"Blackletter script dominated throughout Western Europe beginning about 1150 CE. Far easier to write than other letterforms, the script was used to produce illuminated sacred texts, and works for study in universities."


Go to Artifact:  Book of Judges - Psalter - Missal Frakeur - Italian Choir Book - View All Images


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Sacred illuminated manuscripts were produced by Muslims, Christians, and Jews to glorify their respective deities. Illumination in its final form appeared by the 6th-century. Illuminated means "lit up" with colors, and the gleam of burnished gold.

Leaves from Latin Vulgate Bibles are a beautiful example of illumination, illustration, and calligraphy [hand-formed letters]. St. Jerome translated the entire Greek Bible into Latin between 382 through 417 CE, completing the work not long before his death. His version is known as Latin Vulgate.  The Latin Bible was the best-known book of the Middle Ages, the greatest era for the production of illuminated manuscript Bibles. This was the age of the great Gothic cathedrals. The towering pillars and elegant stained-glass windows are strikingly similar to illuminated manuscripts of the period.

Early manuscripts demonstrate collaboration among the Scribe, who wrote the text in precise, hand-formed script; the Illuminator, who created the tiny, intricate designs; and the Rubricator, who completed page headings and section markers in red. The pointed letterform is Gothic or Blackletter, the movable type font used by Gutenberg for his 42-Line Bible, circa 1450 CE. Below is an example of the font.

The Thirteenth-Century Bible: An Essay, with an Original Leaf from a Latin Manuscript Bible, by Bruce Ferrini, published in 1994, is #15 of 1,000 hand-numbered copies. The imprint includes an explanatory essay and an illuminated leaf on parchment, or vellum [animal skin scraped repeatedly until white], circa 1200-1250 CE. Written in nearly microscopic calligraphic pearl script, the text is from the first section of The Book of Judges. On the recto [front side], there is a lustrous majuscule, a large capital with elaborate designs drawn inside the spaces of the letter, extending into the margins [marginalia]. On the verso [reverse side], there are minuscules, smaller, rounded capitals [Roman uncials], the basis of our modern alphabet, and marginalia drawn in red and blue.

The leaf is from a personal book of devotion in the codex format. Early Christian evangelists created the codex, the modern form of the book, far easier to carry than heavy scrolls when traveling to spread the word of their faith.





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A lavishly illuminated leaf from a Psalter is one of the items in the De Gregorio collection. Sacred illuminated manuscripts were produced by Muslims, Christians, and Jews to glorify their respective deities. Illumination in its final form appeared by the 6th-century. Illuminated means "lit up" with colors, and the gleam of burnished gold. Early manuscripts demonstrate collaboration among the Scribe, who wrote the text in precise, hand-formed script; the Illuminator, who created the tiny, intricate designs; and the Rubricator, who completed page headings and section markers in red.

The leaf is from a personal book of devotion in the codex format. Early Christian evangelists created the codex, the modern form of the book, far easier to carry than heavy scrolls when traveling to spread the word of their faith.

The brilliantly illuminated leaf, circa 1200 CE, is from a Psalter (passage from The Book of Psalms) commissioned by a member of the court of the French King Philip II. In the age of the great Gothic cathedrals, the towering pillars and elegant stained-glass windows are strikingly similar to illuminated manuscripts of the period. The pointed letterform is Gothic or Blackletter, the movable type font used by Gutenberg for his 42-Line Bible, circa 1450 CE. Below is an example of the font.

A superlative example of the finest illumination, there are two extraordinary majuscules, large capitals with elaborate designs drawn inside the spaces of the letter, on both recto and verso, as well as numerous minuscules, smaller, rounded capitals (Roman uncials), that are the basis of our modern alphabet. The illumination is exquisite, rendered in resplendent colors of gold, blue, and red.





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Blackletter script dominated throughout Western Europe beginning about 1150 CE. Far easier to write than other letterforms, the script was used to produce illuminated sacred texts, and works for study in universities.

Artifact: Leaf from missal [a book of prayers to celebrate mass], in Latin, on vellum, in early Blackletter script, circa 1300 CE. With annotations and textual markings; Litany of saints and prayers.





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This leaf from an Italian choir book is highly unusual in that the scribe details production of the work at the bottom, including date of execution.

Within the musical composition, there are 5-line staves, or stanzas, and square neumes, sets of signs indicating melody, performance directions, and breathing spaces.

Artifact: Leaf from choir book, Italian, on vellum; the satin text, written in Blackletter script, is dated 1766CE.

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