Swingin’ in the Scriptorium

I had a great time in the scriptorium workshop today– what a way to start a morning!

I think it was worth more than my own entertainment, though. I ended up working on a historiated letter, trying to combine a few historical examples to come up with one I really loved, that was both interesting and traditional, both intricate and feasible. With this experience I think I have a better understanding of medieval scribes’ environment. They placed a lot of importance on copying and otherwise maintaining traditions of their craft. Still, look at the variety and expression we see in even the fraction of their work we can still see today! They knew how to fix and match, and that’s a part of what we learned today in the scriptorium.

On a more concrete note, we also got a lot of hands-on experience mixing paints, sketching, and inking that brought us closer to the scribes we’re studying. We faced questions like “how do I make this T symmetrical?” and “what do I do now that the muller is stuck again?” that force you to put more thought into the process of an illuminated manuscript than you might just looking at one for content.

2 Replies to “Swingin’ in the Scriptorium”

  1. Hi Julia,

    I really like your point that the hands on experience of making a historiated letter brought up challenges I wouldn’t even think about when reading about the art itself. Being involved with the process itself, even just doing a single letter, made me realize how much effort goes into the smallest of illustrations. It gave me a new perspective as to just how impressive the manuscripts we’ve been looking at are.

  2. Julia,

    I totally agree with you about the ways in which this workshop revealed the intricacies of the process of illumination. You point out that elements need to be symmetrical, fixed, matched, and copied from traditional techniques as accurately as possible. Something I find interesting about historiated letters and some illuminated manuscripts is that while this base requirement for uniformity in proportions is important, there is also room for creative spontaneity. I suppose, being hundreds of years removed from the creation of these manuscripts, it’s difficult to know what is planned and what is random or experimental. But the way that nature and design curls into the spaces of the letters and marginalia seems to be, as you also pointed out, a product of self-expression.

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