Article

Norman (and Anglo-Norman) Manuscript Illumination

Laura Cleaver

in Medieval Studies

ISBN: 9780195396584
Published online April 2017 | | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0230
Norman (and Anglo-Norman) Manuscript Illumination

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)
  • Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy
  • Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400)
  • Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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The phrase “Norman manuscript illumination” is used to describe the styles of decoration found in manuscripts associated with Normandy and England in the 11th and 12th centuries, principally in the period 1066–1154. It has primarily been used in scholarship about manuscript production in England to explore developments during the reigns of the Anglo-Norman and Plantagenet kings from William the Conqueror to Henry II. The emergence of the dukes of Normandy as an important political power, which reached its apogee with the conquest of England in 1066, went hand-in-hand with the development of monasteries in Normandy as centers of culture and education. People and manuscripts crossed the channel before 1066, but the appointment of large numbers of Norman clergy to abbacies and bishoprics in England in the aftermath of the conquest helped to facilitate the movement of books as well as people. This movement was not only in one direction, and styles of decoration that took elements from Norman and Anglo-Saxon traditions developed in both England and northern France. In addition, these new styles of manuscript decoration have been examined as part of the development of a pan-European “Romanesque” style. Scholarship of the mid-20th century concentrated on the development and fusion of styles, and sought to organize material into localized “schools.” More recent scholarship has tackled questions of literacy, text-image relationships, manuscript production, and the role of books in the formation of intellectual and devotional cultures. The study of Norman and Anglo-Norman manuscripts is complicated by patterns of survival, in which some monasteries appear to be much better represented than others. For example, the loss of most of the collection of manuscripts from the hugely influential monastery at Le Bec in Normandy is unfortunate. In addition, scholarship has been influenced by modern European boundaries. Thus, Normandy is often treated as a region of France in French scholarship, and as the source of a cross-channel style in English scholarship. Although the decoration of manuscripts emerged as a field of specialist study in the 20th century, recent work has demonstrated that analysis of the decoration of books should not be divorced from the study of script, text, and the physical object of the book.

Article.  4865 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500) ; Literary Studies (Early and Medieval) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy ; Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400) ; Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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