Cambridge Illuminations

26 July to 11 December 2005
At Cambridge University Library and the Fitzwilliam Museum




Making an Illuminated Manuscript

At the Fitzwilliam Museum

Monuments of learning and devotion, illuminated manuscripts double as galleries of paintings. With the vast majority of the monumental and decorative arts destroyed by the forces of nature or social upheavals, manuscripts remain the richest, best-preserved, and most representative examples of medieval and early Renaissance art.

The making of an illuminated manuscript was a complex and expensive process. It required the expertise of parchment makers, scribes, artists, and binders, and the lavish provision of gold, silver, precious stones and pigments. The costly materials and skills involved in the production of a deluxe manuscript displayed the patron’s wealth, status, piety, erudition, and taste. Unlike most other art media, illuminated manuscripts preserve the physical, historical, social, and cultural context of their production within their own covers.