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Digital Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts
 Detail from the Roman de la Rose
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An introduction to illuminated manuscripts

Overview Before 800 1000-1200 1200-1400 1400-1600

2: 800 - 1000

The coronation of the Frankish ruler Charlemagne as emperor of a new, Christian, empire in 800 marked a period of conscious revival of the concepts, arts, and learning of the Roman empire which is known as the ‘Carolingian Renaissance’. More naturalistic figural art fused with the decorative approach to the book arts. A spectacularly elaborate jewelled book cover made in this period (although partially restored) opens this section. In Anglo-Saxon England the collaboration between church and state was celebrated in an opulent amalgam of Carolingian and earlier British art, associated with the monastic reform movement led by Ethelwold, Dunstan, and Oswald, archbishop of Canterbury (d. 992). A richly decorated copy of the Psalms made perhaps for Osward’s own use, the Ramsey Psalter, is included here. Gold also featured in luxury books made in the capital of Eastern Christendom, Constantinople (modern Istanbul), such as the beautiful New Testament in Greek with illuminated portraits of the Evangelists..

(Click on an image for an enlarged view and detailed description.)

Additional 11848
A splendid Carolingian copy of the Four Gospels with its ‘treasure’ binding, containing jewels and pieces of the bones of saints.
Additional 11848


Harley 2965, f.16v
The Book of Nunnaminster, a prayerbook made for a woman in the English Midlands in the ninth century, and probably later owned by Queen Ealhswith, wife of King Alfred the Great.
Harley 2965, f.16v


Royal 1 E VI, f.4
The Royal Bible consists of the surviving fragments of a large, luxurious copy of the whole Bible made at Canterbury, partly written in gold and silver on purple parchment.
Royal 1 E VI, f.4


Harley 2506, f.39 (detail)
An astronomical work written at Fleury in France but probably illuminated by an English artist, showing links between England and the Continent in the tenth century.
Harley 2506, f.39 (detail)


Harley 2904, f.144
The Ramsey Psalter is written in a script that demonstrates the disciplined and beautiful writing achieved in England in the tenth century, and which formed the basis of modern calligraphy.
Harley 2904, f.144


Additional 28815, f.76v
A Greek copy of the Four Gospels written in Constantinople in the tenth century, showing typical Byzantine Evangelist portraits painted on a gold background.
Additional 28815, f.76v


Arundel 547, f.94v
A Greek Gospel lectionary, giving the readings appropriate to church services on different days of the year, made in the Byzantine empire in the tenth century.
Arundel 547, f.94v


Additional 11880, f.21
A collection of Latin texts about the lives and deaths of Christian saints, written in a plain style with basic decoration to aid the reader.
Additional 11880, f.21


Overview Before 800 1000-1200 1200-1400 1400-1600

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