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Egerton MS 818, f. 2

A term coined in the mid-twentieth century to refer to a style of depicting drapery in which the material appears to cling to the body like wet cloth. The drapery folds not only articulate the human figure but, being sinuous and rhythmical, produce a decorative effect. The style ultimately derives from BYZANTINE art, but is found in the West from the twelfth century on and is an international feature of ROMANESQUE art. Three variations of damp-fold drapery have been noted: a style composed of concentric lines, particularly favoured in Burgundy in the twelfth century; nested V folds, in which planes of drapery of ovoid or pear shape terminate in a series of V's - a widespread convention for rendering hanging drapery; the clinging curvilinear style, characterized by S-shaped lines, which enjoyed its greatest popularity in England, becoming something of a hallmark of English art around 1140-70. This latter style is often termed the Bury Bible figure style after one of its earliest and most important representatives.


Lansdowne MS 431, f. 70v Harley MS 624, f. 115 Arundel MS 7, f. 60v

An INITIAL composed of non-figural, non-zoomorphic decorative elements.



Arundel MS 449, f. 5

Decretals are collections of letters containing papal rulings of local or universal application, often made in response to an appeal and frequently relating to matters of canonical discipline. Decretals may be illuminated with scenes germane to the text or with scenes designed to relieve the text, such as BAS-DE-PAGE scenes narrating SAINTS' LIVES or amusing scenes from daily life and GROTESQUES. Copies of decretals were often required by ecclesiastical and civil authorities or for study purposes in universities, notably those specializing in law, such as the university at Bologna.

The earliest decretals were simple collections of papal letters. They were often included in collections of canon law and as early as the fifth century were themselves arranged in collections. Among the most notable are: the Colleclio Dionysiana of Dionysius Exiguus, compiled c. 514; Pope Hadrian I's collection, sent to Charlemagne in 774 (Collectio Dionysio-Hadriana), which became the authoritative Frankish text on canon law; the Spanish sixth-century collection associated with Isidore of Seville (Hispana collectio); the Fake Decretals of Pseudo-Isidore, compiled in France around 850; the ninth-century Italian Anselmo dedicata colleclio; the tenth-century Collectio of Abbo of Fleury; Regino of Prüm's collection of canon laws made in 906; the Decretum of Burchard of Worms, c. 1012, an influential collection designed to promote church reorganization; and the late eleventh-century Decretum of Ivo of Chartres. Gratian's Decretum of c. 1140 summarized older letters and conciliar decrees and became the most important law book of the twelfth century. It marked the end of the traditional form of collection, giving rise to the greatest period of legal scholarship in the Roman Church. Later collections include the Quinque compilationes antiquae; the Decretals of Pope Gregory IX of 1234, an important new edition of canon law; the Liber sextus of Pope Boniface VIII of 1298; and the Constitutiones Clementinae of Pope Clement V of 1317. Decretals generated a number of COMMENTARIES, which often appeared as GLOSSES.



A figure or design, often accompanied by a MOTTO, used to identify an individual, family, or nation. See also EMBLEM and HERALDRY.


Burney MS 257, f. 10v Yates Thompson MS 20, f. 1

From the French diapré ('variegated'), a diaper pattern is a repetitive geometric pattern. Although used as early as the eleventh century, it often acted as a background in GOTHIC illumination. Some artists even seem to have specialized in diaper grounds.


A compilation of legal rules and statutes. The earliest digests were systematic, comprehensive treatises on Roman law, composed by classical Roman jurists. Medieval copies of these Roman digests were sometimes GLOSSED and illuminated, either with scenes related to the text or of an extraneous and often amusing character.

In December 530, the BYZANTINE Emperor Justinian ordered a team led by Tribonian to compile a collection of excerpts from the classical jurists. The resultant work was called the Digest (or Pandects). The Digest, which formed part of the larger Code of Justinian, was arranged in fifty books and subdivided by titles. During the Middle Ages, it was commonly divided into the Digestum vetus (books I-XXXIV, 2), the Infortiatum (books XXIV, 2-XXXVIII), and the Digestum novum (books XXXIX-L).


When measuring a manuscript, the height of a leaf is given first, then the width. Manuscripts were often trimmed at some point in their history, and it is therefore useful to give the dimensions of the written space - the text block - as well. The FRAME RULING can conveniently be measured for this purpose. The metric system is preferred, with dimensions usually given in millimetres.


Egerton MS 609, f. 79

A decorative device that makes the transition in scale from an enlarged INITIAL to the main SCRIPT used for the text. A diminuendo is accomplished by gradually reducing the height of a few letters following the initial. The device was particularly popular with INSULAR scribes.


Used as a noun, diplomatic refers to the study of documents and records, their form, language, and SCRIPT. The term was coined in the seventeenth century and initially embraced PALEOGRAPHY and CODICOLOGY.


A book containing aids or guidelines to assist in the performance of the LITURGY (including CALENDARS, CUSTOMARIES, and ORDINALS).


Harley MS 3380, f. 2

A decorative panel containing DISPLAY SCRIPT.


Arundel MS 91, f. 33

Decorative SCRIPT, generally incorporating higher grade letter forms and sometimes employing a variety of colours. Display script is often used, along with an enlarged INITIAL, to emphasize major textual openings.


A book, sometimes called a journal, used in the performance of the DIVINE OFFICE, but containing only the daytime offices (lauds, prime, terce, sext, none, and vespers). Its layout is like that of the BREVIARY or ANTIPHONAL, and its text varies in accordance with USE.


A cycle of daily devotions - the prayers of the canonical hours - performed by members of religious orders and the clergy. It originated in the services of the Jewish synagogue and in the Apostolic Church. Initially, each office consisted mainly of the recitation of Psalms and lessons from Scripture. In the fourth century, under the influence of Saint Ambrose, hymns and antiphons were added; one hundred and fifty years later, under Saint Benedict, there appeared responsories, canticles, collects, and other elaborations. By the eighth century, the cycle of eight canonical hours for the performance of the Divine Office had been fixed: matins (approximately 2:30 am), lauds (approximately 5 am), prime (approximately 6 am), terce (approximately 9 am), sext (approximately 12 noon), none (approximately 3 pm), vespers (approximately 4:30 pm), and compline (approximately 6 pm).

The Divine Office was initially arranged so that the complete PSALTER could be recited each week, and much of Holy Scripture throughout the year. During the Middle Ages, however, the celebration of saints' feast days and readings from their lives (see MARTYROLOGY) interfered with this structure, stimulating attempts at reform in the sixteenth century. Along with the MASS, the Divine Office forms the basis of Christian LITURGY. For a LAY response to the office, see BOOK OF HOURS.


Egerton MS 945, f. 237v Harley MS 2924, f. 143

A person who donates a book - and often commissions it as well - to an ecclesiastical establishment. It is sometimes possible to identify the donor or owner of a book through the presence of an inscription, armorial bearings in images or margins, patron saint, or a MOTTO. Portraits of the donor (often STYLIZED, although some true portrait likenesses do occur) are found throughout the Middle Ages, but became increasingly popular from the thirteenth century on. Such portraits might show the donor kneeling before the Virgin and Child, or receiving or presenting the commissioned work. See also PATRON.


Arundel MS 74, f. 2v

The person responsible for laying out a design, who may or may not be the artist responsible for the actual painting.


Lansdowne MS 463, f. 104 Egerton MS 1151, f. 95v

An amusing figure, often of a GROTESQUE character. Drolleries appear throughout the history of book ILLUMINATION, from INSULAR works such as the Book of Kells to late medieval manuscripts such as the PRAYER BOOK of Charles the Bold, but they were particularly popular from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century.


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