Scriptorium, literally “a place for writing”, is commonly used to refer to a room in medieval European monasteries devoted to the copying of manuscripts by monastic scribes. Written accounts, surviving buildings, and archaeological excavations all show, however, that contrary to popular belief,  such rooms rarely existed: most monastic writing was done in cubicle-like recesses in the cloister, or in the monks’ own cells. References in modern scholarly writings to ‘scriptoria’ more usually refer to the collective written output of a monastery, rather than to a physical room.

Well, the Schwakhoferian Priory has a pop-up scriptorium where I’ve been scribing the words to the poem written by Brother Steve onto the valance for ‘Enter the Forest of Dreams‘.

I’m using a font called Stonehenge from  I had briefly considered ordering Thermofax screens and screenprinting the poem.  When Steve and I were in Dublin last month we went to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells.  I quite liked the idea of scribing the poem, even though it would be more laborious.  As Steve said, ‘The monks had bugger all else to do (besides scribe)”, but I figured that I could take some time over it and do it à la main.

I printed the poem, taped it into stanzas and placed them onto the valance to make sure I was happy with the placement.

To transfer the text onto the fabric, I ordered a couple of brown fabric pens.  I did a trial run on a scrap of fabric to test the crispness of the line and the colour.  I decided to go with Sharpie Ultra Fine.

Next I pinned each stanza onto my Cut n’ Press ironing board.

Then I pinned the valance over the words and traced over them with my fabric pen.

The natural light in our kitchen cum scriptorium is pretty bright, but today I used our newly installed kitchen light to direct a beam right onto my work surface.

I’ve been scribing just a few lines at a time to keep my hand steady and my concentration fresh.  Once I’ve  finished I’m going to design a booklet to display with the bed, so that people can get an idea of the story behind it and to see the valance, which will be hidden beneath the river and the forest floor of my River of Dreams bed quilt.

Sister Melinda in the Scriptorium

Enter the Forest of Dreams

Sleep. Let the forest enfold thee.
Watch. Let thy eyes see light in shade.
Hear. Let thy ears be open to silence.
Dream. Let thy soul be still.
Love is imagined.

Walk. Let thy soul be thy compass.
Feel. Let thy heart be bold, and cautious.
Know. Let hope take root, deep anchor.
Touch. Feel the river flow, and its bounty.
Love is found.

Sleep. The world is done.
Sleep. Thy love is found.
Sleep. The dream is made.
Sleep. This earth is thine.
Love lives.

Steve Coxon
April 2012


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