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Calligraphy & Illumination

Posted by on October 25, 2012 in Uses | 0 comments

Calligraphy & Illumination

Parchment and Vellum are remarkable ancient materials proven to stand the test of time unlike any other writing media. They possess unique properties which will contribute to a stunning quality of work

Right side photo: DETAIL FROM SAINT JOHN’S BIBLE – Creation, Donald Jackson, Copyright 2003, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota, USA. Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, Copyright 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Whether quill, pen or brush is used lettering and illumination on real Parchment or Vellum has a depth, clarity and luminescence that set vellum well apart from paper. Intense vibrant colours and incredibly fine detail is achievable. These remarkable qualities can never be matched by so called ‘parchment’ imitations or ‘parchment paper’. William Cowley is the only manufacturer of genuine Parchment & Vellum in the UK.

For the last twenty five years or so I have completed many calligraphy and illuminating commissions on Cowley’s vellum. I find that the excellent quality of their skins does not change. The staff always take great care to ensure that the skins selected are suited to the purpose. ~ Patricia Lovett, Calligrapher, Illuminator, Teacher and Author

Our calligraphy and illumination products are primarily Calfskin Manuscript Vellum, Calfskin Classic Vellum and Sheepskin parchment. Manuscript vellum is the finest writing material of all. Historically, it has been used for any document that needs to convey honour, distinction, importance, authority and is required to last indefinitely.

A Great Revival of Traditions

The world of Calligraphy and Illumination is seeing a great revival in traditional methods and materials and William Cowley is proud to be playing its part. We were honoured to supply all the vellum for perhaps the largest and most exciting Calligraphic and Illumination project of modern times, the Saint John’s Bible, completed in 2011.


Another fine example of British craftsmanship is the magnificent re-creation of a Mappa Mundi, which hangs in the refurbished Great Tower of Dover Castle. Artists ‘Black Letter’ researched and used traditional pigments for this stunning work. Commissioned by English Heritage, the Mappa Mundi used the largest calfskin William Cowley has ever supplied!


In 2011 William Cowley was privileged to supply a piece of fine manuscript vellum to the Royal Household.  On this the Royal Calligrapher wrote and illuminated an ‘Instrument of Consent’ which was signed by the Queen and then sealed with the Great Seal of the Realm. This document gave Her Majesty’s formal consent to the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

See video:

Calligraphy Products and Advice for Beginners
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Come and see the parchment making and calligraphy demonstrations at the St Albans Cathedral Magna Carta Festival on Sunday 25th august from 12 – 3pm. We also have a display at the Festival from 3rd – 29th August 2013.