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Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts



Who made illuminated manuscripts?
The artist for this manuscript, Bonaventura a Montepulciano, signed and dated this work at the lower frame of the miniature.
zoom The artist for this manuscript, Bonaventura a Montepulciano, signed and dated this work at the lower frame of the miniature.

 

In early medieval times, monks were the sole makers of illuminated manuscripts. Before universities existed, monasteries were the central places for learning. Monks copied books mainly for use in worship. However, rulers and high-ranking churchmen commissioned books from monastaries, including historical records and Greek and Roman literature.

To make a new manuscript, a monk had to obtain a book to copy. He might travel quite a distance to borrow one from another monastery, and even stay there to do his copying. Scribes worked in a writing room called a scriptorium. Sometimes the same person was both scribe and illustrator, but not necessarily. One monk might do the writing and another the illuminating.

After the twelfth century, monks were no longer the only scribes. The rise of universities and the middle class created a demand for books, and book production became a way to make money. Making illuminated manuscripts became a business conducted in cities. A person who wanted a book would order it through a bookseller, who hired scribes and illuminators to do the work.


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1. A closer look at the signature.
2. This painting shows a cardinal writing in his study.

 

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April 2005