Illuminating the Carolingian Era: The Artistic Diversity of Charlemagne’s Renaissance

These luxurious manuscripts were written and illuminated between the late eighth century and the first quarter of the ninth century. Abstract Comparing information from the ancient texts about the illumination of the manuscripts to the analysis of the components used to create colour in illuminations sheds interesting light. Our research team studied several manuscripts from[…]

Magical Seals in a Medieval English Book of Hours

A prayer book including ‘seals’ that offered supernatural protection. In addition to containing the daily cycle of prayer, Books of Hours sometimes include magical spells or incantations, reflecting their lay owners’ concerns over physical and spiritual dangers. Stowe MS 16, a Book of Hours produced in London shortly before 1410, is an interesting example. This[…]

Illuminating the Natural World in Medieval Manuscripts

Throughout the history of the book, scribes and artists have incorporated nature into their creations. Flowers are blooming in Los Angeles, and although we are spending much more time at home than usual, many of us are finding opportunities to be outside in nature at a safe distance from others. As manuscript curators, we have[…]

An Introduction to the Bestiary, a Book of Beasts in the Medieval World

Some bestiary descriptions explained a creature’s Christian significance while others focused on physical characteristics. Introduction The bestiary — the medieval book of beasts — was among the most popular illuminated texts in northern Europe during the Middle Ages (about 500–1500). Medieval Christians understood every element of the world as a manifestation of God, and bestiaries[…]

The Book of Kells: 9th-Century Irish Monks and Ogham Script

The Irish monks combined the letters of the Roman alphabet with their own Ogham script. Introduction The Book of Kells (c. 800 CE) is an illuminated manuscript of the four gospels of the Christian New Testament, currently housed at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. The work is the most famous of the medieval illuminated manuscripts for the intricacy, detail, and majesty[…]

Behind This Cover Lies a World Treasure

A small and ornate book opens up to reveal one of the great masterpieces of Renaissance manuscript illumination. The exquisite Rothschild Prayer Book, one of a handful of peerless illuminated manuscripts produced at the end of the 15th and the early 16th centuries, will be the centrepiece of an exhibition featuring the collection of media[…]

Illuminated Manuscripts: A Step-By-Step Look at a Beautiful, Centuries-Old Craft

What place does the paper book have in our increasingly all-digital present? What place does the paper book have in our increasingly all-digital present? While some utilitarian arguments once marshaled in its favor (“You can read them in the bathtub” and the like) have fallen into disuse, other, more aesthetically focused arguments have arisen: that[…]