Medieval illuminated manuscripts

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The very definition of the word manuscript which came from Latin and means handwriting implies its unique nature. Every manuscript is a result of an painstakingly carried work which could take for months and even years. Although paper was available in Europe from the 12th century, its use did not become widespread until the late Middle Ages. For the early period of manuscript history the usual support for writing was vellum.

According to its expensive nature, manuscripts-medieval books considered something extremely valuable and even sacred. Therefore, sometimes such items underwent a special process of illumination, which is a decoration of the item with specially designed illustrations, capital letters, marginal notes and marks. Sometimes the very text became a subject of decoration. Illumination was a process, which perfectly emphasized the value of the book, making its symbolic status even more appraised.

Adorned with cunningly designed elements, manuscript transformed into a special kind of a complex art form, combining text pieces, usually the ones of sacral nature, with decorative visual elements.

Such decorative elements were mastered with the help of a range of special time and labor-consuming techniques and valuable materials. Materials which were used in the process of illumination included silver, gold, , expensive insect-based colors, lapis lazuli and even  pieces of precious stones. All these techniques , being a costly process itself, contributed a creation of an outstanding pieces of art. Value of a textual content increased manifold because of the use of the precious decorative elements. 

by Tieriekhova Masha

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