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Before printing with movable type became practical in Europe in 1450, books were handwritten and known as manuscripts. This was a painstaking process that required the expertise of many different artisans and scholars, from those preparing the vellum to write on to those using a reference edition of a text to write out the new copy in beautiful calligraphy. Some manuscripts also featured illustrations, known as illumination. Many of these manuscripts were produced in religious "scriptoria" where monks or nuns worked to produce these highly valuable resources. Because of the time, effort, and materials needed to craft even a single book, they were incredibly valuable and often inaccessible. On this page of the guide you'll find resources for learning more about the production, use, and study of medieval manuscripts.
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Introduction to Manuscript Studies by
Call Number: Z105 .C58 2007
Publication Date: 2008-01-15
This book provides an extensive introduction to studying medieval manuscripts, from how they were made to how they were used, and how to study them today. The book itself is heavily illustrated and very accessible for anyone new to the subject.
A History of Illuminated Manuscript by
Call Number: ND2900 .D36 1986
Publication Date: 1997-09-26
This book delves more deeply into the specifics of illuminated manuscripts and is a bit more complex than the book by Clemens and Graham. Additionally, rather than being organized chronologically, De Hamel divides content into sections based on the groups making and/or using the manuscripts (monks, students, aristocrats, etc.)
The Book of Kells
One of the most famous illuminated manuscripts in the world is the Book of Kells, housed at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland. The 9th century religious text is decorated incredibly lavishly, leading to its fame. The Trinity College website provides extensive information about the book, as well as numerous other manuscripts housed within their collection. Many of these texts have been digitized and can be viewed through the website.