CULTURE

 

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ulturally, illuminated manuscripts influenced the spreading (growth) of literacy within the European/Western/Islamic/Chinese worlds. The practice of manuscripts enhanced the craft of typography, design, and the process/production of culture in medieval times. Manuscripts were expensive and time-consuming to produce, but their creation made for specialized jobs, cultural status, and societal importance. Vellum, animal skin, ink, and pigments such as gold leaf and lapis lazuli were all used in the creation of a manuscript.

Jaharis Byzantine Lectionary ca. 1100 Byzantine Photo source. Public Domain Archive from The Metropolitan Museum

Jaharis Byzantine Lectionary
ca. 1100
Byzantine
Photo source. Public Domain Archive from The Metropolitan Museum

The scrittori was an educated scholar who had knowledge of Greek and Latin and had the job/responsibility to oversee the entire production of the manuscript. During the early stages of manuscript creation, the scrittori would reproduce pre-written texts. These texts were of religious and spiritual importance; however, they were made with many errors as those copying them were not always literate. Due to this, the focus of the reproduced manuscripts was ornamental rather than technical. The scriptoria housed these important religious texts and were places that the copying of manuscripts took place.

Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum historiale, translated into French by Jean de Vignay: Bruges, c. 1478-80 (London, British Library, MS Royal 14 E. i, f. 3r).

Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum historiale, translated into French by Jean de Vignay: Bruges, c. 1478-80 (London, British Library, MS Royal 14 E. i, f. 3r).

The emergence of monastic culture, a spiritual way of life that was protected and productive in their writings of ways to live life, expanded the influence of manuscripts during the period known as the Dark Ages. The monastic leaders looked to the ancient canons for guidance in their educational values. Who could read the illuminated manuscripts indicated a high cultural and symbolic status.

Over time manuscripts expanded in their ornamental production and became more accurate in their literate meanings. There was a certain depth to the manuscripts in their gold leaf writing and illustrated pictures.

Detail of a miniature of a hermit at work on a manuscript, from the Estoire del Saint Graal, France (Saint-Omer or Tournai?), c. 1315 – 1325, Royal MS 14 E III, f. 6v

Detail of a miniature of a hermit at work on a manuscript, from the Estoire del Saint Graal, France (Saint-Omer or Tournai?), c. 1315 – 1325, Royal MS 14 E III, f. 6v

The growth of Christianity in Western culture furthered the preservation and spreading of religious ideals through manuscripts that applied monastic doctrines. The Christian belief in sacred religious manuscripts and other writings were most important to medieval Christian monasteries, which were connected and protected to Lords. Abbots held the social standing that was equal to Lords and through their familial lineages kept the practice of the written word and religious doctrines. These monasteries were cultural, educational, and intellectual centers within their cities and villages. Preservation of values was important, and the manuscript aided in this goal.

The Holkham Bible Picture Book, England, c. 1327-1335: Add MS 47682, f. 28r

The Holkham Bible Picture Book, England, c. 1327-1335: Add MS 47682, f. 28r

The transition from the medieval period to the Romanesque and Gothic period brought about the emergence of universities, literacy of the masses, and growing demand for books. It was a time of economic growth and new cultural technes that influenced the epistemes of the time.

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