Books written by hand, decorated with paintings and ornaments
of different kinds. The word `illuminated' comes from a usage
of the Latin word illuminare in connection with
oratory or prose style, where it means `adorn'.
The decorations are of three main types:
Manuscripts are for the most part written on skin,
or vellum. From the 14th century, paper was used for less sumptuous
copies. Although a number of books have miniatures and ornaments
executed in outline drawing only, the majority are fully coloured.
By the 15th cent. illumination tended more and more to follow
the lead given by painters, and with the invention of printing
the illuminated book gradually went out of fashion. During the
15th and 16th centuries, illuminations were added to printed books.
or small pictures, not always illustrative,
incorporated into the text or occupying the whole page or part
of the border;
- initial letters either containing scenes
(historiated initials) or with elaborate decoration;
- borders, which may consist of miniatures,
occasionally illustrative, or more often are composed of
decorative motifs. They may enclose the whole of the text
space or occupy only a small part of the margin of the page.
© 22 Jun 1996,
Nicolas Pioch -
Thanks to the
BMW Foundation, the WebMuseum
and contributors for their support.