This Book Belongs To, based on a 14th c. Psalter

Now that we’ve explained a little bit about the cover design, we are ready to share the process behind each page of Colouring History: Tudor Queens and Consorts. The book begins with a classic “This Book Belongs to” page. Most coloring books have them and it’s also fitting that this keepsake can be claimed just as one might mark a treasured Medieval manuscript. From the Middle Ages through the Renaissance, illuminated manuscripts were painstakingly created by a team of highly skilled craftsman and artists, beginning with the parchment maker, continued by the scribe, illuminator, and finished by the binder.

Colouring History: Tudor Queens and Consorts

The inspiration for our first coloring page comes from the Bohun Psalter, a 14th century psalter once owned by Elizabeth of York and then give to Katherine of Aragon. You can read more about it here.

14th c. Psalter

The process of illuminating manuscripts is a fascinating journey. We’ve touched on some of the methods and materials below but also included the original resource links for further reading.

Parchment was made with skins of sheep, goats, or calves and treated in a way that could last 1,000 years. The use of animal skins for written documents dates back all the way to the Fourth Dynasty but its use in illuminated manuscripts was most popular during Medieval times. The Medieval process included soaking the skins in lime water to remove the hair, rinsing, scraping, and drying. The skin was stretched and scraped each day during the drying process, then taken off of the stretchers and cut to the size of the book. The pages were folded in half and layered in “gatherings” of 16 or 20 pages. You can find more details and a video here.

The next step was for the scribe to write the letters. The scribe would carve a feather quill, drying the quill in hot sand first, then carve the pen shape and slit to hold the ink. Black ink for writing was usually made with:

  • Gallnuts - growths found on oak trees

  • Iron Vitriol - causes a reaction to turn the gallnut powder black

  • Gum arabic - keeps the ink in liquid form but also allows it to stay on the quill

  • Water, beer, or vinegar for added liquid

Another recipe for an ink called “lamp black” was made from soot, gum arabic, and water. Ink made from gallnuts was considered more permanent as the tannic acid would bond with the parchment. If the scribe made an error, “lamp black” ink was easily scratched off of the parchment surface. Below is an except from a 14th century ink recipe, included in a document called “Medieval to Early Modern Manuscripts: Some Ink & Pigment Recipes” which was compiled by the Special Collections Conservation Unit of the Preservation Department of Yale University Library.

“To make 3 quarts of ink, take 2 ounces each of galls and gum arabic, and 3 ounces of copperas. Break the galls and soak them for 3 days, then boil in three half gallons of rainwater or water from a still pond. And when they have boiled long enough so that nearly half the water has boiled off—that is, there is only about 3 quarts left—take off the re, and add the copperas and gum, and stir until cool. Store in a cold, damp place. Note that after 3 weeks, it will spoil.”

Once the letters were done, it was time for the illuminator to add the artwork. Thin layers of metal, like gold leaf, were always applied first. The illuminator would paint gesso or gum onto the intended gold sections and, once dry, place a small piece of gold leaf on top of these sections. The illuminator simply had to breath hot air on these sections for the gold leaf to stick. Then they would brush away the excess and give it a shine.

Color inks would come next, starting with the lightest shades, then darker tones, ending with black outlines or white highlights. Below are some color inks used in Medieval times. Much more detail can be found here.

  • “Cochineal” or scarlet - made from crushed bug shells

  • Blue - made from the blue stone, azurite

  • Violet blue - tumble plant seeds

  • Ultramarine - lapis lazuli from Afghanistan

  • “Verdigris” or blueish-green was made by exposing copper to vinegar in a bottle

The binder would then take the pages and sew them together with linen thread and use a combination of wood, fabric, and leather to bind the book within the hard cover. All of these books included a clasp to hold them shut. This is because parchment can expand in humid weather. By keeping the book locked shut, the pages would ideally stay flat.

Wouldn’t it be an interesting study to color your Tudor coloring books only in Medieval shades? Perhaps we’ll work up a pallet for you with suggested color pencils to match.

Until next time, happy coloring!

New Product: Elizabeth I Coronation Necklace

‘The Coronation Portrait’ by an unknown artist, c. 1600. National Portrait Gallery, London.

‘The Coronation Portrait’ by an unknown artist, c. 1600. National Portrait Gallery, London.

Join our email list for chance to win this necklace! See details at the end of this post.

Join our email list for chance to win this necklace! See details at the end of this post.

On January 15, 1559, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth I took place in Westminster Abbey. I’ve always loved this portrait of Elizabeth I and was thrilled when Natalie chose it for one of the pages in Tudor Queens and Consorts. Not only is it a beautiful interpretation of the young queen, but the composition and intricate details translate nicely to a colouring page.

Coloured illustration from  Colouring History: Tudor Queens and Consorts  based on the original painting.

Coloured illustration from Colouring History: Tudor Queens and Consorts based on the original painting.

…and how about a necklace too?


When I was a merchant at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire last fall, I saw some really lovely pendant necklaces made with small art prints and clear cabochons. After watching a Youtube tutorial and taking a quick trip to the craft store I was able to transform Elizabeth I’s coloring page into this gorgeous necklace! I chose an antique copper setting and chain to evoke an historical vibe while adding a little Tudor flair to your wardrobe.

The best news? These necklaces are now in our shop for $10 plus shipping. You can also win one of these lovely pendant necklaces by joining our email list. Just enter your email in the sidebar sign-up by Friday, January 25, 2019 to be entered to win! This contest is open internationally. We’ll notify the winner via email. By joining our mailing list, you’ll receive an occasional email (once a month-ish) with product news and exclusive discount codes. Good luck and long live the Queen!

Behind the Scenes: Tudor Queens and Consorts

Welcome to the Colouring Tudor History blog! Over the next year, I will be sharing a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Colouring History: Tudor Queens and Consorts. You’ll get the inside scoop about Natalie’s research, my drawing techniques, the printing process, and the ins and outs of self-publishing. I’m also crafting new Tudor-themed products that I will post about here. If you have questions or suggestions on topics, please feel free to leave a comment. We also have a mailing list that you can join to receive exclusive coupons and early product announcements (sign-up box in sidebar).

This very first post is about the cover of Tudor Queens and Consorts. (Yes, I’m going in order, one page at a time). With our first book, The Tudors, it was almost a no-brainer to have the Tudor rose on the cover. When we decided to make book #2, we wanted to emphasize that this book was going to be a deeper look at some of the most famous women of the Tudor court. Thoughout art history, most portraiture includes symbolism about the person and the life that they led, or aimed to lead. We wanted to bring this concept of symbolism to demonstrate what our book is all about.

First draft of cover with a smaller crown.

First draft of cover with a smaller crown.

The Crown: Natalie came up with the idea for a crown as the centerpiece of the cover. When I shared my first draft, she loved the design but rightly said that the crown needed to be bigger. The weight of the crown and the emotional pressure that came with being at the Tudor court was something we wanted to convey. The crown itself is based on the one seen in the Elizabeth 1 Coronation portrait later on in the book (and on the back cover).

The crown is based on this portrait of Elizabeth 1 by an unknown artist c. 1600. National Portrait Gallery, London.

The crown is based on this portrait of Elizabeth 1 by an unknown artist c. 1600. National Portrait Gallery, London.

Flower border: The flowers in this cover are based on pattern work found in Tudor-era embroidery as well as Anne Boleyn’s Book of Hours and other illuminated manuscripts of the time. You can see some of these flowers in the back drop of Natalie’s blog, On The Tudor Trail, which I also painted. You will see that I added some jewels and the Tudor rose as a way to visually connect to the main subject matter.

Key: On the left side you will see a key. This is to represent the secrecy, plotting, and intrigue that took place in Tudor times. It can also literally be viewed as a key to a locked room, representing intimacy and the relationships these women experienced both in the public eye and behind closed doors.

Tudor woman: On the right side, you will see a woman wearing a simplified version of a Tudor headdress and gown. This is to represent the female presence in our book as well as to indicate that there will be some fun Tudor fashion to color. This woman has her head bowed and eyes closed which can be construed as anything ranging from sad or pensive to thoughtful and content. Combined with the powerful image of the crown, this woman represents the emotions of any of the people we show in our book.

When it came to printing this book, I made sure to request a scuff-resistant coating on the outside covers. Not only does this coating protect the cover from dust and scratches but it also makes the colors pop. This cover is built to last as you tote it around on holiday or display it on your coffee table!

So, there you have it, a closer look at the cover of Tudor Queens and Consorts. Until next time!

Happy coloring,