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illuminated manuscripts


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Books written by hand, decorated with pictures and ornaments of different kinds. The word ‘illuminated’ comes from a usage of the Latin word illuminare in connection with oratory or prose style, where it means ‘to adorn’. The decorations are of three main types: (a)miniatures or small pictures incorporated into the text or occupying the whole page or part of the border; (b)initial letters either containing scenes (historiated initials) or with elaborate decoration; (c)borders, which may consist of miniatures but more often are composed of decorative motifs. They may enclose the whole of the text space or occupy only a small part of the margin of the page. Manuscripts are for the most part written on parchment or vellum. From the 14th century paper was used for less sumptuous copies. Although a number of books have miniatures and ornaments executed in outline drawing only, the majority are fully coloured. After the introduction of printing in the mid-15th century the illuminated book became outmoded, although fine examples were produced well into the 16th century. During the 15th and 16th centuries illuminations were often added to printed books.

(a)miniatures or small pictures incorporated into the text or occupying the whole page or part of the border; (b)initial letters either containing scenes (historiated initials) or with elaborate decoration; (c)borders, which may consist of miniatures but more often are composed of decorative motifs.

Subjects: Bibliography.


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