, but not in calligraphy. Arianwen was a harper Laurel, while Will and Valerius were Laurels for armoring. None of them then, and none of them now, as far as I know, had any clerical skills beyond writing their own names.

The Great Book is also a testament to cooperation and teamwork. It started with a Good Idea and it was completed by many hours of hard work by wonderful artists. The continuity of the Book was nurtured and preserved by additional loyal servants of the Midrealm.

I am very proud to see that the Great Book has become an inspiration and a source of pride. Thank you to all who began, continued, and completed their parts in this most noble and most beautiful project.

with pride, Fern de la Foret, Countess, KSCA, OR, OP.

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