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Illuminating a Medieval Manuscript

December 27, 2017 by Jack Dziamba. New Post Goes Up Every Wednesday.

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Silver and Gold: Illuminated Manuscripts in the Middle Ages

In 2003, the Getty had an exhibition dedicated to the “The Making of a Medieval Book,” which took the visitor through the various stages of the making of a Medieval book. One of the most fascinating showed how manuscripts, copied out by scribes, were then “Illuminated, to create a shiny surface, which sparkles as the pages are turned.”

The Getty exhibition stated that “‘Illumination'”, from the Latin illuminare, “to light up or illuminate,” describes the glow created by the colors, especially gold and silver, used to embellish manuscripts.” (The Getty) In the video below the Getty shows how this process was carried out.

“The artist first made an outline drawing with leadpoint or quill and ink. Next, he or she painted the areas to receive gold leaf with a sticky substance such as bole (a refined red clay) or gum ammoniac (sap). The gold leaf was then laid down and burnished, or rubbed, to create a shiny surface, which sparkles as the pages are turned.” (the Getty)

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