Showcase

Let’s look at some of your writing system inventions!

Medieval Times: Illuminated Manuscripts and the Gutenburg Bible

Notes from the slideshow during class.

The “Dark Ages”

The Dark Ages were a period of time from roughly the 5th through the 13th centuries, in which we have a scarcity of historical or other written records. It follows the fall of the Roman Empire and precedes the Italian Renaissance.

This term–Dark Ages–has fallen out of favor and replaced with “Middle Ages”, as we have discovered more and more accomplishments that occurred at this time.

6th or 7th century Coptic icon of Jesus and an abbot shares in more homely form the anti-realist style of Byzantine iconic art.

6th or 7th century AD coptic icon of Jesus and an abbot

Illuminated Manuscripts

Illuminated manuscripts were beautifully hand-drawn books that featured lettering by a copyist and artwork by an illustrator. The text was written on velum, made from animal skins. The gold leaf used the page made it fairly glow, giving it the moniker illuminated.

Mary Magdalen announcing the resurrection to the apostles, dated 1120s

Mary Magdalen announcing the resurrection to the apostles, circa 1120AD

Copyists and Illuminators

Monks working in scriptoriums were tasked with sitting day after day and copying text from an original source into a new manuscript. These men were known as copyists.

Escribano

 

Illuminators had the job of adding ornament, images, and color to support the text. Illustrators do this task today.

Evolution of Lettering

As book design progressed, lettering progressed. Because copying was very laborious and time-consuming, simpler designs were created that could be executed faster.

Uncials

Uncials may have been invented by the Ancient Greeks. They are closely identified with the Church. Their roundness is easier to create than square or rustic letters.

Greek Uncials

Greek Uncials

Caroline Miniscules

Caroline Miniscules are the true forerunner of modern day lowercase letters. Charlemagne (AKA Charles the Great) was emperor of the Holy Roman Empire circa 800AD. He ordered the creation of this style to unify writing systems throughout Europe.

Caroline Miniscules, circa 845. A fragment found in bindings at Trier, but originally made or copied at Tours.

Caroline Miniscules, circa 845AD. A fragment found in bindings at Trier, but originally made or copied at Tours.

Regional Styles

Before the Caroline Miniscules were developed, several regional styles of lettering were being produced in monasteries all over Europe.

The Book of Kells

The Book of Kells is a manuscript of Latin gospel from Ireland in about 800AD. Its ornamentation exceeded most other illuminated manuscripts in extravagance and complexity.

A two-page spread from the 680 surviving pages of the Book of Kells, circa 800AD.

A two-page spread from the 680 surviving pages of the Book of Kells, circa 800AD.

Lindisfarne Gospels

The Lindisfarne Gospels is an illuminated manuscript from Lindisfarne, in Northern England. It features regional writing styles, Celtic crosses, and elaborate initial caps.

An inhabited capital M from the Lindisfarne Gospels, circa 715AD.

An inhabited capital M from the Lindisfarne Gospels, circa 715AD.

Codex Aureus

Codex Aureus is Latin for golden book. Several gospel books from the 9th through 11th centuries were so heavily illuminated with gold leaf, that they were referred to as the Codex Aureus.

The Codex Aureus of

The Codex Aureus Epternacensis, circa 1035-1040AD.

Illuminated Quran and Ottoman Illumination

Illumination was not limited to Christian texts. Styles of Islamic and Christian motifs mingled in the Quran and other decorated texts of the middle ages on. With the fall of the Spanish Peninsula to the Moors in 711, Islamic design had a great influence on book design in Spain.

Decorated tughra of Süleyman the Magnificent (1520AD).

Decorated tughra (calligraphic monogram) of Süleyman the Magnificent (1520AD).

An illuminated Quran Kashmir, circa 1800AD.

An illuminated Quran Kashmir, circa 1800AD.

A Guide for the Perplexed

A Guide for the Perplexed was written by a Jewish philosopher and physician who was born and educated in Islamic Cordoba in Spain. It features Hebrew lettering and Arabian-style decoration.

The title page of The Guide for the Perplexed, 1190AD.

The title page of The Guide for the Perplexed, 1190AD.

Story Artworks, Pages from Books

Folio illustrations featured in the slideshow include:

  • Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
  • The Fourth Angel
  • Douce Apocalypse
  • Ormesby Psalter
  • Liber regimenti acutorum, a medical text
  • The Canterbury Tales

Blackletter/Gothic

Blackletter hand script from a Latin bible, Belgium 1407AD.

Blackletter hand script from a Latin bible, Belgium 1407AD.

Emerging Literacy in Germany

By the 1400s, demand for books in Germany had become insatiable. An emerging literate middle class and students in rapidly expanding universities created a demand for books.
Books were expensive because they were produced by hand.The value of a book was equal to the value of a farm or vineyard.

The value of a book was equal to the value of a farm or vineyard. Something had to happen. And this something was woodblock printing—and the skills for making paper coming over from China.

Woodblock Printing

Woodblock printing is a technique for printing text, images or patterns using blocks of wood. The flat surface of the wood is carved and inked. A sheet of paper is laid over the inked block and pressed down. This leaves an inked print in reverse on the paper. Several blocks can be used in conjunction to make a multi-color design.

A famous early 18th century actor woodblock print from the early 18th century AD (actor Ichikawa Danjūrō)

An early 18th century AD Japanese woodblock print (actor Ichikawa Danjūrō)

Johann Gutenburg

220px-Gutenberg
Topics covered in the slideshow:
  • The Technology of Movable Type on a Printing Press
  • The Gutenburg Bible
  • Fust and Schoeffer
  • Gutenburg Reemerges

Meanwhile, In China…

Let’s back up a bit and witness the origin of paper and printing techniques in greater detail.

The Chinese people invented paper in 104 AD.

Cai Lun – Paper Industry International Hall of Fame [2:35]

And Bi Sheng invented movable type in the 9th century AD.

Wooden movable-type printing of China [9:49]

Now Back To Europe…

Making Manuscripts [Getty Museum, 6:13]

Many gorgeous illuminated manuscripts can be viewed at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

00162101

85 Johannes Gutenberg and the Printing Press [14:21]

Illuminated Initials

Frequently in illuminated manuscripts, the initial letter of a page is capitalized, greatly enlarged, and illustrated.

When the letter contains figures—humans or animals—that are decorative only, it is called an inhabited initial.

Inhabited initial with peacock and dragon, Hunterian Psalter.

Inhabited initial with peacock and dragon, Hunterian Psalter.

When there is an identifiable figure or specific scene, it is referred to as a historiated initial.

Historiated initial, illuminated Latin bible, 1407 AD.

Historiated initial, illuminated Latin bible, 1407 AD.

This set of initial cap designs is from 16th century Italy.

1-21-2015 4-53-38 PM

For Further Study

If you are interested in more of the specifics of casting and setting letterpress type, check out these videos.