An illuminated manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is supplemented by the addition of decoration, such as decorated initials, borders and illustrations. In the most strict definition of the term, an illuminated manuscript only refers to manuscripts decorated with gold or silver, but the term is now used to refer to any decorated or illustrated manuscript from the Western traditions. The majority of surviving manuscripts are from the Middle Ages, The majority of these manuscripts are of a religious nature. Most medieval manuscripts were written on parchment most commonly of calf, sheep or goat skin but most manuscripts important enough to illuminate were written on the best quality of parchment called vellum. After the Dark Ages in Europe the Muslim world and in particular the Iberian Peninsula, with their traditions of literacy uninterrupted by the Middle Ages, were instrumental in delivering ancient classic works to the growing intellectual circles and universities of Western Europe. All through the 1100’s books were produced in large numbers and on paper for the first time in Europe, and with them full treatises on the sciences, especially astrology and medicine. Most manuscripts were produced in monasteries by Monks in order to add to the library or after receiving a commission from a wealthy patron. Illumination was a complex and frequently costly process.
The children sketched these letters from a mural outside La cite of Carcassonne. They used watercolors again, but this time in a consistency close to ink to emulate the traditional illuminated manuscript. We studied the techniques used in the Middle Ages and tried our best to follow them. This project was a lot of fun and the results are beautiful.
By Jack McHugh