Illuminated Manuscripts/ The Art of Books


.I am absolutely in awe of Illuminated Manuscripts and the skill involved to create them. They were the main source of storytelling for centuries and originally created for only a few. I chose a wide range of non-religious examples from China, Turkey, Persia, and Europe in the Middle Ages, and we discussed the process of creating the manuscripts. The calligraphy inks and pigments came from grinding berries, stones and insects and the final touch was adding gold leaf. The manuscripts survived the ages because gold does not tarnish and they were on vellum or parchment which are made from animal skins and do not easily deteriorate. Scribes often took several years to create one book for a wealthy patron, King or Queen.

The earliest illuminated manuscripts are from the period 400 to 600, produced in the Kingdom of the Ostrogoth in the Eastern Roman Empire. Muslim writers began producing original works and artisans decorated these books with elaborate borders and illustrations which are some of the first known examples. Paper was invented in China during the Han Dynasty in c. 105, and introduced to the Arab world by Chinese merchants in the 7th century. The cities of Baghdad and Damascus were important centers of paper and book production and writers began producing original works of literature and poetry, mathematics, science, astrology, and philosophy. They also made extensive copies of the writings of Greek scholars and philosophers like Aristotle, preserving many of the works that provided the basis for many European universities to follow. From the 5th -13th century, Monasteries were the primary producers of books. Illuminated manuscripts began to die out with the invention of the printing press. My Holiday card to the students was in the form of a page inspired by an Illuminated manuscript with their initial that they could design and complete.


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