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Great Calligraphy Festival Celebrating the Art of Writing in Waterford

During lockdown the Waterford Great Parchment Book (1356-1649) was chosen for inclusion in the prestigious Irish Script on Screen project and now all 450 pages are available worldwide on

To celebrate Waterford Treasures wanted to have a Great Calligraphy Festival, Celebrating the Art of Writing in Waterford.  Thanks to funding from Creative Ireland/ Waterford this has come to fruition and Waterford Treasures will also put a ‘Turning the Page’ interactive into the gallery where the Book is displayed, with translations, thanks to the late Dr Niall Byrne and his family.

The Great Calligraphy Festival, Celebrating the Art of Writing in Waterford will be both online and in-person.  Videos, tutorials and inspirational pieces by the world famous calligrapher Denis Brown are available on Waterford Treasures YouTube channel and other social media.  Exploring the Great Parchment Book and teaching about writing and book production,  Denis will also teach Gothic script, the one used in the Parchment Book and a small number of people will participate in an in-person workshop on 23rd September.

Rosemary Ryan of Waterford Treasures commented, ‘The Waterford Great Parchment Book is a unique source for how a great medieval city operated in the Middle Ages.  Thanks to funding by Creative Ireland/Waterford we can now explore its content and actual production. Who actually were the guys who did the writing?  Since they couldn’t buy online or in the stationery shop how did they get their ink and quills and vellum?  The Book is now online thanks to the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies and our Festival will celebrate the Art of Writing in Waterford.  Please join us!’

The Great Parchment Book is a Waterford Council record and covers 300 years in Waterford’s story 1356-1649, ending abruptly with Oliver Cromwell at the gates.  It is written in Latin, French and English and is the earliest use of English for city records in Ireland.  From it we learn lots of vivid detail of life in medieval Waterford, for example that plague killed 2,256 people in the year September 1603 to September 1604.  August was a particularly bad month with 116 deaths weekly.   The city officials realised that the disease was being spread by soldiers of the garrison, who were raiding the houses of the dead at night to steal their clothes and goods. The successful measures enacted to stop this pilfering make fascinating reading.

Rosemary added, ‘We would love the whole of Waterford to be writing together…students, schools, Friends of the Museum, graphic companies, would-be calligraphers everywhere, to celebrate the Art of Writing in Waterford.  Any self-respecting Goth needs to be able to write in Gothic script!  Sharpen up your quills, make your ink, purchase your parchment, and make your mark!  Learning to write is an amazing achievement!  We may not write as much as we used to but we are still very influenced by scripts, fonts, and typefaces.  Before Gutenberg’s printing press in Europe about AD1450 they had to handwrite every document and book.  Printing changed the world!’

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