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To make a Manuscript Page, you must first decide on what sort of format you want your overall design to take. These are some examples of common manuscript pages when they include text and decorations.

This first example is a very common style of page for a manuscript. It usually has one or more larger capitals at the beginning of a sentence or paragraph, and the capital is usually bolded or colored, or even elaborately decorated. The text flows around the decorated capitals, starting just a bit to the right of the capital, and then streaming beneath and around it as the sentence continues.

This example shows another style, this one with a decorative design running along the left hand side of the page (symbolozed by the red "X" pattern). This time, the text butts up to the design as it flows. In this style, you may also see some manuscripts that combine our first example with this one, where there would also be a larger capital letter either imbedded within the decorative border, or set more into the body of the text part, with the decorative border still running freely down the side.

Here we have another very common style seen in manuscripts, where the beginning capital is extremely large, and often elaborately decorated. The body of the text will flow around this capital letter, starting from its right side and then continuing down and below it as the sentence continues. For a very intricate manuscript page, the general text box may be actually quite small, or have very small type, and then a decorative border will run all around the large capital letter and the body of the text on all sides.

When you have your style of manuscript picked out, you need to determine the actual imageable area available to you on your page, and plot out where your design and text will go. First, you need to choose your surface that you will be decorating or writing on. Once chosen, you need to calculate your working unit value for this manuscript. Take your sheet of paper or whatever you have chosen to decorate on, and measure the width of the sheet. Make note of this measurement in mm, as it will be easier to make your calculations from that. Take this measurement, and divide it by 10, rounding up to the nearest whole mm. For example, a 165mm width sheet divided by 10 would be 16.5mm, rounded up to 17mm. This is your working unit value. Measure off your working area from the edges of your sheet now, leaving 1 unit at the top and sides of the sheet, and 1.5 units at the bottom.

If you are like me, you may prefer to have a bit more space to float around your image, and if so you can mark off your area as shown to the left, with 1.5 units at the top and sides of the sheet, and 2 units at the bottom. If you will be having your piece framed, you may also want to leave room for the mat and frame to go over the edges of your manuscript page, so in this case be sure to add a good 10mm to each side for framing. Now you should have a layout style picked out, and the size available to you on your sheet of paper marked off. Now you need to decide on how your text will flow.

Most manuscripts will either have the text aligned to the lefthand margin, or justified. The justified layout is certainly the most tidy and uniform way of making your manuscript, making the page look very even and symmetrical, but it can be tricky to get the text to stream properly without gaps and bunches along the lines. A solution to this is to simply align the text to the lefthand margin, and let the words stream where they may within your imageable area. This will give you a more ragged right hand margin, but a nice clean lefthand side to put decorations along. If you choose to stream your text aligned on the lefthand side, and not justify it, you'll find there is an illusion that takes place with the human eye, which interprets the gaps and ragged edge on the right as being more roomy than the left. So you'll end up with your page looking slightly offcenter, even though you may have marked it out all correctly. To counteract this when you align your text on the left, you must add an additional margin on the lefthand side, to push it out a bit more. Depending on the size of sheet you are working on, you can add 3mm-5mm more to the left side, adding proportionally more for larger sheets. Trust your eye for judgement, and don't fret too much if you notice it wasn't enough or was too much, final trimmings can fix it after the project is complete if all else fails.

Next, Designing a Manuscript Page...

If you're enjoying these tutorials, you need to get a copy of my book Creating Celtic Knotwork: A Fresh Approach to Traditional Design, Published by Dover Publications, the book has much more information than these online tutorials have, more explanations, examples, exercises to work through... become a Celtic art master!

All tutorials copyright Cari Buziak, 1995-current