My Order of the Sacred Stone

Based on the Utrecht Psalter


Notice the amount of bleed through from the verso

Date: 820-840

Origin: Benedictine Abby near Reims, Hautevillers

Format 330 x 256mm, Latin, 166 pen and ink drawings

This codex contains psalms, hymns, and the Apostles Creed. The illustrations are in dark brown ink, and the illustrations are depictions of the text of the corresponding psalm. The style is very sketchy and nervous without any ornamentation.

There is a theory for the lack of extravagance of this psalter which appeals to me.

The theory that while performing their duties in the choir, several clerics may have recited from the psalter read out before them on the lectern confuses the types of liturgical books in the Middle Ages. This was a practice reserved for large-format antiphonaries. Furthermore, the Utrecht Psalter contains the psalms in their biblical order, whereas the Benedictine Devine Office has them arranged in a different sequence.

Nor can the book have functioned as a decorative exemplar especially for the abbot or archbishop, on account of its simplicity. So the most convincing explanation – reinforced by the rather literally interpreted drawings – is that the psalter served as an aid to young monks in learning the psalms by heart together.

So the Utrecht Psalter is essentially Dick and Jane learn the Psalms.


Thin Pergamenata, so chosen because of the prominent bleed through of the exemplar.

Penman’s Brown and W&N Red inks.

Illustrations based on Sacred Stone pictures by Master Ursus and others, as well as based on the heraldry of the recipients, which compose the illustrations throughout. Atlantian OP provided the individual heraldry.

Publicly available pictures of the Sacred Stone itself, in Charlotte NC.

Hand bound in the Carolingian style, with the help of the following sites:



After sketches and sample text was decided upon (in the little bound notebook), I set out to cut, line, and assemble the folios( 1 bifold piece of paper)  into signatures (groups of x number folios, in this case 3-4)
Art and words sketched in graphite with notes to remind me which letters were in red. In this case the first line and the first letter of the text block.
Royalty and the deceased were singled out with individual treatment. COG passed during the sketch portion of this project.
Enter a caption

In the upper left hand corner is the ductus (a depiction of each letter cut from the exemplar for reference while doing calligraphy), the center is the folio being inked. The bottom is a piece of scratch pergamenata used for testing ink flow and keeping me from getting hand grease on the folio.

Red ink applied first

After ink was applied to all the folios, and the majority of the graphite was removed, I set to binding the book in the Carolingian style that would be appropriate to the time period. The exemplar appears to have 5 binding spots, so 5 is the number of holes in the following book boards.

Holes drilled for running twine to bind against
Boards clamped into position
Detail of the herringbone binding stitch. Linen thread for stitching. Cotton thread for support.
Glue applied to the string on the boards.
Covered with brown leather. Drying with spacer leafs in the front and back to prevent gluing the book shut.



This was done over the course of about a week of work, interspersed between several other projects between October 2018 – March 2019.

The original assignment was to make my own backlog scroll to submit to the Scrivener Royal competition at Coronation in April.  As I’m working on my binding skills, this seemed a good opportunity. The simplicity of the art of the exemplar also allowed me to keep the time commitment down to the appropriate length specified by the rules of the completion, “about a week.”

I learned:

That I need bigger cutting boards for my “book press.”

Penman’s Dark Brown ink smells like cloves, which makes me smile when I work with it.

Thin Pergamenata especially doesn’t like how humid it is my studio.

I need to get wood to use as the book boards instead of composition for this period style binding. I have a stock of modern bookboards, and time constraints.

Thicker thread for the herringbone end piece.

I need to use a thimble.

I need to learn to emboss and gild the leather covers for more visual impact of the book, because my binding looks like old library books that are rebound by the high school art class. Although, it’s only my second binding.

I did not use animal glue , as would have been period, due to time constraints and availability of modern archival book glue (PVA), which I already have.




Walther, Ingo. Wolf, Norbert. Masterpieces of Illumination: The world’s most beautiful illuminated manuscripts from 400 to 1600; 2005;pg 90-91


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