Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Typography of Illuminated Manuscripts

The Typography of Illuminated Manuscripts

The illuminated manuscripts are some of the earliest known books that are still in existence. Almost always religious in context, these codices were created circa 300 AD as an alternative to the unwieldy scroll. Manuscripts were popular throughout the Renaissance and Middle Ages up until the invention of the printing press in the 15th century.

Creating an illuminated manuscript was a very lengthy process comprised of many steps. It was common for the task of writing the text and illustrating the decorative borders and drop caps to be split between two people; a scribe and an illuminator. The style of the script used changed depending on current styles and cultural trends. Classic Roman letters were used in the early Middle Ages but then gave way to bulkier Uncial and half-Uncial letterforms. Towards the 13th century and the late Middle Ages dense, stocky blackletter was used because it allowed more text to fit on a page.

Scripting and illuminating took careful planning and extensive designing before anything was created. Just as book layouts are composed today, manuscript designs were sketched and gridded far in advance.

The process of creating a manuscript from the compiling the quire to binding.

The illumination of the drop caps, or historiated initials, included gold leafing and painting and the designs common during the Gothic period were the most ornate. The execution of illumination was delicate and tedious.

An illuminated historiated initial.
The illumination process.

* * * * *

This post was inspired by the exhibition "Traversing the Globe through Illuminated Manuscripts" at The Getty Center in Los Angeles, California. Photos taken at the museum:

Diagrams found on Wikipedia.

No comments:

Post a Comment