Friday, November 19, 2010

The Illuminated Letter

Illuminated manuscripts refer to the embellishment of a letter on a page. In the strictest of terms, illumination refers to the addition of gold or silver, but today it means any decoration. These decorations were added to make letters important and to show a new section of the handmade books. Most of the scribes and illuminators were religious men called monks. Usually religious works contained the illuminated manuscript, as well as decorated pages to make it easy for the missionaries to find. It depicted the events clearly so that they could be seen from a distance. People believed that the books represented wealth and power, including magical powers. Beginning in the late Middle Ages manuscripts began to be produced on paper. Very early printed books were sometimes produced with spaces left for rubrics and miniatures, or were given illuminated initials, or decorations in the margin, but the introduction of printing rapidly led to the decline of illumination. Illuminated manuscripts continued to be produced in the early 16th century, but in much smaller numbers, mostly for the very wealthy.

Insular- Insular manuscripts were written in uncial or half uncial scripts and were the first manuscripts to introduce spaces between words to make it easier to read.They were decorated in abstract linear patterns adapted from Anglo-Saxon and Celtic metalwork and where zoomorphic forms were included these were stylised and either copied from earlier art or drawn from the imagination.

Carolingian- included sections written in gold or silver ink on purple vellum and often contained lavish quantities of gold.

Ottonian- Ottonian manuscripts were influenced by Byzantium, featuring the use of burnished gold backgrounds and large eyed figures in rigid, hieratic poses.

Romanesque - Romanesque manuscripts feature grotesques (a variety of real and imaginary creatures), textured or gold backgrounds, and historiated initials. These initials, found at the commencement of a chapter, combined the initial of the opening word with foliage, figures or pictures illustrating a portion of the text. These initials, which were more common than full-page illustrations, could sometimes extend the length of the page.

Gothic- Generally there was less text on page, with blank spaces in lines of text being filled with decorative bars. Illustrations were sometimes combined with borders, and marginal sketches and grotesques (now known as drolleries) were reintroduced. Historiated initials were reduced in size, but illustrations, known as bas de page, were included at the bottom of text pages. Decorative scrolls of ivy leaves were a feature of many Gothic manuscripts. The mid fourteenth century saw the introduction of original illustrations

Renaissance style- 1450, means "rebirth", there was interest in classical art, Gutenberg invented the printing press, many copies of a book could be printed at once by a machine

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