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Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination

Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination

If you’ve ever seen the Book of Kells, or any of the densely-detailed manuscripts illuminated by medieval monks, you’ll find yourself tumbled into a whirling world of color, hilarity, beautiful devotion and bizarre dioramas.

Their craft is a sublime blending of gold leaf, bright inks and Scriptural vignettes as they hand-copied every letter from every book.

Each finished manuscript was a community masterpiece, available to read often in libraries and on lecterns. But even though these monastic artists regarded excellence in illumination as their vocation and contribution to the religious life, they still ached, and cramped, and were glad when it was over.

Republished from BrainPickings.org: Oh, My Hand: Complaints Medieval Monks Scribbled in the Margins of Illuminated Manuscripts.

  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination

    New parchment, bad ink. I say nothing more.

  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
    I am very cold.
  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
    That’s a hard page and weary work to read it.
  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination

    Let the reader’s voice honor the writer’s pen.

  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
    This page has not been written very slowly.
  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
    The ink is thin.
  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
    Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
    Thank God, it will soon be dark.
  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
    Oh, my hand.
  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
    Now I’ve written the whole thing; for Christ’s sake give me a drink.
  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
    St Patrick of Armagh, deliver me from writing.
  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
    While I wrote I froze, and what I could not write by the beams of the sun I finished by candlelight.
  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
    As the harbor is welcome to the sailor, so is the last line to the scribe.
  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
    Writing is excessive drudgery. It crooks your back, it dims your sight, it twists your stomach and your sides.
  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
    This is sad! O little book! A day will come in truth when someone over your page will say, ‘The hand that wrote it is no more.’
  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination

    New parchment, bad ink. I say nothing more.

  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
    I am very cold.
  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
    That’s a hard page and weary work to read it.
  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination

    Let the reader’s voice honor the writer’s pen.

  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
    This page has not been written very slowly.
  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
    The ink is thin.
  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
    Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
    Thank God, it will soon be dark.
  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
    Oh, my hand.
  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
    Now I’ve written the whole thing; for Christ’s sake give me a drink.
  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
    St Patrick of Armagh, deliver me from writing.
  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
    While I wrote I froze, and what I could not write by the beams of the sun I finished by candlelight.
  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
    As the harbor is welcome to the sailor, so is the last line to the scribe.
  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
    Writing is excessive drudgery. It crooks your back, it dims your sight, it twists your stomach and your sides.
  1. Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
    This is sad! O little book! A day will come in truth when someone over your page will say, ‘The hand that wrote it is no more.’

Before the invention of mechanical printing, books were handmade objects, treasured as works of art and as symbols of enduring knowledge. Indeed, in the Middle Ages, the book becomes an attribute of God…

Every stage in the creation of a medieval book required intensive labor, sometimes involving the collaboration of entire workshops. Parchment for the pages had to be made from the dried hides of animals, cut to size and sewn into quires; inks had to be mixed, pens prepared, and the pages ruled for lettering.

A scribe copied the text from an established edition, and artists might then embellish it with illustrations, decorated initials, and ornament in the margins. The most lavish medieval books were bound in covers set with enamels, jewels, and ivory carvings. (Courtesy of MetMuseum.org)

Republished from brainpickings.org | This gem comes from the Spring 2012 issue of Lapham’s Quarterly, entitled Means of Communication, which previously delighted us with the first usages of famous words and to which you can and should subscribe immediately. Thanks, Michelle

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  • jesspinosa

    I bet those monks didn’t have a name for their aches and pains. It would be centuries later than it would be known as carpal tunnel syndrome! You think they had Ben-Gay then?

    • Haha :) I bet they suffered from a lot of that too. They probably called it Chronic Sore Wrist, or Inflamed Wrist, or something.

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