Italian Book of Hour created in the last quarter of the 15th century, probably used by Giovanni Colonna. Housed in the Lilly Library in Bloomington, Indiana its shelfmark is Ricketts 141. It is written in what is termed a “semi-humanist minuscule.” More information can be found here.
This manuscript has typical 15th century Italian decorations including white vine. While definitely beautiful a beautiful work, there are some things that show its wear over the past five hundred and some years.
The gold seems to smudge and rub off on the pages opposite it. This is an invariable pattern throughout the book. Makes you wonder what quality of gold was used and what else was in it.
A side by side comparison for you.
This smudging was the cause for me to ask those knowledgeable in the arts of illumination and in gold smelting etc for their opinions. Here is a summary of what was discussed.
First of all is that gold? Probably. It probably isn’t very pure gold. It may have copper or more likely silver in it. Yes other impurities are possible as well or instead. We do know that the smelting process to get to 24 karat gold was known in this time. So the question becomes did the illuminator choose this quality on purpose? If so, why?
Now, we shouldn’t let this take away from our opinion of the beauty of this work. But we should keep in mind that pure gold doesn’t tarnish and that when you see smudges like these opposite the gold, the gold simply is of a lower karat gold.
We see other interesting things in this manuscript as well. This page has a lot gold capitals, gold lettering and rubrication as well. This isn’t typically what you see in most manuscripts. If you click on the picture you will see that a lot of filigree work has been done as well.
A very nice illuminated V with Italian White Vine work around it. Do you see the wonderful Pepto-Bismol ™ pink? Yes, indeed it is a period color. Indeed, if you go back and look at 7r above you will see three different shades of pink.
For example here on 10v we see some more of the beautiful purple filigree work. Purple is an uncommon ink color and so it was a nice find for me to see in person.
Here we can see red and purple filigree work. I noticed something interesting in comparing the two, the purple filigree pen work is thinner than the red.
We’re seeing a lot of decorative pen work here, though, yes, it could be with a very thin paintbrush. So why can the purple ink lines be thinner than the red lines? Of course the pen or paintbrush could have been larger. That wold speak to a choice made by the decorator to put more weight to the red thus drawing more attention to that color.
But what about the qualities of the ink? Do the qualities of the purple ink lend themselves to hair thin lines when the red ink simple can’t go on that thin? Most likely we can’t know for certain but perhaps some colored ink making will be in my future to help answer the question.
As a calligrapher I tried very hard to not drool over the calligraphy in this manuscript. I must have done a good job as I retained my visitor privileges at the Lily Library. This is 130r and it is a beautiful page. Not only for the red and purple filigree work but also for the script.
I suppose we all know someone who could resemble one of the figures in this miniature.
A note of caution can be learned from this manuscript as well. Keep your work area clean and pay attention to where you ink is going!
That ink blot covers a grand total of 15 pages. A lesson in history. It is a very good idea to use careful techniques when making and handling your art and craft. We don’t know when the ink drop got there but we do know that it happened due to carelessness of some kind.