The earliest known illuminated manuscripts are from the year 400, though it’s possible that manuscripts were illustrated this way before that. At first, they were made mainly by monks but illuminated manuscripts were very popular among the wealthy and it was soon discovered that money could be made illuminating manuscripts. With the invention of the printing press came the decline of illuminated manuscripts and by the end of the 1500s they were no longer being made.
An illuminated manuscript began as a page layout. Once the creator decided what illustrations, initials, and designs would go where, the text would be copied into the book. It took a lot of practice and patience to be able to write the text by hand into a manuscript because it had to look like it had been done on a computer with even and precise letters all the way through.
Next, the illuminator would add the illustrations throughout the book. The illustrations were drawn first onto a wax tablet and, when they were perfect, traced into the book and filled in with color.
For Information about one illuminator, click here.
Check out this gallery of illuminations from the 8th century, Book of Kells. (The illumination shown at the top of this entry is all from the Book of Kells.)
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