Illuminated Bible texts
An illuminated Bible text or manuscript contains such decoration as initials, borders and miniature illustrations. Bible texts were often decorated with gold or silver and in reflecting the light "illuminated" the text. They helped make important documents even more special and valuable.
Most of the surviving illuminated texts are from the Middle Ages and so hundreds of years old. The contain many beautiful artworks. They were produced on the best material available, most commonly of calf, sheep, or goat skin. At the end of the Middle Ages manuscripts began to be produced on paper. Very early printed books sometimes contained texts with illuminated initials, or decorations in the margin. But with the introduction of printing machines, called presses, illuminated manuscripts stopped being produced.
The first illuminated manuscripts were most likely to be Gospel Books, such as the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Book of Kells. Then many huge illuminated complete Bibles were completed – one requires three librarians to lift it! Many books containing the Psalms were also heavily illuminated.
Most manuscripts were produced in monasteries in order to add to the library or to be sold to the wealthy. Larger monasteries often contained a separate area, called a 'scriptorium', for the monks who specialised in the production of manuscripts. Within the walls of a scriptorium were smaller areas where a monk could sit and work on a manuscript without being disturbed by the other monks.
The manuscript was first “sent to the 'rubricator', who added (in red or other colors) the titles, headlines, the initials of chapters and sections, the notes and so on; and then – if the book was to be illustrated – it was sent to the illuminator.” Watch the video below.