Making a tengwar illumination

By Gildir, Per Lindberg

Here's how I made an illuminated tengwar manuscript that became a gift from the Mellonath Daeron to the Malmö Tolkien Society Angmar at their 25-year jubilee in the summer of 2002. I used real gold because it really enhances the beauty of calligraphic works.

The idea was to create a manuscript that could function as a 'Rosetta Stone', with the same text in swedish and quenya, the latter also written with tengwar. The text was composed at a Mellonath Daeron meeting. We settled on the phrase Merimme sa haryal vinye 25 loaron almare. Nai termaruva Angamar almárea tenn' ambar-metta! meaning roughly "We wish you 25 new flowering years. May Angmar remain flowering until the world's end".

Now on to the calligrahic work! After composing the text, a rough layout is sketched. First, a few ideas are tested, and then the layout is designed in detail.

A paper is lineated, the design drawn in, and the text is written using a calligraphic pen. Then, the areas to receive gold are painted with diluted glue, with a touch of red acrylic paint to make them visible.

The glue is of a type that stays slightly sticky, so when the area is covered with gold leaf and lightly rubbed with a dentist's polishing steel, the gold adheres to the area. After more polishing to ensure that the gold won't come off, excess gold leaf is simply brushed off with a moist finger. The remaining dust and irregularities are removed by scratching with a scalpel.

A fine black line on the border makes it look sharper. After final polishing, the letter is drawn and the gold is decorated with a floral garland. The other initials are also decorated with various motifs.

When all ink and paint is dry, the help lines are erased. A few final touches are applied to repair minor flaws. We can now look at the finished result. Nothing shines like real gold, but it's hard to reproduce in a scanner, so you'll have to imagine it. Or go and look at the original! You can click on it to get a larger picture.


Per Lindberg