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Title: Lessons in the Art of Illuminating - A Series of Examples selected from Works in the British - Museum, Lambeth Palace Library, and the South Kensington - Museum.
Author: Loftie, W. J. (William John), 1839-1911
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lessons in the Art of Illuminating - A Series of Examples selected from Works in the British - Museum, Lambeth Palace Library, and the South Kensington - Museum." ***

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                   15TH CENTURY.]



    A Series of Examples selected from
    Works in the British Museum,
    Lambeth Palace Library,
    and the South Kensington Museum.

    With Practical Instructions,
    And A Sketch Of The History Of The Art,


    W. J. LOFTIE, B.A., F.S.A.,

              "A CENTURY OF BIBLES,"
              "A PLEA FOR ART IN THE HOUSE," ETC.



_The Ornamental Border and Initial of the Title-page are interesting
examples of Italian work of the fifteenth century. They are from the
Harleian Collection, British Museum (3109 and 4902) different works,
but evidently executed by the same hand. The Colors are represented in
the engraving by means of lines (as explained on page 18), so that by
the aid of these directions the student can reproduce them in the
colors employed in the original MSS._


  TITLE-PAGE--Border and Initial, Italian Work of fifteenth century.

      Example of Illumination by Giulio Clovio,
      Sixteenth-century Writing, from "Albert Durer's Prayer-Book,"


  ILLUMINATED PLATE I.--Initials by English Illuminators of the twelfth
    and thirteenth centuries,
      Description of Plate I.,
      French Initials, from an Alphabet of the fifteenth century,

  ILLUMINATED PLATE II.--Twelve Initial Letters from French Manuscript
    of the fifteenth century,
      Description of Plate II.,
      Large Initial Letter of the twelfth century, from Harleian MSS.
        3045, British Museum,

  ILLUMINATED PLATE III.--Examples of thirteenth-century work from two
    Manuscripts in the British Museum,
      Description of Plate III.,
      Outline Drawings of two pages of a Book of Hours of the fourteenth

  ILLUMINATED PLATE IV.--Facsimile page of a Manuscript in Lambeth
    Palace Library--fifteenth century,
      Description of Plate IV.,
      Outline Drawings of two pages of a Book of Hours of the fourteenth

  ILLUMINATED PLATE V.--Ornaments and large Initial from Manuscripts of
    the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in the British Museum and
    South Kensington Museum,
      Description of Plate V.,
      Outline Drawings of Bands and Border Ornaments of the fourteenth

  ILLUMINATED PLATE VI.--A full page and separate Initials from a Book
    of Hours (Low Countries, fifteenth century), and Border from
    Manuscript in British Museum,
      Description of Plate VI.,
      French Initial Letters and Border Ornaments of the fourteenth

  ILLUMINATED PLATE VII.--Borders of Thirteenth and Fourteenth
    Centuries,--and Heraldic Designs, from Manuscripts in British Museum
    and Heralds' College,
      Description of Plate VII.,
      Outline Drawing of Border and Text, with Adoration of the Three
        Kings, sixteenth century,

  ILLUMINATED PLATE VIII.--Examples from the Book of Kells (ninth
    century), in Library of Trinity College, Dublin,
      Description of Plate VIII.,
      Outline Drawings of Early Irish Initial Letters,

  ILLUMINATED PLATE IX.--Facsimile page of a Book of Hours in Lambeth
    Palace Library--early in fifteenth century,
      Description of Plate IX.,

     _The outlined initials on pp. xv, 9, 13, 21, 25, 29, and 33 are
     taken from a manuscript of the fifteenth century, preserved at
     Nuremberg. The originals are very highly but delicately
     colored, the ground being gold; the body of the letter, black;
     and the scroll work and foliage pink, blue, green, and yellow.
     The book, which is dated 1489, is a treatise entitled the
     "Preservation of Body, Soul, Honour, and Goods." The tailpieces
     throughout represent heraldic animals, from the Rows Roll and
     other authentic sources._

[Illustration: HERALDIC BOAR.]



Perhaps the art of Illumination, although it is closely connected with
that of Writing, may be entitled to a separate history. Men could
write long before it occurred to them to ornament their writings: and
the modern student will find that what he looks upon as genuine
illumination is not to be traced back many centuries. True one or two
Roman manuscripts are in existence which may be dated soon after A.D.
200, and which are illustrated rather than illuminated with pictures.
But the medieval art, and especially that branch of it which
flourished in our own country, has a different origin, and sprang from
the system, not of illustration, but of pure ornamentation, which
prevailed in Ireland before the eighth century, but which reached its
highest development among the Oriental Moslems. The works of the Irish
school were for long and are sometimes still called "Anglo-Saxon," and
there can be no doubt that the Irish missionaries brought with them to
Iona and to Lindisfarne the traditions and practice of the art, which
they taught, with Christianity, to the heathens of England. I will
therefore refer the reader who desires to know more of palæography in
general, and of the principal foreign schools of the art of writing,
to the great works of M. Sylvestre, of Messieurs Wyatt and Tymms, of
Henry Shaw, and Miss Stokes, and to various isolated papers in the
Transactions of the Antiquarian Societies; and I will begin with the
earliest practice of the art in our own country and by our own

During the eighth century rivalry to Irish art sprung up in the south;
and the immediate followers of St. Augustine of Canterbury founded a
scriptorium which produced many fine specimens. In less than two
centuries a very high standard had been reached, and many of my
readers will remember the Utrecht Psalter, as it is called, which,
though it is one of the oldest Anglo-Saxon MSS. now preserved, is full
of spirited drawings of figures and of illuminated capital letters.
The volume formerly belonged to England, but was lost, and
subsequently turned up in Holland. By the tenth century the art had
reached such a pitch of perfection that we find a charter of King
Edgar wholly written in letters of gold. The Duke of Devonshire
possesses a volume written and illuminated for Ethelwold, bishop of
Winchester from 963 to 984, by a "scriptor" named Godemann, afterwards
Abbot of Thorney, the first English artist with whose name we are
acquainted, if we except his more famous contemporary, Archbishop
Dunstan, whose skill in metal work is better remembered than his
powers as an illuminator. The wonderful Irish MSS. the Book of Kells,
which is in the library of Trinity College, Dublin, the Book of
Durham, and others more curious than beautiful, belong to a slightly
earlier period, perhaps to the ninth century, as Miss Stokes has

Many schools of writing throughout England were destroyed in the
Danish wars, and the princes of the Norman race did little to
encourage literary art. Though one or two interesting MSS. of this
period survive, it is not until the accession of the Angevins that
English writing makes another distinct advance. By the beginning of
the thirteenth century the art had risen to the highest pitch it has
ever reached. The scriptorium of St. Albans was the most celebrated.
The works of Matthew Paris written there are still extant, and
testify, by the character of the pictures and colored letters, to a
purity of style and to the existence of a living and growing art which
has never been surpassed in this country. It is believed that the
numerous little Bibles of this period were chiefly written at
Canterbury, and certainly, as examples of what could be done before
printing, are most marvellous. One of these MSS. is before me as I
write. The written part of the page measures 2-5/8 inches in width and
3-3/4 inches in height, and the book is scarcely more than an inch
thick, yet it contains, on pages of fine vellum in a minute almost
microscopic hand, the whole Bible and Apocrypha. The beginning of each
book has a miniature representing a Scripture scene, and a larger
miniature, representing the genealogy of the Saviour, is at the
beginning of Genesis. Although this is the smallest complete Bible I
have met with, others very little larger are in the British Museum,
and with them one, of folio size, exquisitely ornamented in the same
style, which bears the name of the artist, "Wills. Devoniensis,"
William of Devonshire. Besides Chronicles and Bibles the thirteenth
century produced Psalters, the form and character of which were
eventually enlarged and grew into the well-known "Horæ," or books of
devotional "Hours," which were illuminated in the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries.

Placing side by side a number of Psalters and Hours, and tracing by
comparison the prevalence of single sets of designs--all, however,
originating in the wonderful vitality of the thirteenth century--is a
very interesting study, though seldom possible. It was possible to
make such a comparison, however, in 1874, when a large number of
magnificently illuminated books were exhibited together at the rooms
of the Burlington Club in London. It was then seen that when the form
and subject of a decoration were once invented they remained fixed for
all generations. A Psalter of the thirteenth century, probably of
Flemish execution, which was in the collection of Mr. Bragge, was
ornamented with borders containing grotesque figures, and had a
calendar at the beginning, every page of which represented a scene
appropriate to the month, with the proper sign of the zodiac. Thus,
under January there was a great hooded fire-place, and a little figure
of a man seated and warming himself. The chimney formed a kind of
border to the page, and at the top was a stork on her nest feeding her
brood. This MS. was so early that some good judges did not hesitate to
assign it to the end of the twelfth century. Close to it was a Book of
Hours, written in the fifteenth if not early in the sixteenth century,
and under January we have the self-same scene, though the
grotesqueness, and indeed much of the quaint beauty of the design has
disappeared. It is the same with scriptural and ritual scenes. The
Bibles always had the same set of pictures; the Psalter and Hours the
same subjects; and the same arrangement of colors was handed down as
suitable for the representation of certain scenes, and was unvaried.

It may enable the reader to form a clearer idea of what these highly
ornamented volumes were like if I extract the full description of one
which was lately in the catalogue of an eminent London bookseller:--It
was a Book of Hours, written in France at the beginning of the
sixteenth century, or, say during the reign of our Henry the Seventh,
1485 to 1509. It consisted of seventy-seven leaves of vellum, which
measured about seven inches by five, with an illuminated border to
every page. There were twenty miniatures, some the size of the full
page and some smaller. The borders were composed of flowers and fruit,
interspersed with grotesque animals, birds, and human figures, most
eccentrically conceived. Both the capital letters and the borders were
heightened with gold, sometimes flat, and sometimes brilliantly
burnished.[1] This is, of course, an unusually rich example. About the
same period great pains were taken to ornament the calendar with which
these books usually commenced. Some of these Calendars consist simply
of a picture in a gold frame, the composition so arranged that it does
not suffer by a large blank space being left in the middle. In this
space the calendar was written; and the rest of the page was occupied
with an agricultural scene, emblematic of the season. In the sky
above, painted in gold shell on the blue, was the sign of the zodiac
appropriate to each month. In some the border was in compartments. One
compartment contained the name of the month in gold letters or a
monogram. Another contained an agricultural scene, another the
zodiacal sign, another a flower, and the rest the figures of the
principal saints of the month.

    [1] The miniatures were as follows:--1. The Annunciation, a
    beautiful miniature with the border painted upon a gold ground;
    this is the case with all the borders containing miniatures. 2.
    The Meeting of Mary and Elizabeth. 3. The Infant Jesus lying in
    the manger at the Inn at Bethlehem, Joseph and the Virgin Mary
    kneeling in adoration. 4. The Announcement of the Birth of the
    Saviour to the Shepherds by night. 5. The Worship of the Magi.
    6. The Presentation in the Temple. 7. The Journey into Egypt. 8.
    The Coronation of the Virgin. 9. The Crucifixion. 10. The
    Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. 11. Saint
    Anthony; a small miniature. 12. The Martyrdom of Saint
    Sebastian; a small miniature. 13. King David at his devotions in
    a chamber within his Palace. 14. The Raising of Lazarus. 15. The
    Virgin Mary with the Infant Jesus, guarded by angels; a small
    miniature. 16. The body of Jesus taken down from the Cross. 17.
    Saint Quentin the Martyr. 18. Saint Adrian. 19. Mater Dolorosa.
    20. The Virgin and Child. The four last were small.

The student turns with relief from this comparative monotony to
Chronicles in which historical scenes are given. One of the oldest is
among the Harleian Manuscripts in the British Museum, and relates to
the deposition of Richard II. It has been engraved in _Archæologia_,
vol. xx., so that it is accessible wherever there is a good library. A
little later French romances were similarly decorated, and we have
innumerable pictures to illustrate the manners and costumes of the
knights and ladies of whom we read in the stirring pages of Froissart.

Illumination did not decline at once with the invention of printing.
On the contrary some exquisite borders and initials are found in books
printed on vellum, one very well known example being a New Testament
in the Lambeth Library, which was long mistaken for a manuscript,
though it is, in reality, a portion of the Great Bible supposed to
have been printed at Mentz before 1455, and to be the earliest work of
the press of Fust and Schoyffer. A few wealthy people had Prayer-books
illuminated for their own use down to a comparatively recent period.
The celebrated Jarry wrote exquisite little volumes for Louis XIV.
and his courtiers. A very fine Book of Hours was in the Bragge
Collection, and must have been written in the sixteenth century,
perhaps for some widow of rank in France. It contained sixteen
miniatures which closely resembled Limoges enamels, the only decided
color used being the carnation for the faces, the rest of the design
being in black, white, gold, and a peculiar pearly grey. Each page had
a border of black and gold. From another manuscript, a Book of Hours
written in France in the fourteenth century (and exhibited at the
Burlington Club by Mr. Robert Young), we have some outline tracings of
the ivy pattern (see page 12). The famous illuminations of Giulio
Clovio (a native of Croatia, who practised in Italy 1498-1578) hardly
deserve the admiration they receive. They are in fact small pictures,
the colors very crude and bright, and without the solemnity which
attaches to ancient religious art. An illuminated work by Clovio was
recently sold in London for the enormous sum of £2050. It had been
long in the possession of an old Lancashire family, and is believed to
have been illuminated for Cardinal Alexander Farnese, and by him
presented to his uncle Paul III., who was pope between 1534 and 1550.
In England the latest illuminators became the first miniature
painters; and the succession of English artists is carried on from
Godemann and Paris, through Nicholas Hilliard (1547-1619) and Isaac
Oliver (1556-1617), to the school of Cooper (1609-1672) and Dobson,
whose portraits are on vellum.

From "St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans," in the Soane Museum.]

Short as is this survey of the history of Illumination, it will not do
to omit all reference to Heraldry. Heraldic manuscripts, it is curious
to remark, are rarely illuminated with borders or initials; but in the
Chronicles of Matthew Paris shields of arms are frequently introduced
with good effect. Occasionally in Books of Hours the arms of the
person for whom the work was undertaken are placed in the border. Some
fine examples of this kind are to be found in the so-called Bedford
Missal, which is really a Book of Hours, and was written for John,
duke of Bedford, the brother of Henry V. Most of the manuscripts now
extant on the subject are of late date and rude execution, consisting
chiefly of rolls of arms, catalogues with shields in "trick"--that is,
sketched with the colors indicated by a letter, or lists of banners,
of which last a fine example is in the library of the College of Arms.
Heraldry may be studied to advantage by the modern illuminator, who
should endeavour to become so conversant with the various charges that
in making a border or filling a letter he may be able to introduce
them artistically without violating the strict laws of the "science."
A late but very beautiful MS., in four little square volumes, which
belongs to Mr. Malcolm of Poltalloch, has been identified as having
been written for Bona of Savoy, duchess of Milan, who died in 1494.
This identification has been made by means of the frequent occurrence
of her badge and mottoes in the borders, many of which contain other
devices of a semi-heraldic character, such as a phoenix, which is
known to have been a favourite emblem of the duchess, an ermine, a
rabbit, and a child playing with a serpent or dragon, all of them
allusive to the heraldry of the lady and her husband. The study of
heraldry has a further advantage in offering certain fixed rules about
the use of colors which may help the student to attain harmony, and
also in accustoming the eye and the hand to adapting certain forms to
the place they have to fill, as for instance, the rampant lion within
his shield, so as to leave as little vacant space as possible.

Some examples of animals treated in heraldic style will be found
interspersed in this work as tailpieces. One of these, at the end of
the Contents, represents a wild boar, to whose neck a mantle, bearing
a coat of arms, is attached. It will be understood that what are
called in heraldry "supporters" were a knight's attendants, who
disguised themselves as beasts, and held their master's shield at the
door of his tent at a tournament. The figures cannot, therefore, be
too much conventionalized. (See the examples shown in Plate VII.) Some
of the other designs are from the Rows Roll, a heraldic manuscript of
the time of the Wars of the Roses. Some beautiful heraldic designs are
to be found in Drummond's _Noble Families_. They were drawn by Mr.
Montagu, the author of a charming volume on _Heraldry_.

Our facsimile reproductions of ancient manuscripts have been selected
with a view to supply such examples as are most likely to prove useful
to the student. For this purpose we have preferred in several
instances to present the whole page with its writing complete, so that
the modern illuminator may see how the ancient one worked, and how he
arranged his painting and his writing with respect to each other.

To this we may add, that for the rest we have chosen our examples as
much as possible because they were pretty, instructive, and of English
workmanship, a majority of our pictures being copied from manuscripts
written in our own country. I need only call attention to the well
known but very beautiful style usually called the "English flower
pattern," which admits of an endless series of variations and even
improvements, and which is as characteristic of our mediæval painters
as the Perpendicular style in Gothic is of our architects, both having
flourished here and here only during a long period.

And in conclusion I should be inclined to advise the illuminator
against stiffness. We are too fond of a vellum which is like sheets of
ivory, and of working on it with mathematical precision. The old
illuminators used a material much more like what is now called
"lawyer's parchment," but perfectly well adapted for taking color and
gold. A moment's inspection of our examples will show the freedom and
ease of the old work, and the dislike evinced by almost every ancient
book painter to having his work confined within definite lines. Such
freedom and ease are only attained by careful study combined with
experience. Every one has not the ability to originate, but without
great originality it may still be found possible to avoid servility.
"Who would be free himself must strike the blow;" but those who aspire
to climb must first be certain that they can walk. The thing that most
often offends the eye in modern illumination is that the artist, to
conceal his own want of style, mixes up a number of others.
Incongruity is sometimes picturesque, but this kind of incongruity is
always disagreeable, from the staring and inharmonious evidence of
ignorance which it betrays.




Unless when intended for mere practice, all illuminated work should be
executed upon _Vellum_; its extreme beauty of surface cannot be
imitated by any known process of manufacture, while its durability is
well known. _Bristol Board_ approaches nearest to it in appearance, is
equally pleasing to work upon, and for all practical purposes of the
amateur is quite as good. But, if even that is not attainable,
excellent work may be done on any _smooth grained drawing paper_.

BRUSHES.--_Red Sable Brushes_ are preferable to all others for
illuminating purposes, and are to be had in goose, duck, and crow
quills,--the larger for laying on washes of color, or large grounds in
body color,--the duck and crow for filling in the smaller portions of
color, for shading and general work. One of the smallest size should
be kept specially for outlining and fine hair-line finishings. For
this purpose all the outer hairs should be neatly cut away with the
scissors, leaving only about one-third of the hair remaining.

DRAWING-PEN--CIRCLE OR BOW-PEN.--For doing long straight lines or
circles these instruments are indispensable; they give out ink or
color evenly, making a smooth, true line of any thickness required for
lining any portion of the work, as in border margins, or any part
requiring even lines, unattainable by the hand alone. It is necessary
to put the ink or color into the pen with the brush after mixing it to
the proper consistency for use. Ink or _body color_ may be used with
equal facility. Before starting, the pen should always be tried upon a
piece of loose paper, to test the thickness of the line, and also to
see if the ink in the pen is not too thick or too thin: if too thick,
it will not work evenly, while, if too thin, it will flow too rapidly,
and _run_ upon a color ground as if on blotting paper.

STRAIGHT-EDGE, PARALLEL-RULER, &C.--A thin wooden straight-edge, or,
what is better, a parallel-ruler, and also a set square (a
right-angled triangular piece of thin wood), will be found necessary
for planning out the work.

BURNISHER AND TRACER.--_Agate Burnishers_ are to be had at the
artists' colormen's, either pencil or claw shaped; the former will be
most useful to a beginner. An ivory _style_, _or point_, is requisite
for tracing, and useful for indenting gold diapers.


PENS.--For text or printing, either the quill or the steel pen may be
used; both require special manipulation to fit them for the work. It
will be most convenient, however, for the amateur to use the quill, as
being more easily cut into the shape required; though a steel pen,
once made, will last for years if taken care of. The point must be cut
off slightly at an angle, such as may be found most convenient. If a
steel pen is used, it will be necessary, after cutting off the point,
to rub the pen carefully on an oilstone to smooth the roughened edges,
and prevent it from scratching the paper. The text pen, when properly
made, should work smoothly, making every stroke of equal thickness. It
is well to have text pens of different widths, to suit for lettering
of various thicknesses of body stroke. The pen should be held more
upright than for ordinary writing. A broad, almost unyielding point,
will give a fine upward and a firm downward or backward stroke with
equal facility. For finer writing the pen should be cut with a longer
slope in the nib. Fine-pointed pens, for finishing and putting in the
hair lines into the text, should also be provided. For this the fine
_mapping_, or _lithographic_, pen, made by Gillott and others, is most

TEXT OR PRINTING LETTERS.--This is a kind of penmanship which the
amateur will, at first, find very difficult to write with regularity,
as it requires much special practice to attain anything like
proficiency in its execution. But as much of the beauty and excellence
of the illuminating depends upon the regularity and precision of the
text, it is well worth all the application necessary to master it. The
styles of text usually introduced within the illuminated borders are
known under the names of "Black Letter," "Church Text," "Old English,"
and "German Text."

INDIAN INK and LAMP BLACK are the only paints generally used for black
text; the difference being that Indian Ink is finer, and therefore
better adapted for writing of a fine or delicate character. It works
freely, and retains a slight gloss, while Lamp Black gives a full
solid tint, and dries with a dull or mat surface;--a little gum-water
added will help the appearance in this respect. Some illuminators
recommend a mixture of Indian Ink and Lamp Black, with a little
gum-water, as the best for text of a full black body, working better
than either alone. The mixture should be well rubbed together in a
small saucer with the finger before using. If a portion of the text is
to be in red, it should be in pure vermilion. If in gold, it must be
shell gold, highly burnished with the agate, as hereafter described.

COLORS.--Not to confuse the learner with a multiplicity of pigments,
we will only mention such as are essential, and with which all the
examples in the following studies may be copied. As experience is
gained by practice, the range of colors may be increased as
requirements may dictate.


A little experimental practice with the colors will do more to show
the various combinations of which they are capable than any lengthy
exposition. Various portions of color may be tried, particularly for
the more delicate tints, for greys, neutrals, and quiet compounds,
where great purity is required, and the most pleasing noted for future

There are two methods or styles of coloring, which are used either
alone, or in conjunction. In the Celtic, and other early styles,
including that of the fourteenth century, where the colors are used
flat--no relief by shading being given--it is purely a surface
decoration, the colors well contrasted, merely graduated from deep to
pale, and outlined with a clear, black outline. The masses of color or
gold are here usually enriched by diapers, while the stems, leaves,
&c., are elaborated by being worked over with delicate hair-line
finishings on the darker ground. The other method of treating
ornamental forms embraces a wide range of style of illuminating,
approaching more nearly to Nature in treatment, the ornament being
more or less _shaded_ naturally, or conventionalized to some extent.
It is important to lay the color evenly in painting, not getting it in
ridges, or piling it in lumps, as the amateur is apt to do. This will
be best attained by painting as evenly as possible with the brush,
mostly in one direction, and not too full of color, and refraining
from going back over the parts just painted, if it can be avoided.
Patches always show, more or less, and can hardly ever be made to look

GOLD, SILVER, &C.--To the inexperienced, the laying on of gold or
silver may seem a difficult affair; but it is really comparatively
easy, especially when gold and silver shells, sold by artists'
colormen, are used. These contain the pure metal ground very fine with
gum, and need no preparation. When a drop of water is added, the gold
can be removed from the shell, and used with the brush in the ordinary
way as a color. One brush should be kept for painting gold or other
metallic preparations. As silver is liable to turn black, we would
advise the use of aluminium instead, which is not affected by the
atmosphere. It can be had in shells in the same manner. In applying
gold, or other metal, it should be painted very level and even,
especially if it is to be burnished, which make irregularities more
prominent. Gold that is to be burnished should be applied before any
of the coloring is begun, as the burnisher is apt to mark and injure
the effect of the adjoining parts. When the gold is laid on, put a
piece of glazed writing paper over it, and, with the burnisher, rub
the paper briskly, pressing the particles of gold into a compact film:
this gives it a smooth even surface. In this way it is principally
used, and is called _mat gold_. For _burnished gold_, the paper is
removed, and the agate rubbed briskly upon the gold surface, not
dwelling too long upon any one part, until a fine, evenly-bright
metallic surface is produced. Rubbing the gold lightly with the
finger, after touching the skin or hair, facilitates the action of the

PREPARING FOR WORK, &C.--The vellum or paper having been strained, the
surface will, when dry, be perfectly flat and smooth. If the paper or
vellum is to be much worked upon, it will be found advantageous to
fasten it to a board by drawing-pins or by glueing the edges, having
previously damped the back; when this is dry, the surface will be
perfectly level, and not apt to bag in working. Paper so mounted
should be larger than the size required, to allow for cutting off the
soiled margin when completed. To prevent the margins being soiled, a
sheet of paper should now be fastened as a _mask_ over the page, with
a flap the size of the work cut in it, by folding back portions of
which any part of the surface may be worked upon without exposing the

It is almost impossible to erase pencil lines from vellum. The black
lead, uniting with the animal matter of the skin, can never be
properly got out--India rubber or bread only rubbing it into a greasy
smudge. It is, therefore, better to prepare a complete outline of the
design upon paper first, which can afterwards be transferred to the
strained sheet. For this purpose _tracing paper_ is required,
possessing this advantage, that corrections upon the sketch can be
made in tracing, and, in placing it upon the vellum, if the sheet has
been previously squared off for the work, its proper position can be
readily seen and determined. The tracing paper should be about one
inch larger each way, to allow of its being fastened to the mask over
the exposed surface of the page. A piece of _transfer paper_ of a
convenient size is then placed under the tracing. When the tracing is
fixed in its proper position by a touch of gum or paste at the upper
corners, slip the transfer paper, with the chalked side downwards,
between the vellum and the tracing, and tack down the bottom corners
of the tracing in the same way, to prevent shifting. Seated at a firm
table or desk of a convenient height, with the strained paper or
drawing board slightly on an incline, the amateur may consider all
ready for work. All the lines of the tracing are first to be gone over
with the tracing point, or a very hard pencil cut sharp will answer
the purpose. A corner may be raised occasionally to see that the
tracing is not being done too firmly or so faintly as to be almost
invisible. A piece of stout card should be kept under the hand while
tracing, to avoid marking the clean page with the prepared transfer
paper underneath, by undue pressure of the fingers.

For larger work, not requiring such nicety of detail, the sketch may
be transferred direct--especially if the paper is thin--without the
use of tracing paper, by merely chalking the back of the drawing, and
going over the lines with the tracing point; but the other method is
best, and the transfer paper may be used over and over again.

When the subject is carefully traced on the prepared page, and the
tracing and transfer paper removed, it will be best to begin with the
text. The experienced illuminator will generally, after arranging his
designs and spacing out his text, with the initial letters in their
proper places, transfer all to his vellum, and do the writing before
he begins coloring, covering up all the page except the portion he is
working upon. When the lettering is complete, it will in its turn be
covered, to prevent its being soiled while the border is being

Work out the painting as directed under "Colors," beginning with the
gold where it is in masses, burnishing it level when dry, as before
explained: smaller portions can more readily be done afterwards. Paint
each color the full strength at once, keeping in mind that it becomes
lighter when dry, and finishing each color up to the last stage before
beginning another.

OUTLINING AND FINISHING.--When the work is at this stage, the colors
will have a dull and hopeless appearance; but, as the outline is
added, it changes to one more pleasing. The addition of the fine white
edging and hair-line finishings (as in fourteenth-century style),
still further heightens the effect, giving the appearance of great
elaborateness and brilliancy to the coloring, and beauty and decision
to the forms. In the conventional style of treatment in coloring, a
careful outline is an imperative necessity, and, in this part of the
work, practice in the use of the brush is essential. Sometimes objects
are outlined in a deeper shade of the local color--as a pink flower or
spray with lake, pale blue with darker blue, &c.; but this is not very
usual. In the _real_ or natural treatment of the objects forming the
subject of the illumination, an outline is seldom used, everything
being colored and shaded as in Nature. Lamp black with a little gum
water will be found the best medium, being capable of making a very
fine or a firm line, at the same time retaining its intense glossy
black appearance. A little practice will enable the learner to know
the best consistency to make the ink. As it evaporates, a few drops of
water may be added, and rubbed up with the brush or finger. For
_hair-line finishing_, either light lines upon a darker ground or
_vice versâ_, the same kind of brush will be used as for outlining.
For _diapers_ of a geometrical character, the drawing-pen and small
bow-pen will be of great use, either upon color or gold grounds. The
ivory tracing point is used to indent upon gold scrolls or diapers.
Sometimes there is put over the entire back-ground a multitude of
minute points of gold, but not too close together, and punctured with
the point of the agate or tracing-point, producing a beautiful
glittering effect.


Designed by English illuminators of the twelfth and thirteenth
centuries, the initials on this Plate must be separately described.
Those at the left top corner are the oldest, and show a certain
stiffness of form and dulness of color which contrasts strongly with
the spirit and lightness of the letters to the right side of the
Plate. These letters, which may be found in manuscripts of many
different periods, should be carefully studied. There are some
examples in which the initial is simply red or blue, as the case may
be. Next it is red and blue combined, the two colors being carefully
kept apart by a narrow line of white, which the student will do well
not to mark with white paint but to leave out by delicate
manipulation. Next the edge of the letter both within and without is
followed with a line of red or blue drawn a little way from it and
never touching. Then the space so marked within the letter is filled
by a tracery of slight flourishes in red and blue, the latter always
predominating in the whole design so as to obtain the more harmony of
effect. The blue and gold letters are very sparingly treated with red.
The blue is Prussian, but very deep in tint in the original. (Addl.
MSS. 11,435.)

The initial S in the lower left-hand corner is of earlier date. It
will probably, like the letters above it, be seldom used for
ornamental purposes, and it will suffice here to mention that the
colors used are as follows:--Cobalt raised with Chinese White for the
blue parts; for the red, Vermilion shaded with Lake; and for the cool
pale olive tint, Indigo and Yellow Ochre, toned with Chinese White.

The large initial E shows a sacred scene, and is of English late
thirteenth century work, in a private collection. The harmony is
studiously correct, and the original, which is slightly larger, glows
with color. It is rather more than four inches square. The figures are
firmly outlined, as are their draperies. The gold is leaf, the
architectural portion being left very flat, but the nimbus and the
border are burnished. It has been found impossible to reproduce
exactly the pattern of the ground in chromo-lithography, but as it may
readily be done by hand, a description taken direct from the original
will be acceptable to the pupil. The blue ground within the letter is
dark: on it is ruled a square cross-bar of deep olive lines of great
fineness. Intersecting them, and so to speak keeping them down, is a
net-work of very fine nearly white lines, the points of intersection
being marked by minute circles. Within the little spaces thus divided
are minute circles of vermilion. The outer groundwork is of olive
diapered with a deeper shade of the same color. The ground outside the
letter is pink divided into squares by brown lines, each square having
a little red circle in it. The edges of the draperies are marked by
minute white lines, and there is less shading than in the
reproduction. Altogether this letter represents the best work of the
period, and is an admirable example of the painstaking care by which
alone great effects are produced. Even a genius, such as was the
artist who produced this little picture, must condescend to take
infinite trouble if he would obtain an adequate reward.

[Illustration: HERALDIC POPINJAY.]


(The remainder of the alphabet is shown in colors in Plate II.)]


Executed in the fifteenth century, probably in the north of France,
the small manuscript from which the twelve initial letters are taken
is in a private collection. It consists of twenty-four leaves of
rather stout vellum, measuring 4-3/8 inches by 3 inches, and has
evidently been a sampler or pattern book for a school of illumination.
It contains two alphabets. The letters in the plate are selected from
one of them. Outlines of the rest of this alphabet are on the back of
Plate I. In copying them for color the student will remember that
those letters which contain blue flowers are red, and _vice versâ_.
Each letter is painted on a ground of leaf-gold highly burnished, and
is ornamented with a natural flower. We may recognize the rose, the
pansy, the strawberry, the columbine, the wall-flower, the
corn-flower, the sweet pea, the iris, the daisy, the thistle, and
others. Pinks, dog-roses, and forget-me-nots also occur, and the
little volume forms, in this respect, a curious and interesting record
of the produce of the flower garden so long ago as the time of the
English "Wars of the Roses."

The second alphabet is of a wholly different character, the letters,
not the ground on which they are placed, being gilt, and the ground
colored red or blue. Over the red and the blue is a scroll pattern in
white, but the red is sometimes decorated with a pattern in
body-yellow, which produces an exceedingly gorgeous effect. In two or
three cases the ground is green, worked over in a darker olive tint
heightened with yellow. In one, a flower or scroll of grey is placed
on a ground of blue dotted all over with minute gold spots.

The blue used in copying these initials for the plate was Prussian,
mixed with Chinese White, and shaded with pure color. The green is a
mixture of Indian Yellow and Prussian Blue. The pink is Lake and White
shaded with pure Lake. The red terminals which appear in some of the
letters are of Vermilion, shaded with Lake. Chinese White body color
is largely used in working diapers over the letters of both colors.

These letters are good examples of the form chiefly in use for
illuminated manuscripts and in ornamental sculpture all over northern
Europe from the twelfth century to the sixteenth. They are generally
called "the Lombardic character," from some real or fancied connection
with Lombardy. Such names must be cautiously accepted. "Arabic
numerals," for example, have been proved to be somewhat modified Greek
letters. But the Lombardic capitals, whatever their origin, lend
themselves readily to the exigencies of the illuminator, and are all
the more effective from the contrast they present to the text.

It is now almost universally acknowledged that all the forms of the
mediæval and modern alphabet may be traced to Egyptian hieroglyphics.
A very interesting passage in Mr. Isaac Taylor's learned book on "The
Alphabet," shows us the development of the letter M from the Egyptian
picture of an owl. "It will be noticed," he says, "that our English
letter has preserved, throughout its long history of six thousand
years, certain features by which it may be recognized as the
conventionalized picture of an owl. In the capital letter M the two
peaks, which are the lineal descendants of the two ears of the owl,
still retain between them a not inapt representation of the beak,
while the first of the vertical strokes represents the breast." It
would be easy to show the same ancient origin for many other letters,
and for most of those in the Greek alphabet. F was a horned snake. G
was a basket with a handle. K was a triangle. L was a lion seated. N
was a zigzag line, of which only three strokes have survived. P was a
faggot of papyrus. There is no perceptible difference between the long
S still sometimes in use and the hieroglyphic form. U was a quail. Z
was a serpent.

The initial E at the beginning of the previous page is of English
work, and represents Edward the Black Prince receiving a charter from
the hands of his father King Edward III. The prince places one knee on
his helmet, and has on his head only the ornamental cap called a
"bonnet." His arms and those of the king are colored on their
respective "tabards."

The large letter M on the back of Plate II. is from a volume now in
the British Museum (Harl. MSS. 3045), which was written in Germany in
the twelfth century. It is illuminated in three colors. The ground is
emerald green; the letter itself red; and the scroll-work also in red
outline, a pale purple ground being substituted for the green in the
circular spaces. It would be instructive to the student to color the
outline from this description.




The beauty of the work executed in the thirteenth century in England,
and that part of what is now France which then belonged to England,
can hardly be exceeded. In this Plate are gathered a few examples of
the period. They are from two books, both in the British Museum, but
one probably written in France and the other at Canterbury. The
initials from the French manuscript may be readily distinguished. The
scroll-work is irregular and even wild, and in some examples the
artist seems to have aimed at nothing less than startling the reader
by his eccentricities. The volume is numbered in the Catalogue,
Additional MSS. 11,698, and contains a treatise on the art of war. The
letters numbered in the Plate 6, 7, and 8, are from this book. The
student will observe the simple scale of harmonious coloring, blue
predominating, as is necessary, and both yellow and also gold being
used to heighten the effect. In copying them the artist used these
colors, besides Chinese White and shell gold: namely, Prussian Blue,
Lake, Indian Red, Emerald Green, Indian Yellow, shaded with Burnt
Sienna, and Burnt Umber, with Sepia for the outlines. In imitating or
copying these initials, the student will find a firm but delicate and
even outline of the greatest importance. If the hand is very steady it
may be put in with a small brush, which is particularly useful in the
erratic flourishes in which this writer rejoiced so much.

The English letters are much more sober and rectilinear in character.
The T (fig. 5) commences the prologue of the Book of Wisdom, for the
volume is a Bible (Bibl. Reg. 1 D. 1), and a small portion of the text
is given with the initial as a guide to the arrangement. The colors
are the same as in the French examples. The lines and dots in white
are very delicate, and may be closely imitated by the use of Chinese
White with a very fine brush, care being taken not to disturb the
underlying color. This is the book mentioned in the General Sketch as
being the work of a writer named "Wills. Devoniensis," or William of
Devonshire. It is a small folio in size and is written in double
columns. At the commencement of the book of Psalms there is a
magnificent illumination covering the greater part of the page, and
showing, with much scroll-work by way of border, a series of small
vignettes, which include a crucifixion, and a number of scenes from
the life of St. Thomas of Canterbury, better known in history as
Thomas Becket.

A somewhat similar Bible, but not so delicate in workmanship, is also
in the British Museum (1 B. 12), and was written at Salisbury in 1254
by William de Hales.

The writing of the thirteenth century differs considerably from that
of the two following centuries. It is not so stiff, but much more
legible. The distinction will be apparent from a comparison of this
Plate with those two which are copied from manuscripts at Lambeth
(Plates IV. and IX.) Modern illuminators seem to have preferred the
later style, but the advantages of the early should recommend it. The
Chronicles written at St. Albans by and under the superintendence of
Matthew Paris are all in this style. Facsimiles of several pages are
given in the volumes published under the direction of the Master of
the Rolls.

The initial T on the previous page is from a beautiful Nuremberg
treatise of 1489 on the "Preservation of Body, Soul, Honour, and

On the back of Plate III. are two pages in outline from a small Book
of Hours in the collection of Robert Young, Esq., Belfast. This kind
of work is known as the "Ivy Pattern." It was exclusively practised in
France in the fourteenth century. The coloring is usually of a very
sober character: the prevailing colors being blue and gold only.

[Illustration: HART, BADGE OF RICHARD II.]




Our next Plate is from a manuscript in the Lambeth Library. Leave to
copy it was readily granted to us by the lamented Archbishop Tait. It
is No. 459 in the Library Catalogue, and contains no fewer than twenty
miniatures, as well as borders like this one. It belongs like Plate
IX. (the Frontispiece) to the English flower pattern style of the
fifteenth century, and is remarkable for the sober effect of the
gorgeous colors employed, and for the delicacy of the scroll-work in

A great deal of this effect is due to the application of gold. The
illuminators employed both what we call "shell gold" and leaf. They
attached the greatest importance to skill in gilding, and the result
is that their "raising" survives after centuries, when that executed
at the present day often cracks off after a few weeks or months, if
not very carefully handled. Many books, containing the secret of
making these preparations, and sizes of all kinds, are in existence;
and show that while the same end was attained by many different kinds
of processes, one ingredient was never omitted, namely, great care and
pains, and the gradual gathering of skill through experience.

It is difficult to explain the method of using gold-leaf without an
actual demonstration: and the student will learn more in ten minutes
by watching a competent gilder than by reading a library of books on
the subject. The "raising" is to be obtained from any artist's
colorman, and nothing but practice long and assiduous can secure the
power to use it. The same rule must be laid down for burnishing, which
is an art not to be acquired in a day. It might be well to commence
with the dotted work, common in the fourteenth century, and when we
have learned to make a burnished dot with our agate point we may go on
and burnish a larger surface. The effect of burnished leaf gold cannot
be given in chromo-lithography, but it may be worth while to remark
that all the gilding in the original illumination from which this
Plate is copied is burnished on a raised surface, even the small
letters in the text.

The colors employed by the copier were of a more mixed and complicated
character than those for the other page from the Lambeth Library. The
reason is apparent in a moment on comparing the two. In this page the
brilliancy is so tempered as to produce a comparatively subdued
effect. In the General Sketch mention has already been made of
miniatures in which the artist restricted himself to the use of
certain colors, so as to insure a peculiar and delicate effect. Here
there has been no such restriction, but each color has been softened
and so worked over with patterns and lines in body white or in pale
yellow, that there is no glare or contrast. The student should be
careful how he obtains harmony by this method, as he may find all his
work weakened and paled; but, skilfully used, the system may be made
to produce the most charming results.

The blue is Prussian, over which are dots and lines of Chinese White.
The pink is obtained by mixing Lake and Chinese White, shaded with
darker Lake, and also heightened with white lines and dots. The orange
is pale Indian Yellow shaded with Burnt Sienna, and with an admixture
of Lake in the deeper shadows. The green in this example is obtained
by mixing Prussian Blue and Indian Yellow in different proportions.

On the back of Plate IV. are two more outlines from Mr. Robert Young's
little French Book of Hours. They are admirable models of a kind of
work which for fully half a century was to France what the "flower
pattern" was to England. The branches are generally dark blue
delicately lined with white. The leaves are sometimes gold, that is
where there is not already a gold ground, and sometimes yellow, red,
and blue. The prevailing tint is blue, and in some pages no other
color, besides the gilding, is employed.

Some outline borders and ornaments of the same period and style are to
be found on the back of Plates V. and VI. The coloring of some of them
will be indicated by a reference to Plates III. and I.

[Illustration: BULL, BADGE OF NEVILLE.]




Plate V. shows three ornaments from manuscripts of late date, all in
the National Collections.

The border with the raspberries is from a Missal of the sixteenth
century in the British Museum (Addl. 18,855), and was probably written
and illuminated in the Low Countries. We have already mentioned the
extraordinary freedom and ease of the Flemish work of that period.
Every beautiful object was made use of for pictorial effect. Children,
birds, jewels, shells, as well as fruit and flowers, are to be found.
They particularly excelled in painting pearls. One border is green,
with chains and ropes of pearls strewn all over it. The calendar
represents domestic scenes, each strongly surrounded with a double
gold line, the written part being simply left out in the middle, so
that the scene forms its border. The gold ground presents a slightly
different appearance from that shown in our engraving, as it is flat,
being painted with shell-gold not put on very thickly. The shadows are
of Burnt Umber, which has a very transparent effect on the gold

Beside this border is a fine letter of somewhat earlier date from a
chorale book, German work in all probability, which, with many others,
Italian and Flemish as well as German, were ruthlessly cut up into
fragments, perhaps at the Reformation, perhaps more recently, and are
now in the Art Library of the South Kensington Museum. They are much
rubbed and faded, and our chromo-lithograph represents this initial C
as it appeared when first finished. In much of the northern work of
this period--about the middle of the fifteenth century, say
1450--there is a beautiful style of ornamental scroll-work, which some
have proposed to call the "Leather Pattern." It may represent the cut
leather work of the mantling of a knight's tilting helmet. A small
specimen of it is shown in the turned-back petals of the flowers in
this letter, but whole volumes are to be seen entirely decorated with
it, and some of the best work of the period was accomplished in it.

The third of these ornaments is also from the collection in the South
Kensington Museum. In this design the thing to be most noticed is
perhaps that which is least prominent, namely, the gold spots, with
black filaments, as it were, floating from them. They serve to eke out
and fill up the composition, and in some books are used with fine
effect on almost every page. They should be thickly gilt on a raised
surface, and should have dark outlines, and the filaments rapidly and
lightly drawn, either with a pen or with a very fine brush, pruned
down almost to a single hair. Many other pretty effects may be
obtained by early training the hand and eye to draw single lines in
this way. The letters in one of our other Plates (No. I.) are entirely
filled with tracery of the kind, and the patterns principally in use
are easily learned. Anything free is preferable to servile imitation
and tracing, and these diapers in particular lose more than almost
anything else in the whole art of illumination by direct copying. The
student should learn to adapt his delicate lines--chiefly in red and
blue--to any form of letter, and while drawing them should not let his
hand falter or hesitate for a moment. It is the same with the
lace-like patterns in white which were so much in vogue for
heightening the edges of letters in the thirteenth and fourteenth
centuries. They are very necessary to the effect, but must be painted
in with a light touch and great rapidity, or they lose all spirit.

The initial P on the previous page, and also the initials in pages
vii. and 1, have been taken from MSS. illuminated with the "English
flower-pattern." An attempt has been made to represent the colors
employed by means of lines. This system was first applied to heraldry
in the first half of the seventeenth century. Horizontal lines
represent blue; vertical, red; cross hatching, black; dotting, gold or
yellow. Green is denoted by lines "in bend dexter," and purple by
lines "in bend sinister."

The bands and borders on the back of Plate V. are of the fourteenth
century, but similar ornaments were common at all times. They are
chiefly red or blue, with patterns in white lines and dots, and in
highly burnished gold. They are employed both as borders and to fill
up incomplete lines of writing.




A page of writing and five separate initials from a book of "Hours,"
written in Flanders or Holland at the end of the fifteenth century,
are here shown, with a border of the same period from another volume.
The first book, which is in a private collection, affords an example
of the kind of illumination which is styled by the French "grisaille,"
a word which may be translated "grey-work." In this style, which
consists usually in the artist restricting himself to certain colors,
or to black, grey, and white only, very few books were ever written. I
have already, in the General Sketch, mentioned one which had pictures
in imitation of Limoges enamels. A volume apparently illuminated by
the same hand as those in our MS. is in the Burgundian Library at
Brussels. The figure pictures in both look as if they were not painted
by the same artist as the writing and illumination of the letters, and
it is probable two or more were employed in the production.

There was great activity in all the arts in the Low Countries during
the fifteenth century, and the most gorgeous books ever illuminated
were written there at that period. At Dortrecht, at Bruges, and other
places there were schools of illuminators, and the practice of the art
was not confined, as in England, to ecclesiastics and the cloister.
The books written were, however, mainly religious; and the same
designs were used over and over again. It would, in fact, be easy to
identify each guild of miniature painters by their employment of the
same set of forms. This eventually led to deterioration, and only the
introduction of oil painting, by turning the minds of the artists into
a wider channel, saved Flemish art. The masters of the Van Eycks, of
Memling, of Matsys, of Van Romerswale were undoubtedly the teachers of
illumination in books.

The artist in "grisaille" always took especial pains with his
draperies. He had so little wherewith to produce his effect that he
sometimes almost reached the _chiaro-scuro_ of a later period. Some of
the pictures of this school which I have seen look as if they were
intended to represent moonlight views. In the present volume the
effect of the soberly coloured figure subjects is greatly enhanced by
the rich colors of the border, and the brilliantly burnished gilding.
The ground on which the letter O is gilded in Plate VI., is quartered
into red and blue, and the outer part "counter-changed," as they say
in heraldry. A delicate pattern is worked over the colors in
body-white. The small leaves are painted with thick coats of Emerald

The border is from a Book of Hours in the British Museum. The gilding
in the original is laid on with shell, worked very flat and very thin,
so as rather to impart a yellow tone to the ground than to give it any
special lustre. There are other borders in the book of a similar
character, and some which, on a green or a purple ground, show jewels
of various kinds, especially pearls, sometimes strewn irregularly over
the ground, sometimes worked up into ornaments, or made to look as if
they were mounted in richly designed gold settings. In fact, at that
age the artist let nothing escape him that would go to enhance the
beauty or brilliancy of his page. In the original this border enclosed
a very elaborate miniature. These miniatures are very carefully and
delicately painted, but perhaps by a different hand, as they are not
equal in refinement to the borders. The Office for the Dead is
ornamented with a black border, on which is architectural tracery in
gold on which skulls are arranged, one of them with a pansy or
heartsease and forget-me-not, beautifully painted, growing out of the
hollow eyes. The border of the picture of the Annunciation is made
with a tall lily growing from an ornamental vase at the side.

The Dutch and Flemish illuminators at this period excelled in
manipulation, and many of the books which they painted have all the
merit and almost all the importance of pictures. Anything and
everything was used as ornament. In some no two pages are even in what
can be called the same style; but delicacy of workmanship, the faces
especially being finished as real miniatures, is characteristic of
all. It is probable that whole schools of artists worked on a single
volume, dividing the labour according to the skill of each artist.

On the back of Plate VI. will be found some further examples of the
ornaments, letters, and "line finishings" of the thirteenth and
fourteenth centuries, chiefly from French books. The A and the Z are
from the same MS. as Nos. 6 and 7 on Plate III. The KL united form the
heading of the Calendar in a book with ivy pattern borders.




Pictorially considered the illustrations on Plate VII., it must be
admitted, are more quaint than beautiful. All the subjects on this
page are, with the exception of the thirteenth and fourteenth century
borders (6), (4), more or less heraldic in character. It will be best
to take them in the order in which they are numbered.

The lady seated (1) holds in either hand the arms of the Duke of
Burgundy, slightly varied as to quarterings. The picture is taken from
the famous "Bedford Missal" in the British Museum, which is not a
missal at all, but a Book of Hours, illuminated in France for the Duke
of Bedford, one of the brothers of Henry V. It therefore belongs to
the fifteenth century. The lady is sitting on what in heraldry is
called "a mount vert," which in turn is supported by the little half
architectural scroll-work below; her dress is purple, shaded with
grey, in opaque color; the arms are painted in Prussian Blue and
Vermilion, the gold being shell.

The gentleman to the right (2) is Sir Nele Loring, a Knight of the
Garter. Some time in the fourteenth century a monk of St. Albans,
Thomas Walsingham, compiled a list of the benefactors of the abbey,
and as far as possible presented his readers with a portrait of each.
They are rather rough but eminently picturesque. The book is
particularly interesting from the curious particulars it gives us as
to the expenses of the illuminator. One Alan Strayler, it tells us,
"worked much upon this book," and the editor or compiler ran up a debt
with him of the comparatively large sum of three shillings and
fourpence, equal to at least £3, 10_s._ 0_d._ of our money, for the
colors he had used. The book came into the possession of the great
Lord Verulam, better known as Lord Chancellor Bacon, and by him it was
given to Sir Robert Cotton, who collected the Cottonian MSS. It is
known in the British Museum as "Nero D. vii." from its place in the
book-case of Sir Robert Cotton which bore the effigy of that Cæsar.
Sir Nele, or Nigel, Loring died in 1386, having given the abbey many
gifts, and as he was K.G. he is represented in a white robe diapered
with "garters."

Our next picture (3) is from a very curious and beautiful, but much
injured manuscript, reckoned the number ii. in the collection at
Heralds' College. By the kindness of "Somerset Herald" we are allowed
to copy it. The book is a list of banners used probably at a
tournament in the reign of Henry VIII. Heraldry became more or less
the kind of "science" it still is under the last of the Plantagenet
kings, and was kept up in great glory by their successors, the first
two Tudors. The banner here given is that of Henry Stafford, who was
made Earl of Wiltshire in 1509. It shows the swan, the crest of the
Staffords, with a crown round its neck and a chain, and the ground,
partly black and partly red, the colors of the family, is powdered
with "Stafford knots," their badge. Across, in diagonal lines, is the
motto "D'Umble et Loyal." These banners, which might well be imitated
in modern illumination, are made up of livery colors, with crests and
badges, and are usually accompanied by the coat of arms of the person
to whom each belonged.

The last of the heraldic features of the page (5) is also the
earliest. It represents part of the border of a Psalter made, it is
believed, in honour of the intended marriage of Prince Alphonso, the
son of Edward I., with a daughter of the King of Arragon. He died at
the age of ten years in 1282; but it is possible that the
illuminations refer to the intended marriage of his sister, the
princess Eleanor, with Alphonso, the young King of Arragon. In any
case the manuscript certainly belongs to the middle of the thirteenth
century. To the right we see a knight in the chain armour of the
period with his shield hung over his arm. Small gold crosses,
alternating with "lions rampant" on a blue ground, form part of the
border, the other part consisting of "lions passant" on a red ground.
Two shields bear, one, the arms of the son of King Edward, "England,
differenced with a label, azure," and the other, those of Leon. Crests
and mottoes had not been invented, and the artist had little scope for
his fancy. But it may not be out of place to call attention to the
fact that even at this early period heraldry was made use of for
ornament, as in this border, and that it answered the purpose

On the back of Plate VII. is the outline of an illumination of the
Adoration of the Magi, from a French MS. of the 16th century. Borders
of this type though very rich seldom occur in books ornamented in
England. The branch work is in delicate black lines, with leaves and
berries in gold or color. The scrolls are generally in blue, turned up
with gold, red, or pink; blue being, however, always the predominant
color, so as to insure a certain measure of harmony. The effect,
however, depended more on the skill with which the branch work in
black was disposed.




No book on this subject would be complete without something more than
a passing reference to the earliest of all the fashions in
illumination which have prevailed in our islands. This Plate gives
some examples from the very curious manuscript in the Library of
Trinity College, Dublin, known as the "Book of Kells." This venerable
volume contains the four Gospels in Latin, and, it is sometimes
asserted, dates from the seventh century, but more probably belongs to
the ninth. The late Sir M. D. Wyatt says of it: "Of this very book Mr.
Westwood examined the pages, as I did, for hours together, without
ever detecting a false line, or an irregular interlacement. In one
space of about a quarter of an inch superficial, he counted, with a
magnifying glass, no less than one hundred and fifty-eight
interlacements, of a slender ribbon pattern, formed of white lines,
edged by black ones, upon a black ground. No wonder that tradition
should allege that these unerring lines should have been traced by

The examples before us are purposely taken from a less complicated
page, but will be found sufficient to try the skill and patience of
even the most painstaking student. The colors are rather more vivid
than in the original, which has now greatly faded through age and
ill-usage. There is little to be said as to the beauty of the design.
Grotesques have an attraction in spite of their ugliness: but we can
hardly expect the most enthusiastic admirer of antiquity to imitate
these extraordinary complications of form and color, except as an
exercise of skill and patience. In one respect, however, early
manuscripts and especially manuscripts of this class, are well worthy
of imitation. The writing is very clear and distinct. It is easier to
read a charter of the seventh or the eighth century than one of the
seventeenth. Illuminators might do worse than learn the old Irish
alphabet, if only on this account.

There is no gilding in the Book of Kells, but some occurs in the
contemporary, or nearly contemporary Book of Durham. The effect
depends wholly on the skill of the scribe in using a very limited
palette so as to make the most of it. The modern student would do well
to remember this. A wide range of colors does not always conduce to
bright or good coloring. Harmony is often found to follow from a
sparing use of the more brilliant pigments at our disposal, with a
careful eye to effect. The beginner too often imagines that he can
make his border or his initial look well if he puts enough gold or
vermilion on; but he should remember that the more sober and simple
his scale of coloring the more splendid will the bright colors look
when he does employ them. It is well to remember that absolute harmony
is obtained by the use of blue, red, and yellow in these
proportions:--blue, eight; red, five; yellow, three; and that all good
pictures or illuminations must depend on this principle. White and
black, and also in some cases gilding, may be treated as neutrals.
There is usually a sufficiency of black in the lettering of a page.
White, in the shape of dots and as heightening, may be largely
employed if there is any want of harmony detected. Gold should not be
used for this purpose, except in certain styles; and the student may
rest assured that a design which does not look well without gold will
not look better with it.

A few other specimens, without color, will be found on the back of
Plate VIII. It might be good practice for the student to tint them in
the style of the colored examples.

The Byzantine style, as it is called, prevailed about the same period
in the countries of eastern and northern Europe. The books are of a
very different but equally ungraceful character. The work is not so
minute or complicated, but the lavish use of gold distinguishes them.
Sometimes a page is written in gold letters on vellum stained purple;
sometimes the page is entirely gilt. None of the examples in the
British Museum are worth the trouble and indeed expense of copying,
but they are curious as specimens of barbaric splendour.

[Illustration: Heraldic Lion.]





Such measure of perfection as had been attained by English
illuminators in the latest period is well illustrated by this Plate.
It is from a Book of Hours in the library of the Archbishop of
Canterbury at Lambeth. Leave to copy it was kindly accorded to us by
His Grace the late lamented Archbishop Tait. The volume is square in
shape and rather thick, the vellum not being of the fineness seen in
the Bibles of the thirteenth century, already noticed. It is numbered
474 in the Catalogue, and is described by Mr. S. W. Kershaw, F.S.A.,
in his book on the _Art Treasures of the Lambeth Library_, who assigns
it to the early part of the fifteenth century.

The illuminations in this book are admirable examples of what is known
as the English flower pattern, a style, as we have already observed,
which was as peculiar to our insular artists as the Perpendicular
style in architecture. It was used for all kinds of manuscripts, and
even law deeds are sometimes to be seen thus ornamented. Even after
the invention of printing it continued to flourish for a while; and
books are sometimes found printed on vellum abroad, and illuminated in
England with the beautiful native flower pattern in borders and

Mr. Kershaw observes regarding the book from which the present page
has been taken: "This, a very nice example, is fairly written, and
ornamented with a profusion of beautiful illuminated initials of
English art. The volume contains but two miniature paintings, the
remainder usually found in MSS. of this class having been abstracted.
The initial letters vary in size and pattern; they are all upon
backgrounds of gold, and frequently form with their finials short
marginal ornaments of elegant tracery work. Pink, blue, and orange
brown are the prevailing colors, the blue being often heightened on
the outer edge with flat white tints. The larger initials are rich in
design and varied in their coloring, and would supply the artist or
amateur with abundant materials for study."

I would desire to call the student's attention to one or two points
of importance. In imitating or copying work of this kind it is well
to observe that though the artist appears to have used the utmost
freedom of line and direction, he has really been most careful in his
composition. The initial O comes well out from among its surroundings,
and is not overpowered by the weight of its dependent ornament. The
scroll-work requires especial attention. That which fills the centre
of the letter appears to press tightly against the edge, and is so
arranged as to fill completely the vacancy for which it is intended.
There is nothing limp about it. Too often modern work can be detected
by its want of what I must call the crispness of the original.

With regard to the writing, it will be observed that a great change in
the form of the letters has taken place since the thirteenth century.
The difference between u and n is often hardly perceptible, and has
led to many curious mistakes. Nevertheless, if the student is careful
about such particulars, this is a very beautiful style, and admirably
suited for modern requirements. The colors used by the artist who
copied this page were as follows:--for the blue, Prussian, lined and
dotted with Chinese White; for the pink, Lake and Chinese White,
shaded with the same color darker; the deepest shadows are Lake; for
the orange, pale Indian Yellow for the lights, shaded with Burnt
Sienna, and Lake for the deepest shadows.

In some books illuminated in this style the centre of the letter is
occupied with a scene containing figures, and occasionally a picture
extends across the page, the initial fitting close up to it. The
picture, in this case, is always surrounded with a double line or
framework of blue, or red, and gold; and the color has a delicate
white line on it, and occasionally gives out a branch which, crossing
the gold line, bursts into flower in the margin. This style was
largely used for official documents for a long period, and many
excellent facsimiles representing examples are to be found as
frontispieces to the volumes of the Roll Series. It lasted with more
or less modification until the reign of Charles I.

       *       *       *       *       *


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_Part VII._--MARINE, by CALLOW, &c. _Part VIII._--ANIMALS, by H. WEIR.
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OBJECTS WITH CURVED LINES. C 1 Domestic Objects (Flat Treatment). C 2
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PRACTICAL MECHANICAL DRAWING. T 1 Initiatory. T 2 Details of Tools,
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Z Blank Exercise Book.



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