Filling In The Gaps: Using a modern pattern analysis technique to identify and correct errors in a period pattern book – Rosina von Schaffhausen

Here’s a link to the 16th century German brocaded tablet weaving book that I analyzed:

This video explains how to do the modern pattern analysis technique I used in this project.


It is common among SCA artisans to talk about a period aesthetic as opposed to modern aesthetics.  For this research project, I am using a technique called symmetry analysis to study a period aesthetic that as far as I know has not been used in the SCA before.  I used symmetry analysis to study the patterns from Anna Neuper’s Modelbuch, a brocaded tablet weaving pattern book written by a 70 year old nun from Nuremberg in 1517.  My first goal for this project is to introduce the technique of symmetry analysis to SCA artisans who are unlikely to have heard of it before.  Secondly, I will use symmetry analysis to better understand the period aesthetic of Neuper’s patterns.  Lastly I will use symmetry analysis to aid in correcting errors and reconstructing missing pattern sections from the book.  

Symmetry analysis is a method for analyzing individual pieces of art as well as collections of related art by determining what kinds of geometric symmetry the artworks exhibit, and then determining what groups of symmetries appear in the artworks in a collection.  There are only seven possible combinations of symmetries that a one-dimensional repeating pattern such as in tablet weaving can have.  Neuper’s patterns are all geometric in style, unlike many other examples from period that have pictorial motifs.  For the purpose of this analysis, I used a modern pattern book by Nancy Spies where she charted Neuper’s patterns so I would not have to chart all of them myself.  I spot checked Spies’ patterns against the originals as well as examining some of Neuper’s patterns in depth in cases of inconsistencies.  

Of the 87 patterns, most of Spies’ reconstructions fall into the three symmetry groups that include half-turn symmetry, with one pattern having only vertical reflection symmetry, and eleven patterns having no symmetry apart from the repeating nature of the pattern.  The one anomalous pattern was unfinished in the original manuscript.  Spies used vertical reflection symmetry to complete it, while I used half-turn symmetry to complete it, in keeping with the majority of the patterns in the book.  A chart of my reconstruction appears in the Appendix to my paper.  In addition I found the eleven patterns with no additional symmetry could have other symmetries with correction of mostly minor errors.  With repair, all patterns in the book could have half-turn symmetry, and the majority would have no other symmetries other than the half-turn and the repeating pattern.  This implies that the half-turn symmetry is the dominant symmetry type favored for brocaded tablet woven bands in the Nuremberg region in the 16th century.

Full documentation available here:

14 thoughts on “Filling In The Gaps: Using a modern pattern analysis technique to identify and correct errors in a period pattern book – Rosina von Schaffhausen

  1. It must have been so satisfying to complete your recreation of pattern #8 and have the number of lines match (accounting for the missing one) the extant text! Thank you for sharing this fascinating research.

  2. Often when interpreting a period art form, and “correcting errors” I feel that we are glossing a book– including ourselves in a project. Thank you for this very interesting entry!

  3. Yes, that was such a bonus! I hope I get similar confirmation in trying to fix the other patterns I believe to be in error.

  4. Very interesting research. Thank you for sharing it.

  5. This was just so fascinating to read. But your accompaning video really broke it down so that even people that don’t ‘math’ could understand it.
    Thank you so much!!

    1. I am really glad the video helped. I wanted for anyone who was interested to be able to understand and engage with my project. The video is the next best thing to being able to explain the math in person. It sounds like it worked, thanks!

  6. This was such a fascinating concept! I hope to really dive into this paper in greater detail as I look through period pattern books. Really intriguing research – thank you for bringing it to life for us!

  7. Thank you for putting this fascinating research together. I am looking forward to trying this out sometime and diving into the rabbit hole.

  8. This is such a cool concept! Fascinating research, and it gave me a lot to think about for my own symmetry aesthetic in future projects. Thank you for sharing this!

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