Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

History of the Illuminated Manuscript : Home

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. 

Meet the Librarian

Suggested Reading

Below are a few suggested resources to help begin exploring the illuminated manuscript. 

Digital Catalogues

Below you can explore digitized illuminated manuscript catalogues.  

Additional Resource