The Most Bookish Character of the Second Season of Game of Thrones

This is the second part of our research of the bookish and literary objects of the fictional world of Game of Thrones TV Series. Find out more here.

Disclaimer: This post contains images with graphic scenes and scenes of nudity from the Game of Thrones TV series. And of course, there are spoilers here.

The second season of Game of Thrones is much more bookish if you are counting the number of scenes where books and other literary objects are seen or used. However, the general style of many of these volumes remains the same: steampunk.

I do not use this word as a derogatory term. On the contrary, I’m quite enjoying the cobbled together style of the written objects found in the show. It makes our research even more exciting and challenging.

Some objects remain the same, like the screw post bindings used as King’s Ledgers always seen in Petyr Baelish’s hands, or somewhere near his person. Other feel a bit more suitable for the sort-of-medieval environment of this fictional world.

A new type of written object is introduced this season: a scroll with a wooden holder. Initially, we used the label “Torah-alike scroll” to describe it among ourselves. But that’s structurally wrong, and you will find out why below.

As before, this post wouldn’t be possible without the assistance of Eliane Gomes, book restorer and the owner of the Nautilus Boekbinderij in Haarlem, the Netherlands.

Some of the screenshots were adjusted to make them lighter and easier to read or to see more details.

Season’s Bookish Stats

Sure, you don’t think Arya is the most bookish character of any season? Well, we don’t know about the final one. But there’s a pretty large book in her hands on the top image, so that’s the only explanation for that choice. She gets kudos from Tywin Lannister for knowing how to read, though.

If in the first season of the show Tyrion Lannister has competed with the Grand Maester Pycelle for the honor to be the most bookish person, here the erudite scion of the Lannister family is leading without any real competition. Out of all 47 scenes where books or other literary objects may be seen 18 involve Tyrion, and 13 happen in his quarters at the Red Keep.

As I mentioned above, there are a total of 47 scenes that involve written objects in the second season of the show. That’s seven scenes more compared to the first season. And, once again, it is quite understandable, while the person who seemingly uses the books the most is sitting in one place and isn’t locked in a cell at Eyrie.

The runner up for the season’s most bookish person is Tywin Lannister. Majority of the scenes involving the family’s patriarch and books or documents are happening at the Harrenhal, where throughout the season he plans his next steps against Robb Stark.

As with the first season, in all episodes, there is at least one scene involving literary objects. I like the persistence of the showrunners in that matter.

The only episode with only one such scene is the ninth, Blackwater, dedicated mostly to the siege of the King’s Landing. The highest number of scenes involving books, scrolls, and other documents is eight. One more compared to the first season’s maximum. However, there are several episodes with six bookish scenes or more.

Scrolls, Rolls, Letters, etc.

Documents remain visually similar to what we have seen during the first season. There are some different styles of calligraphy used, but that’s also understandable, considering that we see more and more characters’ writing in the show.

Rolls on Wooden Pins

As mentioned above, there’s a new type of document introduced here that was never used in the first season. While the most often used kind of objects continues to be a flat document or a rolled document, this one also appears in multiple scenes and even is used by Tyrion at least once.

These scrolls on a wooden axis reminded Eliane and me of Torah scrolls. But for most of them that’s structurally wrong to say they are similar, because, as I understand, Torah scrolls mostly have two holders, not one. So while one part is unrolling, the other one would roll the scroll on itself. And the only occurrence we see a manuscript with two holders is in the scene above when Tyrion finds out from Lancel Lannister that Cersei is stockpiling the wildfire.

So the closer family of objects to all the other mounted scrolls in the show would be Asian scroll on a wooden pin. Chinese and Japanese scrolls mounted on a wooden axis, in particular. You may find more about their structure and history in this course: Japanese Culture Through Rare Books.

More scrolls of this type in Tyrion’s study:

Some of the scrolls in Tywin Lannister’s room in Harrenhal also seem to be based on the same principle:

If you think they may also be typical for Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, you are, probably, wrong. At least many of the archaeological findings and contemporary art evidence show that Greeks and Romans mostly used rolls without any wooden pins. Even if the modern media shows otherwise.

By the way, this scroll here, near the Bronn’s elbow. It definitely has a wooden pin. And its top layers are leather. What could it be? Another map?

Other Scrolls, Rolls, and Samples of Writing

Below we will list some of the rolls and scrolls that may be seen in the series. As well as some other objects. Mostly to show you the samples of writing.

Message sent by Jeor Mormont to the King by a raven with a plea for more men for the Night’s Watch:

A letter written by Talisa. Supposedly in Valyrian:

One of the books Tyrion studies before the siege of the King’s Landing: An History of the Great Sieges of Westeros by Archmaester Ch’Vyalthan:

Names on maps:

Some sort of a list read by Tyrion while arguing with Shae about her place in the Red Keep. You can see the curly braces and some elements of writing, but the text is mostly unreadable:

Letter from Theon to Robb:

Intelligence on Robb Stark stolen by Arya from Tywin Lannister:

Miscellaneous documents on the Tyrion’s table:

Wax Seals on Rolled Letters

We see lots of sealed documents in the whole series. And more often than not they are rolls (maybe laced, maybe not,) with a flat wax seal applied to them. One of the examples is right above: on top of other documents in Tyrion’s study lies an order to release the Grand Maester Pycelle from the dungeons.

As you may see, as often happens in the series, that’s a rolled charter, laced and sealed (presumably with the Hand’s seal.) That’s an absolutely non-secure way of sealing documents. And that’s a rather hard task to imprint something on a roll without flattening or damaging it.

By the way, there’s obviously a mistake made during the reshoots with the royal warrant for Gendry. First, we see it in the hands of an orderly without a seal or a lace. And then it is in the hands of the Night’s Watch’s man. Laced and with a seal. Guess which one was added later? Unfortunately, we don’t see the seal in any detail at all.

Message from Robb Stark brought by Theon Greyjoy to his father also is a roll with a flat wax seal on it. We do not see much of the details, but obviously, it bears the Stark’s sigil (you can see it better in our post about the first season):

Message Tied to a Raven’s Arm

During the first season, we’ve seen some ravens with letters attached to their arms. The best view, however, was at a raven shot when Robb wanted to cross the river at the Frey’s castle. This time we get a better look when Master Luwin sends a message about the capture of the Winterfell by Theon Greyjoy.

Unfortunately, I’m not an expert on ways of attaching messages to birds. Maybe someone among our readers will be able to shed some light here.


King’s Ledgers of Petyr Baelish

While in the first season Petyr seemingly had only one ledger (or all of them were quite similar,) this time there is some variation. He uses at least two different ledgers throughout the second season: a smaller two-post binding, and a larger three-post, that is more like the ones from before. We see the more massive ledger used as a document folder of sorts as well, as it has threads tied around the pages to hold them together.

Smaller ledger with two screw posts:

Larger book with three screw posts:

On the close-up, you will see a new writing set as well as the three posts of screws of the binding.

Talisa’s Notebook

I wanted to mention this otherwise plain looking book just because that’s the first literary object in the series that is owned and used by a simple person. Well, Talisa Maegyr is supposedly from a well-off Volantene family. Still, most of the other laymen use pieces of paper at best, not books.

The only other time we see a layman (not a messenger) with a paper object is when King Joffrey inspects the refurbishment of the Great Hall of the Red Keep. There is a guy walking by with some list in hands.

Grand Maester Pycelle’s Room

We have a rather good look at Pycelle’s room when Tyrion comes to arrest him. It looks like the Grand Maester stole a chained book from a library (check the first and the third screenshots):

Tyrion’s New Room

Lots of books, as usual:

Book Decoration and Binding Styles

Here on the left, you can see a couple of volumes with painted edges. However, it is hard to guess the binding style:

Straight spine and rounded spine one on top of another. Binding method may be anything from medieval to modern:

Late Gothic or Renaissance binding with bands. However, they may be fake bands, no chance to check!

In the center of the table, there are several cut-flush bindings (bindings with flush covers). They have no square and have covers and book blocks cut together. At least one of these books is rounded. However, it may be a limp binding as well.

Usually, cut-flush binding is reserved for cheaper books. However, I’m not sure what are the cheaper books in the world of Game of Thrones, where all books are handwritten.

On the left, the book with a clasp may be Gothic. The one below looks more like a 17th-century or 18th-century tight back (maybe French style, with raised sewing supports.)

And these are definitely limp bindings. With parchment laced in:

Bindings on the right are supposedly 17th-century or 18th-century French style tight backs:

There’s a book with a gilded edge in the Grand Maester’s room. I think it’s the first one we see in the series. And it’s huge!

And here’s a huge flat spine biding:

Tyrion is reading accounts of old sieges, but the columns of text in this book remind of a ledger:


Much more details of different maps may be seen in the first season of the show. In the secons season you may see the same large skins in Robb’s war tent, and there’s a map we have never seen before in the castle of Balon Greyjoy. But overall, they get much less screen time, and we see much fewer details this time.

Robb Stark’s War Tent

Castle of Pyke

Stannis’ War Tent

I guess as it happens with the other southerner’s, Stannis Baratheon uses paper maps. With the exception of his ginormous map table at the Dragonstone.

Tywin’s Map at Harrenhal

Map of the King’s Landing

All of the maps in the season are maps of Westeros. With two exceptions: maps Tyrion uses while preparing for the siege of the King’s Landing. Here he is studying the city’s plan:

And a map of the underground tunnels:

Writing Sets

While in the first season the props department seems to mostly move the same writing set from scene to scene, in the second season there is a tremendous variety to the writing instruments used by the characters.

Petyr Baelish’s writing set:

Writing set used by Matthos Seaworth, Ser Davos’ son:

Talisa’s writing set (sort of):

That’s not accounting for lots of different inkpots. However, they were well represented in the first season as well.

But here is the thing we promised to address before. In many of the scenes, we see quills left in the inkpots. Sometimes we see close-ups of these quills, and they are definitely not with metal points. That said, medieval feathers left in inkpots were easily becoming ruined. So that scribes would never have left them that way.

We can rationalize that mostly we see quills in scenes with different dignitaries, not scribes. So they can supposedly order someone to sharpen the quill.

I understand that quill standing in an inkpot should look soooo medieval. But, still, that’s a bit strange.

Document Boxes and Bags

Mostly you see boxes similar to Greek capsa or Roman scrinium. But sometimes other objects intended for holding documents appear on the screen. Like this bag with rolls of paper in Robb Stark’s war tent:

Roll holders:

There are small holders for the messages sent with ravens as well:

Have you noticed something we didn’t? We are still looking for collaborators, who would look into the leather materials used in the show. Please leave a comment if you are willing to participate!

As before, to make finding a scene easier, every image shared above has the episode number and a timestamp in its file name.

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