Introduction to the book
Ornamental lettering: the basis of illumination
Illumination is a generic term encompassing all the decorative elements found in medieval manuscripts. There are three types:
The birth of ornamental lettering: In classical times text was designed to be read aloud. Initials might signal a division in the text or be placed in isolation at the top of the page. With the spread of Christianity, pride of place was given to the presentation of the Gospels. The way text was viewed changed: it became a visual commodity and demanded ornamentation. Decorations provided not only signposts in the text for the eye but also embellished religious writings for the greater glory of God. Ornamental lettering reached its apogee in the Middle Ages between the 7th and 12 th centuries, a period in which monastic communities were producing great quantities of manuscripts. Other factors contributed to its development:
- Miniatures, a small painting inserted in the body of the text, either at the start or in the middle of a page
- Borders, which originate from the initial, sometimes extended to frame the page
- Initials themselves. They are known as `historiated' when they depict scenes or events and `zoomorphic' when illustrating animals or fabulous beasts.
- the replacement of the papyrus roll, or volumen, by the codex from the 2nd century AD. The codex was a collection of sheets made of animal skin and bound together, the forerunner of the book as we know it;
- the diversification of types of book, such as the breviary, antiphonary, book of hours, psalter, bible, gradual, herbal and so on;
- the widening interest in reading and the heightened status associated with possession of books.
1st edition2007, Pb, 103pp, full colour throughout, 21.5 x 21.5 cm