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History of the Illuminated Manuscript
Welcome to the History of the Illuminated Manuscript!
Use this guide to help you begin your exploration into the vibrant history of the illuminated manuscript using resources available at the University of Pennsylvania Library and beyond.
An illuminated manuscript is defined as a handwritten text decorated with elaborately painted miniature designs and pictures, often including precious metals (gold and less commonly silver) and brightly colored pigments. Though various peoples throughout history have created illuminated manuscripts this library guide will focus on the manuscripts of Western Europe.
Illumination - From the Latin illuminare, meaning 'to enlighten of illuminate' describes embellishing a manuscript with precious metals (gold or silver) and bright pigments.
Manuscript - Literally meaning 'handwritten', this term now describes a book written by hand.
Marginalia - Latin for 'things in the margin', this refers to decoration or writing in the margins of a manuscript.
The British Library Glossary
For a more complete glossary see The British Library's glossary within the catalogue of illuminate manuscripts.
Below are a few suggested resources to help begin exploring the illuminated manuscript.
Illuminated Manuscripts by
Publication Date: 2011-07-01
This text supplies a chronological look at the illuminated manuscript.
Word and Image by
Call Number: N7850 .D53
Publication Date: 2000-08-28
An introductory look at early medieval art and the relationship between text and image. Discussing Anglo-Saxon art and the illumination of the Carolingian and Ottonian courts.
Below you can explore digitized illuminated manuscript catalogues.
The British Library
Here you can search the British Library manuscript collection by quick or advanced searches as well as explore the featured virtual exhibitions.
The Free Library of Philadelphia
Browse the Free Library of Philadelphia’s digital collection of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, including complete manuscripts and separate leaves and cuttings.
The Harvard Library
Search through the digital collection of Houghton Library's medieval and Renaissance manuscripts at the Harvard Library.
The Morgan Library & Museum
Browse, search or view highlights from The Morgan Library & Museum's digital collection of Western illumination.