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Illuminated Letters. What is an illumination?. Strictly speaking, illumination is decoration which uses gold, gold leaf or silver; However, the term is often used loosely to mean decorated or illustrated. So . . . What is an illumination?. An illumination is an embellishment,

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what is an illumination
What is an illumination?
  • Strictly speaking, illumination is decoration which uses gold, gold leaf or silver;
  • However, the term is often used loosely to mean decorated or illustrated. So . . .
what is an illumination1
What is an illumination?

An illumination

is an embellishment,

or additional decoration

that enhances

the written


  • The term, illumination comes from the term Illuminate, or to fill with light.
  • The effect of light is achieved with the application of gold leaf to the letters and images, which reflect light and appear to glow.
an illuminated letter
An illuminated letter
  • was usually the first letter of a page or paragraph.
  • It was always enlarged and in color with gold applied in areas, while the rest of
  • the text remained black.
images used to enhance letters
Images used to enhance letters


Plants and

Mythological creatures

These images were modified

to fit into or around the letter

in some cases
In some cases

The image took on the shape of the letter itself.

throughout the middle ages
Throughout the Middle Ages

all documents and books were handwritten. Called "manuscripts" - from the Latin words for hand (manu) writing (script)

”Manuscripts" were

produced before printing ushered in the European Renaissance.

Writing and books were in the hands of the literate nobility, merchant upper class and the church.

Most books were made by monks and nuns in a monastic scriptorium, the room(s) reserved for producing books.

Because the recording of historical events was such an important task, illuminations were ordered by Kings and religious leaders to be added to various pages in order to add interest and importance to their appearance.
when were illuminations made1
When were illuminations made?

The Egyptians were the first culture known to document events by use of Illuminated Manuscripts.

One of the most famous being the Book Of The Dead that dates back to 1310 B.C..

As written languages developed, various countries adopted the idea of illuminating their manuscripts.

The tradition was carried on for hundreds of years into Medieval Europe during the Middle Ages.

By the 7th century, Illuminations became

a highly respected Art


At this time some of the most beautiful and famous illuminations were now being created in Ireland and England.

who was needed to create illuminations
Who was needed to create illuminations?

1. a parchementer to make the parchment from the animal skin

who was needed to create illuminations1
Who was needed to create illuminations?

2.a scribe to do the calligraphy (from the Greek

beautiful [Kalli] writing [graphia])

who was needed to create illuminations2
Who was needed to create illuminations? illuminator who actually created the illuminated letters and other decorations on each page.

who was needed to create illuminations3
Who was needed to create illuminations?

4.a bookbinder to sew the individual pages into a book format and make the leather binding.

importance of illuminations
Importance of Illuminations

Illuminations defined a time in history when the ability to read was sacred and reserved for religious leaders or those born of royal blood.Because it took great skill to create such items of beauty and because these creations were so important, it was a great time in history for artists! For without their skills and talents such beautiful images might not have ever existed!