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Sloane MS 2424, f. 24v

The side of a sheet of PARCHMENT or vellum that once carried the animal's hair. This side is generally darker and smoother than the FLESH SIDE and may carry speckled traces of hair follicles.



Lansdowne MS 383, f. 172 Arundel MS 60, f. 7

A pointed implement of metal or bone (often a STYLUS) used for RULING, drawing, and annotation. A hard point leaves a ridge-and-furrow effect on the writing surface rather than a graphic mark. See also INSTRUCTIONS, LEAD POINT, and METAL POINT.


The top edge of a manuscript.



Burney MS 16, f. 1 Burney MS 20, f. 91

A panel of ornament, sometimes incorporating a rubric or heading, that stands at the beginning of a text. The use of headpieces was inherited by the medieval West from LATE ANTIQUE and BYZANTINE book production and enjoyed particular popularity during the RENAISSANCE.


Egerton MS 3266, f. 15 Burney MS 159, f. 1 Arundel MS 503, f. 1

The science of describing armorial bearings. Heraldry developed in the West during the twelfth century and evolved along with concepts of nobility and chivalry during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Military identification symbols had been known in ANTIQUITY, but their systematic use emerged as an adjunct to medieval feudalism, serving to identify knights in full armour. Heraldic DEVICES were employed by secular society, by the Church, and by guilds and corporations. By the fourteenth century, strict rules concerning the significance of different components of a coat of arms were in full force.

The language of heraldry is largely derived from French. There is an elaborate vocabulary for the blazoning (or describing) of a shield, involving its tinctures (colour), charges (geometric patterns, called ordinaries, or the figures or objects depicted), and the way in which the arms are 'differenced' to indicate collateral branches. Helmets, crests, and supporters (figures such as the lion and the unicorn, supporting the shield) also obey complex rules and nomenclatures. Many illuminated genealogies, pedigrees, and heraldic manuals were produced during the later Middle Ages. The occurrence of heraldic devices within manuscripts also yields valuable evidence concerning ownership. See also EMBLEM and MOTTO.


Harley MS 3736, f. 20 Harley MS 2020, f. 146

A text dealing with plants and their properties, often medicinal. Medieval herbals were frequently illustrated. The study of plants formed part of natural philosophy during ANTIQUITY. Among the major authors of botanical texts written from the fourth century B.C. to the fourth century A.D. are Aristotle, Theophrastus (Historia plantarum), Hippocrates, Crateuas, Pliny the Elder (Historia naturalis), Dioscorides (De materia medica), and Pseudo-Apuleius Platonicus (Herbarium). Several of these works were probably illustrated during Antiquity. Southern Italy (especially centres such as Squillace, Monte Cassino, and Salerno) preserved the classical interest in botany and its medicinal application into the Middle Ages. The CAROLINGIAN and ANGLO-SAXON worlds did much to perpetuate interest in several botanical texts (notably the works of Dioscorides and Pseudo-Apuleius), England producing the first VERNACULAR translation of the Herbarium, perhaps as early as 1000. These early medieval copies contain cycles of illustrations which seem to represent for the most part copies of Antique cycles. It is clear from the errors in these depictions that the illuminators had no direct knowledge of some of the plants, and they retained images of classical deities such as Diana, Asclepius (god of medicine), and Mercury as well as the centaur Chiron, legendary teacher of Asclepius.

Illuminated herbals continued to be produced throughout the Middle Ages primarily as LIBRARY BOOKS, and their illustrations became progressively more STYLIZED. The Islamic world, however, had also preserved - and expanded - knowledge of classical botany, which from the late eleventh century on was transmitted to the West. At the medical school of Salerno in the mid-twelfth century, the Circa instans, containing remedies, or simples, from Latin and Arabic sources, was compiled. Some manuscripts of the Circa instans (also known as the Liber simplici medicina or Secreta salernitana) and the slightly later Tacuinum sanitatis, from northern Italy, have illustrations of plants based on the direct observation of nature rather than on images in earlier herbals. This more scientific trend was perpetuated in works such as the Herbolario volgare (Popular Herbal), an Italian translation by Jacopo Filippo of an Arabic treatise by Serapion the Younger, and initiated the RENAISSANCE tradition of naturalistically illustrated herbals. See also CLASSICAL TEXTS and MEDICAL TEXTS.


The first six books of the Old Testament, which were sometimes contained in a single, separate volume.



A system for arranging elements in a series according to formal or functional degrees of importance. A hierarchy can be applied to decorative elements, which may vary in content to include MINIATURES, TITLE PIECES, HEADPIECES, TAILPIECES, BORDERS, major INITIALS, minor initials, LITTERAE FLORISSAE, LITTERAE NOTABILIORES, LINE FILLERS, RUN-OVER SYMBOLS, BAS-DE-PAGE scenes, and MARGINALIA. Each illuminated manuscript displays its own hierarchy of decoration, whose various elements may contain a number of grades to indicate the relative importance of a section of text or to highlight and differentiate textual divisions.


Burney MS 216, f. 32v Egerton MS 937, f. 21

A letter containing an identifiable scene or figures, sometimes relating to the text. Historiated initials, first encountered in INSULAR illumination of the first half of the eighth century, became a popular feature of medieval ILLUMINATION. BORDERS can also be historiated.



Harley MS 7183, vol. 1, f. 140

A book containing homilies (discussions of biblical passages, usually from the Gospels), arranged according to the ecclesiastical year. It is also known as a sermologus.



Harley MS 2597, f. 1 Harley MS 2761, f. 1 Text written by the scribe Bartolomeo Sanvito, Harley MS 2528, f. 1

Humanism, an important component of the RENAISSANCE, is a system of study characterized by a revival of classical learning that originated in Florence in the late fourteenth century. As an adjunct to this revival, the conscious reformation of SCRIPT and book design was promoted during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries by Italian humanists such as Petrarch, Poggio Bracciolini, Niccolò Niccoli, and Coluccio Salutati. Florence and Rome were at the forefront of humanistic book production, with other centres such as Milan and Bologna remaining more conservative. Nonetheless, the force of the movement was felt throughout Europe from the later fifteenth century on.


Additional MS 30014, f. 44

A book, also called a hymnary, containing metrical hymns sung in the DIVINE OFFICE and arranged according to the liturgical year. The hymnal could be included in a PSALTER or ANTIPHONAL as a separate section. Its contents were eventually incorporated into the BREVIARY.

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