Illuminated Manuscript Origins: The Book of Kells
Illuminated Manuscripts are called so because the first ones created were decorated with gold or silver. Today the term is used to define text or letters accompanied by decorative illustrations. Most of these manuscripts were written in the Middle Ages but a few survive from the Renaissance. Manuscripts from this time period are divided into five main categories: Ottonian, Insular /Celtic, Carolingian, Romanesque, Gothic manuscripts. Of all the extravagant works of illuminated text, the Book of Kells is one of the most impressive and famous due to the extent of its decoration and incredibly detailed craftsmanship. The authors and location of the Book of Kells are unknown, but there are many theories about its origins because it contains many similarities to Insular manuscripts. 1. History of Illuminated Manuscripts
The time period of 1066-1485 AD is classified as the Middle Ages. During this time, all books were written by hand and usually the hands of monks. The first illuminated manuscripts were filled with religious text from the Bible. Later, other important books of literature, politics, and hunting were illuminated at the request of wealthy patrons. During the Medieval time period, the transition between artisans and artists was not yet made. Monks painted to glorify God rather than to gain individual recognition. The subject matter was the main focus of the artwork, not the artist. This mindset in creating work greatly affected the quality of illuminated manuscripts; artists specialized in one specific field and became experts in their craftsmanship. For example, in the creation of illuminated manuscripts, a monk’s work would be dedicated to being an artist or a scribe. Each page would have to be carefully planned out in order to design space for text and images. Because there are so many occasions where text and image are so intertwined, the “identity between scribe and artist is among the key...
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Megaw, Ruth & Vincent. Celtic Art. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1989. print.
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