Medieval illuminator


  • Intro

    Before the advent of printing, all books were produced by hand. The word ‘manuscript’ derives from the Latin for 'written' (scriptus) and 'by hand' (manu). Grand copies were also illustrated or illuminated (from illuminaire meaning to enlighten or illuminate) with gold and other precious materials.


    In the early Middle Ages, most illuminated manuscripts were produced in monasteries and had a religious theme: angels or saints, for example. But by the 1200s, professional illuminators, often based in towns and cities rather than monasteries, began to take over. One of these was William de Brailes, who included an image of himself in the book shown here, produced in c.1240. These professional book producers were able to respond to the growing demand for non-religious books. New books told of the exotic adventures of noblemen and women; of ancient battles and love stories; of the crimes of sinners and villains, and of the deeds of heroes.


    The video tab shows a modern demonstration of the process of creating an illuminated manuscript.


    Add. 49999 f.43r, c.1240

  • Video

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