Illuminated Manuscripts

Elevating the Written Word to Art

Egyptian Papyrus -Before the Written Word.

In the Book of the Dead scripts, scribes record passages refering to images and spells describing how to navigate in vignettes depicting the deceased and their journey into the afterlife. This detail scene, from the Papyrus of Hunefer (ca. 1275 BCE), shows the scribe Hunefer's heart being weighed on the scale of Maat against the feather of truth, by the jackal-headed Anubis. The ibis-headedThoth, scribe of the gods, records the result. If his heart equals exactly the weight of the feather, Hunefer is allowed to pass into the afterlife. If not, he is eaten by the waiting chimeric devouring creature Ammitcomposed of the deadly crocodile, lion, and hippopotamus.

From Papyrus to Parchment and Vellum

n the Middle Ages, calfskin and split sheepskin were the most common materials for making parchment in England and France, while goatskin was more common in Italy.

In the later Middle Ages, the use of animal skins was largely replaced by paper. New techniques in paper milling allowed it to be much cheaper and more abundant than parchment. With the advent of printing in the later fifteenth century, the demands of printers far exceeded the supply of vellum and parchment.

ca 1500 A Wealthy Patron's Request

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Bute Book of Hours, original page

French, northeastern France, about 1270 - 1280
Tempera colors and gold leaf on parchment
6 11/16 x 4 11/16 in.

Compare to a Persian Manuscript from the 1500s

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