Oh, My Hand: 14 Tweets from Medieval Monks on Illumination
St Patrick of Armagh, deliver me from writing.
Oh, my hand.
I am very cold…
Now I’ve written the whole thing; for Christ’s sake give me a drink.
Thank God, it will soon be dark.
New parchment, bad ink. I say nothing more.
While I wrote I froze, and what I could not write by the beams of the sun I finished by candlelight.
That’s a hard page and weary work to read it.
Let the reader’s voice honor the writer’s pen.
Ever seen the Book of Kells? Or any manuscript illuminated by medieval monks? You’ll find yourself tumbled into a whirling world of color, hilarity, beautiful devotion and bizarre dioramas.
Their craft is a sublime blending of gold leaf, bright inks and Scriptural vignettes as they hand-copied every letter from every book. Each finished manuscript was a community masterpiece, available to read often in libraries and on lecterns.
But these artists still ached, and cramped, and were glad when it was over.
Before the invention of mechanical printing, books were handmade objects, treasured as works of art and as symbols of enduring knowledge. Indeed, in the Middle Ages, the book becomes an attribute of God…
Every stage in the creation of a medieval book required intensive labor, sometimes involving the collaboration of entire workshops. Parchment for the pages had to be made from the dried hides of animals, cut to size and sewn into quires; inks had to be mixed, pens prepared, and the pages ruled for lettering.
A scribe copied the text from an established edition, and artists might then embellish it with illustrations, decorated initials, and ornament in the margins. The most lavish medieval books were bound in covers set with enamels, jewels, and ivory carvings. (Courtesy of MetMuseum.org)
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