[This page to contain a thorough discussion of the Pictish King Lists, including a word by word transliteration of the above page -- the first access to this image ever available on the Web. January 1999. All re-use must credit Brantonei Draiktan Spurlock and list this Web site: Bran Mak Morn's Pictish-Elven Witchcraft]
READING THE PICTISH CHRONICLE
Paleography is the study or science of old or ancient writings or inscriptions. It was precisely my inability, over twenty years ago (more than half my lifetime!), to decipher most of the writing on a photo of one of the Pictish Chronicle manuscripts (shown above) — even though it was written in our own Western or "Roman" characters in a bold clear hand — that led me finally to the concerted study of calligraphy and the inseperable foundation in Western paleography that is concomitant with the lore of calligraphy whensoever that art is properly taught. For there is no other reliable system for transfering into the student a functional, working grasp of the whereabouts of those all-important bounding limits that demarcate the range of artistic leeway, freedom, or license with letter-forms and their ornamentation — one side of which is all "legal" or reasonable lettering, the other side of which is all vain and absurd affectation — than to begin the student with the classic naked perfection of dignity and economy that is plain Roman Capital letters as exemplified in public inscriptions such as the Trajan Column and Arch (see photo below). Following after the foundation of Roman Capitals, then proceed vicariously with the student moving on in strict chronological sequence, mastering one by one each successive scriptorial evolutionary triumph: Roman Rustic, the Uncials and Half-Uncials of the Coptic, Greek, and Celtic church documents, the noble purge into the clean elegance of Carolingian miniscule, the individual sensual geniuses of the many ravishing medieval Book Hands on the Continent and in the Isles as they stroke and slap their many "spices" of visual taste toward those polarized twins of Renaissance lettering styles: the great bull-king of Black-Letter in the north and the crystal Fairy Queen ballet of Italic, the Sweet Italian of the south. To these attach brief appendices regarding post-Renaissance Humanist styles (hardly more than a bald-faced revival of Charlemagne's Carolingian of a thousand years before) and the sacred tale of how Edward Johnston brought forth modern calligraphy out of the near-extinction to which the the quill and its pointed-tip successors had consigned the reed and all other chisel-tipped pens, and you will have built a competant new flesh vehicle of mostly water (i.e., a person) to carry on the calligrapher's art and a not-too-shabby "in the trenches" paleographer, all at the same stroke. Such a person might, mirroring my own unexpected epiphany, just be gazing at the Pictish Chronicle for the Gazillion-and-Oneth time when, BA-BAM! "Holy Excretory Expletive, I'm reading this! And they said it could never happen in my lifetime!"
Aside from the innate challenges for the average modern viewer presented by the top-of-this-page Pictish Chronicle's Latin-language ontogeny, there are two main areas of difficulty that face the would-be reader of the document in its original hand-lettered form: firstly, exotic or obsolete letterforms within the orthography, which can be quite baffling to the reader unaccustomed to archaic usage and, secondly, the constant use of exotic/obsolete ecclesiastical conventions of abbreviation or shorthand-like markings or symbols used in lieu of omitted letters, syllables, or even whole words. Some of these impediments I can a remove with a few simple explanatory remarks as follows:
"LONG-S" and THE "FOLLOWING NASAL" BAR
Two very common events (one a letter-form and the other an abbreviation mark) are the character "long-S" (the letter everyone thinks is an "F" when reading the Declaration of Independence) and the bar over a letter indicating that a nasal letter — that is, an "N" or an "M" — of standard Latin grammatical inflection has been omitted as following letter for purposes of abbreviation. Hence, the following example is read as : "INSULA," the Latin word for island...
The next example reads "ET ALBANIAM" ('and of Scotland/Alban'). Note the ampersand or 'and' symbol in front of the word; this style resembles a number '7' and was very popular in early Irish and British documents...
THE FLOATING OR DEPENDENT 'R'
An interesting stylistic preference in many early Insular documents was to "borrow" a stroke of a preceding letter (usually a letter with a large 'bow' stroke, such as 'O') to serve extra duty as the stem of a capital-style letter 'R'. By this convention, the scribe would only draw bow and beard of the 'R' floating next to or dependent from the previous letter. The scribe of the Pictish Chronicle uses a peculiar long downward flourish in lieu of the beard stroke, creating a rather attractive effect. The example says "FORTRENN."
For me, the most difficult challenges are when random
or seldom used marks get used to replace common Latin syllables or whole
words. Whereas the intent of the scribe might have been glaringly obvious
to other church/monastery-based letterers of a common long-ago milieu,
to our modern (often Latin-ignorant or 'Latin-challenged') eyes such shorthand
can pose nearly insurmountable puzzles. In the following examples we see
an attached curling up-stroke indicating the syllable "-US" in the word
"FILIUS" and, next, the whole word "PATER" shortened to the letter 'P'
with several bizarre added markings...
With these remarks out of the way, lets examine the first
few lines of the Chronicle, covering from the legendary first Father of
the Picts, Cruidne, through his seven sons and a few following "legendary
kings" up to where the list of the Thirty Brudes would begin. (Whenever the Craft of the original Scribe so surpasses the rough and unschooled fumbling guesses and vulgar squints of your present balding, toothless, pot-bellied author, we will resort to the authority of the most excellent on-line translation of the Chronicle by Mister T. H. Weeks with brilliant explanatory notes added by Mister A. Weeks, as can be found at http://irwell.mimas.ac.uk/%Ezzalsaw2/pictish.html.)
LINES ONE THROUGH ELEVEN: featuring guest appearances by two Irish Kings never before noted (first discovered 1999 by A. B. Spurlock)
Lines 1 through 11.
Cruidne son of Cinge, the father of the Picts inhabiting this island, reigned 100 years. He had seven sons named thusly: Fib, Fidach, Floclaid, Fortrenn, Got, Ke, Kircinn. Kircin reigned 60 years. Fidach 40. Fortrenn 70. Floclaid 30. Got 12. Ke 15. Fibaid 24. Gedeolgudach 80. Denbecan 100. Olfinecta 60. Guidid gaed brechach 50. Gestgurcich 40. Wurgest... ['30' ; see line 12]
NOTES TO LINES ONE THROUGH ELEVEN: