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Article

Jane Geddes

Deluxe manuscript (Aberdeen, U. Lib., MS. 24) made in England around 1200. It is remarkable for its lavish illustrations, amply covered in gold leaf; for the wealth of its codicological data and for its close relationship to the Ashmole Bestiary. The book was left unfinished, so sketches and the detailed instructions for its colouring and assembly remain visible. The last few pages were completed in the 14th century. The book begins with a Creation cycle of full-page miniatures culminating in ...

Article

Nabil Saidi

Ottoman calligrapher. Yaqut served as secretary to the last Abbasid caliph, al-Musta‛sim (reg 1242–58), and reportedly survived the sacking of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258 by seeking refuge in a minaret. He perfected the ‘proportioned script’ developed by Ibn Muqla and refined by ...

Article

Alchemy  

Laurinda Dixon

Ancient science from which modern chemistry evolved. Based on the concept of transmutation—the changing of substances at the elemental level—it was both a mechanical art and an exalted philosophy. Practitioners attempted to combine substances containing the four elements (fire, water, earth, and air) in perfect balance, ultimately perfecting them into a fifth, the quintessence (also known as the philosopher’s stone) via the chemical process of distillation. The ultimate result was a substance, the ‘philosopher’s stone’, or ‘elixir of life’, believed capable of perfecting, or healing, all material things. Chemists imitated the Christian life cycle in their operations, allegorically marrying their ingredients, multiplying them, and destroying them so that they could then be cleansed and ‘resurrected’. They viewed their work as a means of attaining salvation and as a solemn Christian duty. As such, spiritual alchemy was sanctioned, legitimized, and patronized by the Church. Its mundane laboratory procedures were also supported by secular rulers for material gain. Metallurgists employed chemical apparatus in their attempts to transmute base metals into gold, whereas physicians and apothecaries sought ultimately to distill a cure-all elixir of life. The manifold possibilities inherent in such an outcome caused Papal and secular authorities to limit and control the practice of alchemy by requiring licences and punishing those who worked without authorization....

Article

Sarit Shalev-Eyni

Thirteenth-century Ashkenazi illuminated Bible (Milan, Ambrosiana, MSS. B.30–32 INF). One of the earliest illuminated Hebrew manuscripts originating in Germany, it is a giant manuscript in three volumes, containing the twenty-four books of the Hebrew Bible. As attested by a colophon at the end of the first volume, the Bible was commissioned by Joseph ben Moses from Ulmana, possibly referring to Ulm in Swabia or to Nieder-Olm in the Rhineland. The Bible was copied by Jacob ben Samuel and was massorated and vocalized by Joseph ben Kalonymus in collaboration with another masorete. The first part was completed between ...

Article

French, 13th century, male.

Illuminator.

A number of miniatures are attributed to this artist, particularly those in a book he wrote in Amiens in 1286.

Article

Artistic manifestations of Arthurian legends antedate surviving textual traditions and sometimes bear witness to stories that have not survived in written form. Thus the Tristan sculptures (c. 1102–17) carved on a column from the north transept of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela...

Article

Debra Higgs Strickland

Richly illustrated bestiary manuscript (275×185mm, 105 fols; Oxford, Bodleian Lib., Ashmole 1511), written in Latin and illuminated probably in southern England around 1210. The original patron is unknown. It contains the text and illustrations of a complete bestiary, with prefatory Creation scenes and excerpts from Genesis and part of Hugh de Folieto’s ...

Article

Sophie Page

Astrology is the art of predicting events on earth as well as human character and disposition from the movements of the planets and fixed stars. Medieval astrology encompassed both general concepts of celestial influence, and the technical art of making predictions with horoscopes, symbolic maps of the heavens at particular moments and places constructed from astronomical information. The scientific foundations of the art were developed in ancient Greece, largely lost in early medieval Europe and recovered by the Latin West from Arabic sources in the 12th and 13th centuries. Late medieval astrological images were successfully Christianized and were adapted to particular contexts, acquired local meanings and changed over time....

Article

Robert G. Calkins

Book that describes and draws Christian moralizations from the characteristics and habits of animals, birds, fish, reptiles, and even minerals, real and imaginary. It was especially popular during the Middle Ages in western Europe. Its core early Christian text, partly informed by Indian, Hebrew, and Egyptian legends and known as the ...

Article

Bobbio  

Michael Richter

Monastery in Emilia-Romagna, Italy. Approximately 50 km south of Piacenza in the Apennines, it was founded c. ad 613 through the cooperation of the Lombard king Agilulf (reg 590–615) and the Irish abbot and saint Columbanus (c. 540–615). Its nucleus was an older dilapidated church dedicated to St Peter. Columbanus died on 23 November 615, but his name and renown remained alive in the following centuries. Through cooperation with the Lombard monarchs as well as later the Carolingian kings, Bobbio became a very prominent monastery in Northern Italy. In 628 it was granted the earliest monastic exemption from supervision by the local diocesan, the bishop of Tortona. The community of Bobbio apparently lived according to the Rule of Columbanus as well as the Rule of Basil of Caesarea. The presence of the Rule of St Benedict cannot be documented there before the early 9th century. Bobbio became a known not only as a centre of Irish learning but also as a centre of grammatical as well as computational studies. Its early library also contained Classical texts as well as important palimpsests (a ‘catalogue’ survives from the late 9th century). In the late 9th and early 10th centuries (a period of economic decline) important illuminated manuscripts were produced there. The abbatial church was rebuilt under Abbot Agilulf (...

Article

M. A. Michael

The elaboration of the margins of a manuscript with decorative or figural motifs. The development of decoration for otherwise blank margins on a page with text is associated with the evolution of the decorated and historiated initial (see Initial, manuscript; for borders accompanying full-page miniatures, ...

Article

Claire Donovan

English illuminator. A William de Brailes (variously spelt) is cited in six documents (c. 1230–60) relating to Oxford. These establish that he lived with his wife Celena in Catte Street among other professionals engaged in book production. None of these documents, however, mentions his trade. It seems most probable that the documented William de Brailes may be identified with the illuminator W. de Brailes, whose name appears in two manuscripts associated with Oxford. The name occurs twice in a Book of Hours (...

Article

British, 13th century, male.

Painter, miniaturist, illuminator. Murals, designs for stained glass.

In 1260 this artist was working in the scribes' and illuminators' district of Oxford. He illustrated various manuscripts and psalters between 1230 and 1250, among them The Last Judgement and a Sarum Book of Hours...

Article

Nigel J. Morgan

Liturgical book containing the psalms, readings from the scriptures, the Church Fathers or the lives of the saints, antiphons, and prayers that constitute the Divine Office for each day of the Christian Church year (see Service book). The Divine Office comprises the daily devotions observed at the eight canonical hours of the day (Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline), arranged around the psalms, so that all 150 psalms are read each week. Its text covers two distinct sections: the Temporal (or Proper of Time), containing the offices for Sundays and festivals commemorating the life of Christ and the weekdays of the year; and the Sanctoral (or Proper of Saints), with offices for the feast days of saints. Supplementary offices for certain occasions, for instance the Office of the Dead and Little Office of the Virgin, were sometimes added to the daily office, and a full version of the Breviary usually includes the whole ...

Article

In the 20th century, discussion of the relationship between Byzantine art and the art of the Latin West evolved in tandem with scholarship on Byzantine art itself. Identified as the religious imagery and visual and material culture of the Greek Orthodox Empire based at Constantinople between ...

Article

Beatrice Radden Keefe

Collection of 420 Galician–Portuguese songs composed in the second half of the 13th century at the court of Alfonso (reg 1252–84). The Cantigas are preserved in four 13th-century manuscripts, three of which are illustrated.

Two of the illustrated Cantigas manuscripts are thought to have once formed a deluxe edition of the songs commissioned by Alfonso X. The two volumes are now split between Madrid (Escorial, Real Bib. Monasterio S Lorenzo, MS. T.I.1) and Florence (Bib. N. Cent., MS. B.R.20). The first volume, the Códice rico at the ...

Article

Charter  

James D’Emilio

Legal document typically written in documentary script on a single parchment sheet and authenticated by subscriptions, notarial signs or seals. In archives, originals were sometimes stitched into booklets or rolls. Notarial charters were registered, while deeds of ecclesiastical and civil institutions were copied in cartularies organized by place, date or issuer. Charters include contracts, property transactions, marriage agreements, dispute settlements, official privileges and decrees....

Article

Marina Vidas

French illuminated manuscript (295×140 mm, 174 fols; Copenhagen, Kon. Bib., GKS 1606 4°), made in Paris c. 1230 with later additions. Its original textual components are: a Calendar, the Psalms, Canticles, Hymns, Litany, and Collects. In its present state the pictorial programme consists of 24 calendrical medallions representing the signs of the zodiac and the labours of the month and 24 Christological miniatures on burnished grounds, preceding the Psalter proper. The Psalter text is illuminated with eight historiated initials, of which six show Davidian subjects, as well as with many decorative initials and line endings. The manuscript is named after Princess Christina of Norway (...

Article

German, 13th century, male.

Copyist, illuminator.

The Munich library has several manuscripts produced by this copyist, and a variety of authors cite, altogether, more than 30 books that he wrote and decorated.

Munich (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek)

Article

Patrick M. de Winter

Italian illuminator. The treasury documents of Charles I, King of Naples and Sicily (reg 1266–85), record that when the German illuminator Minardus was not available, the King had directed that the monk Giovanni da Monte Cassino should be his substitute. Giovanni thus illuminated a translation into Latin of Rhazes’s medical encyclopedia ...