SC - Charters, a Reflection

Dr Tiomoid of Angle tiomoid at
Tue Aug 3 12:03:40 PDT 1999

--- Ace <aslyn at> wrote:

> I would say that there is a slow but somewhat steady stream of new 
> Charters entering the system.  But I would counter that the reason 
> for a slow down in new Charter development is due to documentation 
> concerns.  First, in regards to new Charters or original scrolls, 
> it is a matter of supply and demand. There is a great need, and a
> relatively small number of designers and scribes who are capable 
> and willing to create new Charter designs (on either a single or
> consistent basis).

This points up a number of considerations that I'd like to see

In period, chanceries didn't worry about "developing new charters",
except in an incidental way in response to changing legal conditions.
The charter form used in England, for example, stayed essentially
unchanged from the time of Henry II to when they were superseded by
letters patent in the reign of Henry VIII, and the changes that did
take place can be precisely dated because they were responses to
specific legal developments, as can be seen in Hall. If Ansteorra
strictly followed period practice in this regard, the kingdom would
have a set of standard texts that everyone would be obliged to follow
and that would be changed only for good and sufficient "legal" (in SCA
terms) reasons.

But the SCA environment is more complicated. Awards aren't just "SCA
legal documents", they're also (after a fashion) prizes to celebrate
achievement, and people want them to look nice. Hence the urge, which
is perfectly natural, to add as much embellishment as practicable. And,
because the SCA millieu covers such a broad geographic and temporal
range, people have an (equally natural) desire to have something that
is congruent with their personal interests -- a Norse persona is a
Norse persona for a reason, and such a person would obviously be more
pleased with something in Norse runes than in Latin miniscule.

On the other hand, such documents weren't embellished (certainly not to
the degree that they are in the SCA) in period. To the extent that we
embellish such documents, we depart from authenticity -- and, Costume
Party Faction whining to the contrary notwithstanding, authenticity is
a virtue toward which SCA folk ought to strive.

So how do we reconcile these two apparently inconsistent objectives?

One way would be to separate the "SCA legal" aspect of an award from
the "display" aspect. The kingdom has a legitimate interest in
standards and uniformity, and the appropriate forum for the expression
of that interest is when awards are actually made, in public court and
in official pronouncements. The individual recipient has a legitimate
interest in receiving something that, by its appearance, reflects both
the reasons why they are active in the SCA and the pride that they take
in the accomplishments airising from that activity.

So: I suggest that an appropriate resolution would involve a two-part
system. One part would be geared toward what happens in court, the
other part toward what hangs on the recipient's wall. The latter need
not be as authentic as the former, since it has a much more restricted
venue -- an inauthentic glitzy Sable Crane "scroll" hanging in
someone's living room isn't going to have the scandalous effect on the
Medieval Atmosphere Of The SCA as what is announced in court at an
event in front of God and everybody. It seems to me that such a
division would have a lot to recommend it.

It would effectively address the workload concern because people
wouldn't be rushing to have "production model" documents ready in time
to hand out at events that march inexorably down the calendar like the
water-hauling brooms in The Sorcerer's Appentice. A simple form
involving only calligraphy (with perhaps some calligraphic
embellishment, as was often done in period, for Real Important Awards)
would be much easier to prepare in time for Court than the current
labor-intensive painted "scrolls". It would be excellent practice for
calligraphers-in-training. The cost of materials would also be less, I
suspect, consisting only of good quality paper and ink -- no worries
about toner and paint adhesion under sometimes rough "field"
conditions. It could be made as anal-retentively authentic as the Crown
will allow. People like me wouldn't have all that much to complain
about. The sun would shine (in a temperate way), birds would sing,
flowers would bloom, and all would be joy and merriment.

It would effectively address the Death By Decoration impulse, because
the actual "production" document could be tailor-made to the desires of
the recipient and the capabilities of the artisan. This would take a
process of adjustment in the College of Scribes to get people lined up
to do the actual work, with plenty of time to work out such details as
specifications and reimbursement for materials, variety of forms for
use with particular personae, etc., but that process wouldn't be under
the psychological weight of the need for Getting It Done In Time For

I had an extensive discussion on this subject last night with Mistress
Serena (who unfortunately doesn't have easy computer access like the
rest of us idlers) and He-Who-Ought-To-Be-Master Lodovico, and I'm
working on a detailed proposal regarding implementing such a system.
But I thought that perhaps I'd present the skeleton of it here to see
what sort of concerns people raise, since I'd like to address them in
the proposal when it's ready for debut.

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