Calligraphy Design: Simple Drawn and Painted Borders


The Calligraphy Pen

One of the most fascinating aspects of illuminated manuscripts is the range and diversity of the borders.  Elements can include stylized and naturalistic foliate drawings, (flowers, ivy, leaves, buds), geometric shapes and pen sprays often growing from border bars anchored to illuminated initials.

This demonstration will look at a few basic structures and incorporate various common elements found in manuscripts to create simple borders with added layers of complexity as a starting point to either creating your own designs or researching manuscripts to recreate “authentic” styles.

The border designs in this demonstration are a simple Symmetrical Border, a Repeating Spiral Border and a Border Bar with Ivy.

I have also included references to a few manuscripts from the British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts for each design to give you an idea of the use, range and diversity of the elements.

Drawing Borders

What you need:

  • graph paper (refer to

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