And now for something pretty


By now you’re probably used to me talking about ink. I can go on for pages and pages, and have.  Today though I want to share with you some pages from an illuminated manuscript I was happy to handle and photograph.  It is a beautiful book of hours.This book of hours is located in the Lilly Library and can be found as MSS 30 Medieval and Renaissance

If you click on any picture you will get a much larger version with lots of detail.

The so called blank page.  Is there anything more evocative to the writer and to the artist?

Pre-lined but left blank recto.

Pre-lined but left blank recto.

Unlike in the modern world, you left the lines in.  According to Christopher de Hamel’s, “Medieval Craftsman Scribes and Illuminators,” the more expensive the book the more likely you are to find lines in it.  It is part of excellent page decoration.

Verso of the recto above.  Also pre-lined but otherwise left blank. But notice the smudging.  It is actually the recto that closes with it.

Verso of the recto above. Also pre-lined but otherwise left blank. But notice the smudging. It is actually the recto that closes with it.

Recto opposite the blank page verso.

Recto opposite the blank page verso.

This was a very expensive book of hours, lots of gold and such and they left the lines in it.

You may have noticed the pictures are showing up exactly flat. That is because this book was rebound and it was rebound too tightly. So we had to take unusual measures to ensure that the binding was kept intact.

The book of hours from above

The book of hours from above

This book, when closed is about six inches high and 4 inches wide.

The book of hours from the bottom of the book.

The book of hours from the bottom of the book.

The picture above shows the lengths we went to keep the binding safe.  You see the typical gray foam blocks used to prop the manuscripts.  Look at the left (verso) side of the book. Notice how there is a gap between the book cover and the foam block?  That is because a book worm (that fabric thing is filled with lead or sand pellets and is a bookworm) is also being used to prop open the manuscript.  That way it won’t accidentally fall open further than the binding would safely allow.

In books of hours it is common to find decoration and illumination of the four gospel saints.  They are almost always shown writing. In other words they are almost always shown as scribes.  And since the artist painting them didn’t know how scribes in biblical times did things, the artist very often depicted the gospel saints just as they would depict the scribes of their time.  This means that by looking at this illumination we can get a good idea of the tools, materials and work space the scribes of the time would have had.  Also, since nobody knew what they looked like exactly they each have symbols so that they can be recognized.

Matthew – Symbolized by having a winged man;

Mark – Symbolized by having a winged lion;

Luke – Symbolized by having a winged ox or bull;

John – Symbolized by an Eagle

So can you tell which one is which?

Who am I

IMAG0283

Who am I?

IMAG0284

Who am I?

IMAG0286

Who am I?

And then of course we almost always have The Madonna.  No not the singer, the Virgin Mary.

The Virgin Mary

The Virgin Mary holding slain Jesus

And then we have just beautiful illumination we can get lost in.

See my danger orange?

A very busy border

Of course, as a calligrapher, I am more interested in the writing.

Lines still in

Lines still in

More posts to come on this subject.  In the meantime enjoy the post and pictures.

2 responses to “And now for something pretty

  1. Pingback: Milestone – 5,000 views | scribescribbling·

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