24 May 2012

Ancient Prayer of Saint Patrick

Earlier this year, I received a commission to create a broadside of the Ancient Prayer of Saint Patrick.

The length of the prayer dictated that the calligraphy be written fairly small, at least smaller than I  am used to. Several different calligraphy styles and layouts were explored.

Just a few of the styles and hints of layout.

As the rough drafts were submitted to the client, we began to hone in on the style and layout she desired for the piece. The prayer was to be written on vellum, have some type of illustration, with a square format, not to be framed any larger than 12"x12", and to be flush on both sides. (The client greatly desired structure in the layout.)

The style of calligraphy that worked far better than any other was a hand similar to the calligraphy in the St. John's Bible.  The hand is compact and upright with a beautifully classic flow. I practiced and studied the hand for only 4 days before attempting the prayer, which is not near enough time to see it properly, much less, try to emulate it with any type of precision. But deadlines must be met. I would encourage anyone interested in learning a new hand to spend time studying the calligraphy that Donald Jackson created for the St. John's Bible.

This is the finished piece.

Creating a layout that is aligned flush on both sides was quite a task. I utilized the computer for this part of the process. A template was created with the calligraphy manually squeezed here and expanded there for each line. I was then able to fold this template above each line that allowed me to place the appropriate line of writing directly beneath my writing line. This way I was able to follow the spacing exactly as it was laid out on the computer.

Template for layout.

This project was definitely a learning experience. My client wanted three of these broadsides created, which gave me the opportunity to develop some new skills and to reinforce those skills.

Enlarged detail view.


  1. Just beautiful! Your work is stunning!

  2. Beautiful work, Jo! Despite your time constraint, you knocked it out of the park. I loved reading about your process, and I really like your treatment of the versal with the vertical lines. F.a.B.u.L.O.u.s!