The Fibreguild seal tag project:
In Medieval and Renaisance Europe, legal documents were generally sealed with a wax seal, used to authenticate a document just as a signature is today. From approximately the 10th Century in England, and the rest of Europe shortly thereafter, a new innovation was made to make keeping a seal in good condition much easier – the seal tag. A seal tag is a narrow strip which is attached to the document and the seal is in turn attached to the seal tag. Early seal tags were strips of parchment cut from the bottom of the parchment, and these remained the main way of sealing simple documents, but fancier tags made using narrowwares techniques were adopted from the 11th Century for selected more important or flashier documents.
Fibre seal tags were often made by braiding techniques (only fingerloop braiding can be easily authenticated to date) or weaving techniques (tabletweaving and tabby faced ribbon examples exist), and there are also a number of tags where unbraided bunches of string were used. Many of the more elaborate seal tags involve a 4-strand braid of unbraided or braided string after attachment to the document.
Several years ago the scribes guild asked the fibre guild if they would be able to supply non-parchment seal tags for important documents such as award scrolls, especially for grants of arms and peerages. More recently, the scribes guild has begun issueing writs to Award of arms recipients in the form of a period writ with a seal on a seal tag. The majority of these writs are likely to have parchment tags, but for some reigns offers of simple fibre tags would be appreciated.
As fibreworkers have nimble fingers and are generally good at making string sit in the right place,their assistance in attaching even very simple string seal tags to dccuments will be useful to the scribes.
The scribes prepare a variety of documents at different levels of quality, intricacy and research levels, thus seal tags can vary in these factors to match. From a peerage scroll which is researched and designed to match a particular time and place to an Award of arms scroll where a few touches of illumination are added to a high quality photocopy of calligraphy, there is a home for every seal tag produced.
If you wish to make many similar simple quick seal tags, making seal tags for a future reign’s AOA writs may be a good aim. Approximately 50 seal tags will be needed for a reign, although such a project could be shared amongst several makers.
It is important to specify as much as you have researched regarding the time and place a seal tag might have been used for when sending it to the scribes. They know as much about fibrearts as fibreartists know about scribal work, so cannot be expected to know which seal tags are most suitable for various ranks and eras of scrolls other than by which look prettiest. Also they will be interested to hear more details regarding the tag.
Send completed tags to the provost of scribes.