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One of the few surviving, early medieval, Latin technical treatises. Its attribution, localization, and dating rest largely on internal evidence variously interpreted and inconclusive. The treatise now comprises three books: it is generally agreed that Books I and II, written in verse by one hand at some time between the 7th and 12th centuries, constitute the original text; Book III, written in prose, was added piecemeal during the 12th and 13th centuries. The treatise is commonly attributed to (H)Eraclius, who is cited as the author in Books I and III but probably wrote only Books I and II. It is not known whether he was a native of Italy or a northerner promoting his knowledge of Roman techniques, and accordingly De coloribus has been located to either Italy or northern Europe.

Relatively complete versions of the text survive in two manuscripts, both accompanied by Theophilus’s treatise De diversis artibus (extracts of the text within compilations of technical material are more common): the first (ex-Trinity Coll., Cambridge, MS. R. 15 5; London, BL, Egerton MS. 840 A) is German and dated ...


Lawrence Nees

Illuminated Carolingian Gospel book (Epernay, Bibliothèque municipal, cod. 1). The Ebbo Gospels is among the most famous of all early medieval manuscripts, and has figured in virtually all modern discussions of Carolingian art and of book illumination, primarily because of the wonderfully animated—some have said ‘expressionistic’—quality of the four portraits of the Evangelists, the only full-page figural decoration. Because of its style, it has generally been closely linked with an even more famous manuscript, the richly illustrated Utrecht Psalter, as the key works of the ‘Reims school’ of book illumination. The Ebbo Gospels is in some sense the key work, for it alone has some indication of date, patronage and place of production. In it is a long dedication poem, mentioning Ebbo, who was Archbishop of Reims from 816, and who died in 851as Bishop of Hildesheim. The manuscript must have been made in his lifetime, with most scholars favouring a date before his first deposition from the see, in 834, but this is uncertain, and it could be later. The other figure named in the poem is Abbot Peter of a monastery dedicated to St Peter. This might be the abbey of Hautvillers, near Reims, in whose library the book was preserved at the time of the French Revolution, but nothing is known of this figure, or his dates of office or death. The lively drawing style of the Gospel book, with elongated fingers, stooped shoulders, knit brows, and rapid brushwork, became an important element of medieval style for centuries, and occurs in other Carolingian centres, such as Tours and Metz, from about 840. Whether Reims, or the chief painter of this book, was the origin of the style is uncertain, although often asserted, but the great quality of the work is beyond question....


Don Denny

Book containing the four canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The illustration of these manuscripts was an important art form during the early medieval period in western Europe and at all times in the history of the Eastern Church. The oldest extant decorated Gospel books are of the 6th century ad and show considerable diversity in their illustrations. They suggest that the inclusion of New Testament narrative cycles was a widespread practice at that period, although the cycles might be arranged according to quite varied formats. For example, the Rossano Gospels (Rossano, Mus. Dioc.), written in Greek, include some ten narrative illustrations and seem originally to have contained four portraits of the Evangelists (see Author portrait) and ornamented canon tables (see Canon table); the latter two features came, in the following centuries, to be the most consistently repeated features of Gospel book design. In the ...