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.
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)
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