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Title: Illumination and its Development in the Present Day
Author: Farnsworth, Sidney
Language: English
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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.

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  There are some who
  follow the arts from poverty
  and necessity, also for gain,
  and for love of the art; but
  those who pursue them from
  love of the art and true
  nobleness of mind are to
  be commended above all
  others.--_Cennino Cennini._

      Sidney Farnsworth



  _Illustrated with Drawings
  and Diagrams by the Author_




_Printed in Great Britain_


This book is the outcome of a series of articles which appeared
in _Drawing and Design_. At the suggestion of the Editor of this
periodical, the whole of the chapters originally published have been
entirely rewritten and considerably enlarged; at the same time a large
amount of quite new matter has been added.

The additions that have been made include a chapter on the development
of writing in the past, together with a number of alphabets based on
historical examples. I have also added a brief sketch of the history
of Illumination, as I felt that the book would not be complete without
some reference to this side of the subject. Some attention has been
given to the colours and gilding methods of the mediæval artists, and
it is hoped that the notes given may be of interest to the student.
Extensions have also been made in connection with the use of colours
and materials by the student to-day.

Chapters on the further development of illumination, the illumination
of the printed book, and printed book decoration, are also amongst the
additions. The chapters on the application of lettering and decoration
from the commercial standpoint have also been developed considerably,
and at the end of the book some notes have been added on books for
further study.

I have tried to write in as simple a manner as possible, so that
the youngest student should have no difficulty in understanding the
instructions that are given.

So many books have been written on the subject of Illumination that
it may seem quite superfluous to add yet another to the long list.
Still, I think that a work treating the matter from the present-day
standpoint ought to be of some service to the student who is desirous
of practising this art to-day.

I have felt for some time past that there was a need for a work that
would deal with the various ways in which this art could be applied
in a time like the present. I have found that most of the books that
have been written on Illumination treat the subject either from the
standpoint of the archæologist or merely from that of the amateur. It
is simply the result of a sincere desire to supply what I feel to be a
real need that this book has been written, and in the hope that it may
serve as a handbook and guide for the serious worker.

It has not been written with the idea of introducing a quick and easy
method of becoming expert in the art of illumination. Success, in this,
as in anything else of importance, can come only through hard work.

I have endeavoured to foster interest and enthusiasm, so that the
student may not look upon the hard work entailed with this subject
merely as a certain amount of drudgery to be got through. To one who
is keenly interested in any particular study hard work often becomes a
pleasure, and it is only when such is the case that the full benefit is
derived from such study.

Illumination has a value in the present day as well as it had in the
past. The developments of this art are seen in many of the common-place
things of to-day. In some cases the development has been carried so far
as to lose almost its identity with the original craft from which it
has sprung, but the connection is there all the same.

The art of the book began with the illuminated manuscript, the early
printed books being based entirely on the manuscripts that preceded
them; and the same thing may be said with regard to the application of
decoration to printed lettering generally.

The practice of illumination in the present day should result in
something more than weak imitations of illuminated borders which were
produced in the mediæval period. Illumination ought to be a real living
art to-day.

There are numerous ways in which it could be used as a craft at the
present time, quite apart from the many ways in which it could be
applied commercially.

With regard to the study of lettering, there is a great need for more
serious attention to be given to it. We are so surrounded by bad
lettering that it is well that an effort should be made to get better
results, and, as a means to this, some study of the beautiful forms of
lettering used in the past should be of the greatest service. For this
reason I have tried, by giving some examples, to direct the student’s
attention to at least some of the fine styles of lettering that were
employed in centuries gone by.

It is a great pity that the splendid book-hands of the past should
have fallen into disuse, to say nothing of the beautiful decoration
that accompanied the writing. It would, undoubtedly, be a good thing
if some further encouragement were given to serious study of the
well-formed lettering that was produced during the mediæval period.

I trust that this small work may, in some slight measure, be the means
of fostering increased interest in lettering and illumination. I am
deeply conscious of its many imperfections, and I only hope that, in
spite of its many faults, it may be of some use to the reader who is
interested in this art. If the study of it is the means of creating
greater zeal and energy in the production of good work in this
direction, I shall feel that my efforts have not altogether been in




“In all great arts, as in trees, it is the height that charms us; we
care nothing for the roots or trunks; yet they could not exist without
the aid of these.” This quotation from Cicero may as well be applied to
the art of illumination as to anything else. The fact, however, that
the tree cannot exist without the aid of the trunk and roots, shows how
important these are; and no one who intends giving serious attention to
the tree in its entirety can afford to neglect these.

It is only through careful study of the art of illumination that it
is possible to understand fully the construction that enters into
the growth of this art. When some knowledge has been gained of the
manner in which this work has been done in the past, through practical
experience, it is then that a real appreciation is felt for the choice
work of the mediæval period.

“Perfect illumination,” says Ruskin, in one of his _Lectures on
Art_, “is only writing made lovely;... But to make writing _itself_
beautiful--to make the sweep of the pen lovely--is the true art of
illumination.” Certainly it is only when the student is able to produce
writing that is attractive in itself, that it is permissible to add
decoration to it. The decoration should be the natural outgrowth from
the writing.

A page of well-formed lettering makes good pattern, and is not merely
pattern, as it serves also the purpose for which it was intended,
_viz._, to be read.

It is when he has gained the mastery of the pen, in making well-formed
letters with good arrangement on the page, that the student may
consider that he has well started on the road to the production of good

For the construction of well-finished lettering it is essential that
a mastery of the tool and materials employed should be acquired. It
is when the pen becomes almost a part of the writer, so that he is
able to concentrate all his energy on the writing, giving scarcely any
attention to the pen itself, that he may claim to be proficient in the
use of the pen.

If there is one thing more than another that one feels when examining
some of the best illuminated work of the past, it is that the writer
was a master of the pen as a letter-making tool. He did his work well;
his books were transcribed in a workmanlike manner, and the decoration
which followed seems to come quite naturally from the writing itself.

It is for this reason that so much attention has been given to the use
of the quill and reed pen in the formation of good writing.

Students are frequently at a disadvantage from inability to handle the
pen properly. To help, in some measure, to remedy this, the student is
shown how to make sharply-defined strokes before attempting to form
letters. At the same time no particular manner of holding the pen has
been insisted upon.

In the Introduction to his “Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful,” Burke
says: “I am convinced that the method of teaching which approaches
most nearly to the method of investigation is incomparably the best;
since, not content with serving up a few barren and lifeless truths,
it leads to the stock on which they grew; it tends to set the reader
himself in the track of invention, and to direct him into those paths
in which the author has made his own discoveries, if he should be so
happy as to have made any that are valuable.”

This has been the ideal that the present writer has tried to keep ever
before him in writing the instructions that are given in the succeeding
pages. His aim has been to direct the student in the right way, and
then to encourage him to study the subject for himself. Whether he has
been successful in this endeavour must be left for the reader to judge.

The study of calligraphy, in connection with illumination, ought to be
helpful in making the ordinary handwriting more legible. Before the age
of printing, the book-hand developed alongside of the ordinary cursive
handwriting, and possibly the fact that the book-hand has been lost
may be advanced as a reason why most of the handwriting to-day is so
degenerate. A careful study of some of the fine models of book-hands of
the past cannot but be beneficial. It will certainly enable the student
to appreciate beautiful forms of lettering, and its influence should
soon be apparent in the lettering in general use. This should result in
better sign-writing, better lettering in our magazines and papers, in
short, better lettering all round.

Undoubtedly it would be a good thing if the children in our schools
could be taught to form some of the fine book-hands of the past with
the quill pen. It is certainly, to a great extent, due to the lack of a
practical knowledge of some of the splendid forms of lettering used in
the past, that the general lettering in use at the present time is so
bad. It ought not to be at all impracticable for this suggestion to be
carried out.

After the student is able to make well-formed letters with the quill
and reed pen, and arrange them well, the use of decoration and the
further development of illumination should follow naturally.

There is undoubtedly a place for illumination to-day, and even in
connection with the illuminated manuscript book, which should certainly
possess the first place amongst the work of the modern illuminator.
There is not the slightest suggestion there that the illuminated
manuscript should usurp the place of the printed book, but there is no
reason why it should not be in use at the same time. One of the great
charms that a fine manuscript possesses is its uniqueness, not being
one of many, as in the case of the printed book. Then again, some
things, as, for example, Poetry and Romance, are rendered in a much
more sympathetic fashion in the illuminated manuscript than in the
printed book.

There are many ways in which the art of illumination might be applied
to-day, as well as in the usual illuminated testimonial. Several
suggestions are given in the following pages for different ways in
which it may be employed.

In the decoration of the printed book the services of the artist who is
well-trained in the use of good lettering and book-decoration should
be of value to the printer. Although there is no need for the printer
to endeavour to imitate the work of the illuminator, there ought,
certainly, to be room for a well-developed style of decoration that
could be used with a good form of type.

A few centuries ago, before printing was used for the production of
books, illumination as a part of calligraphy was an important craft.
Books were not only beautifully written but they were also richly
decorated with gold and colours. The writing of long manuscripts
was very slow work, compared with the increased speed of production
afforded by the printing press; but, notwithstanding this, it appears
to have been important that the writing should be rendered more
beautiful by the enrichment of decoration. Unfortunately, although
methods of book-production are now so speedy, most of the lettering is
of the barest and crudest kind. Book-decoration seems to be, in most
cases, confined to illustration, and even this does not often form an
altogether inseparable part of the book.

With regard to the various developments on the purely commercial
side, the study of pen- and brush-formed lettering cannot but be of
the greatest service to the commercial artist who requires lettering
for posters, labels, book-covers, and the many things that require

In fact, lettering enters so largely into decorative design that the
study of some of the fine forms of lettering is of paramount importance
to any artist who desires that the lettering that he uses should be
of good construction. So many drawings have been spoiled through the
introduction of weak and badly formed lettering that the need for
training the student to produce lettering that is well-finished and of
good form should be obvious to everyone.

Without doubt one of the great things in lettering is to allow the
tool to have its way. Pen-formed lettering should be of a form easily
constructed with the pen, and should not pretend to be a brush-formed
lettering, and _vice versâ_.

It is for this reason that in the first chapter so much attention
has been given in noting the influence that the tools and materials
employed have had on the shaping of the letters.


  PREFACE                                                  1

  INTRODUCTION                                             5



  Writing the Foundation of Illumination--Early
    Influences--Babylonian Characters--Egyptian
    Hieroglyphics--The reed and quill Pen--The use
    of Vellum                                             23



  Majuscule Writing--Square Capitals--Rustic
    Capitals--Uncials--Mixed Uncial and Minuscule
    Writing--Half-Uncials--Irish Half-Uncials--
    English Half-Uncials--Minuscule Writing--
    Lombardic Writing--Visigothic Writing--
    Merovingian Writing--Carlovingian Writing--Later
    Styles                                                32



  Cutting the Pen--Simple Exercises                       42



  Letters formed with simple Pen-strokes--Method in
    working--How the various Letters are formed           48



  Writing a short Quotation--Spacing Letters--
    Italics--Pen-formed Figures                           54



  Uncial Letters--Half-Uncials--Writing, from the
    Tenth to the Fifteenth Century                        60



  Building up Letters with Pen-strokes--Roman
    Letters made with simple direct Pen-strokes--The
    Construction of Roman Capitals                        70



  The Alphabet of the Trajan Column--Various
    Alphabets from the Thirteenth to the Sixteenth
    Century                                               76



  1. _From the Fourth to the Eleventh Century_

  Classical and Byzantine Illumination--Celtic and
    Anglo-Celtic--Carlovingian--The Winchester
    School                                                84



  2. _From the Twelfth Century to the Decline_

  Illumination in the Twelfth Century--Thirteenth
    Century--Fourteenth Century--Fifteenth Century
    and later                                             93



  How the Decoration springs from the Initial letter--
    Examples from the Seventh to the Fifteenth
    Century                                              101



  Method of setting out a Page--Arranging the
    Lettering--Initial letters, and how to construct
    them--Various arrangements of Lettering              107



  Early treatises--Theophilus--The Book of the Art
    of Cennino Cennini                                   115



  The importance of a knowledge of the different
    Colours employed--Yellow Pigments--Red
    Pigments--Blue Pigments--Green Pigments--Brown
    Pigments--Black Pigments--White Pigments             123



  Various forms in which Colours are prepared--Mixing
    Colours--A method of keeping body colours in a
    convenient form--Preparing a set of Colours for
    Illuminating                                         131



  Early gilding methods--Powder gold--The early use
    of gold-leaf--Raised gilding                         138



  Shell-gold--The use of gold-leaf--How to handle
    gold-leaf                                            146



  Vellum for Illuminating--Hand-made paper--
    Brushes--Colour-work                                 152



  The development of decoration--Present-day uses of
    Illumination--Possible developments                  161



  The Framed Address--The Vellum Scroll--The
    Book-form                                            171



  Line Blocks--Half-tones--The Three-colour
    Process--Lithography                                 178



  Bronze gilding--Setting out to design--
    Suggestions--Hand-written Cards--Invitation
    Cards                                                185



  Various things requiring Lettering--Lettering for
    Maps, Plans, etc.--Lettering for Poster-work--
    Arrangement of letters--Designing a Magazine
    Cover                                                192



  A quick method of writing a Poster--The reed pen
    and the brush--Window Tickets--Showcards             203



  The Arrangement of Pages--Planning out--The
    Colophon--The Primary Object of the Book--The
    Decoration                                           216



  Binding in limp Vellum--Sewing the sections--The
    Decoration of the Cover                              225



  The Combination of Printing and Illumination--
    Books suitable for Illumination--The Style of
    Decoration suited to this                            232



  The Title-page--The Initial Letter--Types to
    avoid--Tail-pieces, etc.                             238


  CONCLUDING REMARKS                                     248


  NOTES ON BOOKS                                         256


  Illuminated Page                            _Frontispiece_
  Babylonian Characters (Fig. 1)                          25
  Egyptian Hieroglyphics (Fig. 2)                         27
  Egyptian Hieratic Writing                               28
  Stylus and Early Pens                                   29
  Cadmus gives the Greeks an Alphabet                     32
  The Development of Writing (Fig. 3)                     34
  The Development of Writing (Fig. 4)                     38
  The Pen (Fig. 5)                                        43
  Simple Pen-Strokes (Fig. 6)                             45
  Pen-formed Letters (Fig. 7)                             49
  The Construction of Letters (Fig. 8)                    51
  Forming Words and Sentences (Fig. 9)                    55
  Word-spacing, etc. (Fig. 10)                            57
  Alphabets for Study (Fig. 11)                           61
  Alphabets for Study (Fig. 12)                           63
  Alphabets for Study (Fig. 13)                           64
  Alphabets for Study (Fig. 14)                           66
  Roman Lettering (Fig. 15)                               71
  Pen-formed Roman Lettering (Fig. 16)                    74
  The Trajan Column                                       76
  The Trajan Alphabet (Fig. 17)                           77
  The Trajan Alphabet (Fig. 18)                           78
  The Trajan Alphabet (Fig. 19)                           79
  Roman Alphabets (Fig. 20)                               80
  Roman Alphabet, pen-formed (Fig. 21)                    81
  Roman Alphabets (Fig. 22)                               82
  The Lindisfarne Gospels                                 84
  Flemish Initials                                       101
  Initial Letters (Fig. 23)                              102
  Initial Letters (Fig. 24)                              105
  A Simple Page in Black and Red                         107
  Method of Setting out Page (Fig. 25)                   108
  Mediæval Alphabets (Fig. 26)                           110
  The Construction of Initials (Fig. 27)                 111
  Illumination in Black and Red (Fig. 28)                113
  The Preparation of Colours (Fig. 29)                   133
  Gilding Materials (Fig. 30)                            148
  Illumination with Gold and Colours (Fig. 31)           157
  Illuminated Altar Tablet                               161
  The Development of Illumination (Fig. 32)              162
  Rough Sketches of Illuminated Pages (Fig. 33)          166
  A Roll of Honour                                       167
  Illuminated Altar Tablet                               169
  A Church Porch Text                                    170
  An Illuminated Address                                 171
  Various Forms of Illuminated Addresses (Fig. 34)       172
  Designs for Christmas Cards                            185
  A Christmas Card                                       187
  Styles of Cards (Fig. 35)                              188
  Styles of Cards (Fig. 36)                              189
  Designs for Programme and Progressive Whist Card       190
  Booklet Cover                                          192
  An Attractive Advertisement                            192
  A Handbook Cover                                       194
  Lettering for Maps, etc. (Fig. 37)                     195
  A Design for a Certificate                             196
  An Alphabet for Poster Work (Fig. 38)                  197
  Two Designs for Labels                                 198
  A Design for a Letter Heading                          199
  A Design for a Music Cover                             200
  A Design for a Bookplate                               201
  An Attractive Piece of Lettering                       204
  Guide for Hand-written Posters (Fig. 39)               205
  Specimen Poster written with Pen (Fig. 40)             207
  Specimen Poster written with Brush (Fig. 41)           209
  Design for a Menu                                      210
  Window Tickets (Fig. 42)                               213
  A Showcard (Fig. 43)                                   214
  Frontispiece of Blake’s “Songs of Innocence”           216
  Arrangement for MS. Book (Fig. 44)                     218
  Title-page of Blake’s “Songs of Innocence”             219
  Examples of Colophons (Fig. 45)                        221
  Two pages from “Songs of Innocence”                    223
  Method of Stitching MS. Book (Fig. 46)                 226
  Vellum Cover (Fig. 47)                                 228
  Cover ready for Binding (Fig. 48)                      229
  Completing the Cover (Fig. 49)                         230
  The Illumination of the Printed Book (Fig. 50)         233
  Styles of Title Pages (Fig. 51)                        239
  Types of Initials to Avoid (Fig. 52)                   242
  Decorative Initials (Fig. 53)                          243
  Tail-pieces (Fig. 54)                                  245




Calligraphy and Illumination are inseparably bound up with each other.
The art of Illumination cannot be severed from that of Writing. One
cannot imagine the decoration apart from the writing. Undoubtedly this
sprang from a desire to beautify the writing. Man sought to make his
manuscripts beautiful, and the result was a form of illumination, at
first very primitive, but gradually developing into the beautiful art
that we are so familiar with in the choice manuscripts of the middle

When commencing the study of the art of illumination it is extremely
important that it should be approached from the proper standpoint. It
is to be feared that this has not always been the case. The lure of the
bright gold and colours has often led both teacher and taught astray,
and the proper use of the pen in writing has been almost entirely

Instead of allowing the tool to have its own way, it has been forced to
form laborious shapes that are not suited to its construction at all.
The decoration, it is to be feared, has been looked upon as a sort
of spice to be added as a finishing touch, instead of being a vital
growth springing naturally from the writing. Until it be viewed from
this standpoint, no real progress can be made. If a building is to be
soundly constructed, the first thing to see to is that the foundations
are well laid. The same principle applies in this case. The decoration,
if it is to be living and real, must have a starting-point for growth.
The student should see that this is a sure foundation and not a
tottering, shaky structure. Well-formed writing should be the first

Ordinary hand-writing is a development of the kind of writing used by
the old calligraphers. Generally speaking, the connection between the
two is not recognised. Probably if this were so calligraphy of the
present day would be much better than it generally is. The fact that
it is generally referred to as “printing” shows how the connection has
been lost. Drawing is thought to be more akin to it than hand-writing.
It is no uncommon sight to see a student carefully drawing the shapes
of the letters and then filling them in with a fine mapping pen. If the
individuality of the pen as a letter-making tool were recognised this
kind of thing would not occur.

It may be interesting to consider briefly some of the early influences
at work in the production of writing.


Showing the influence of the tool on the shapes of the Characters.

FIG. 1.]

In Fig. 1 some examples of early Babylonian characters are shown. In
these early days the common writing material was clay. The characters
used in writing were rough pictures of different objects which were
drawn in outline. Thus the sign for “king” was a rude drawing of a
man crowned; this was scratched on the surface of the soft clay with
a pointed tool. One can quite understand how these characters could
be constructed with a series of impressions in much less time than it
would take to draw them in outline. Then again it must have been much
easier to draw on the soft clay in this way. A square-pointed stylus
was used for this purpose, and, with the wedge-shaped impressions thus
produced, the characters could be formed quite easily. Not only was
the scribe able to write with greater speed, but the way in which the
characters were produced was more methodical. The character for “king,”
when made with the wedge-shaped impressions, was constructed as shown
in (_b_). One can easily recognise the same form placed horizontally,
instead of vertically, as was originally the case. In course of time
the characters became somewhat simplified. The next step in the
development of the character is shown in (_c_). The final form is shown
in (_d_), this being very much simplified. In like manner the signs
represented in (_e_) and (_h_) were used to denote “star” and “sun”
respectively. The development of these is seen in (_f_) and (_g_),
also in (_i_) and (_j_). The reason for calling attention to these
characters is to show how the shapes are influenced by the tool and the
material employed. This is a most important factor in the formation of

Where soft clay was used as a material, and the characters were formed
by making impressions with a stylus, one would naturally expect that
these signs would take the form of a series of indentations rather than
flowing lines as from a brush or pen.

In the case of the Egyptian hieroglyphics, shown in Fig. 2, a
difference is at once noticed. These characters were at first small
pictures carved on stone. The hieratic characters were simple
interpretations of these formed with a reed pen. It is quite obvious,
to all who care to observe, how easily these characters could be
formed, especially when they are compared with the earlier signs. In
this case the influence is quite different from that of the Babylonian
characters. Instead of a series of impressions, one notices long
flowing strokes characteristic of the pen. It is interesting to note
how the essential quality of the more elaborate character is obtained
with simple pen-strokes. Although the hieroglyphic is often quite
complex there is still a likeness retained in the hieratic form.


Showing the development into the Hieratic or pen-formed Characters.

FIG. 2.]

The reed pen used by the Egyptian scribes was the forerunner of the
modern pen. It was formed from the hollow stalk of grasses that grew
in marshy districts. Sometimes pens were made from hollow canes and
bamboos. This kind of pen is still used in the East.

The material used for writing upon was known as papyrus. This was made
from the pith of a species of reed, the _Cyperus Papyrus_ of Linnæus.
This was, in early days, cultivated in the Delta of Egypt. It was
used for several different purposes, one of the most important being
for writing-material. This was prepared by cutting it into strips and
placing these side by side, with another set placed across them at
right angles. The two layers were stuck together and the whole pressed
and dried, and the surface smoothed to make a sheet of writing-material.

It is a most difficult matter to state when the quill pen was first
used. Probably the earliest allusion to it occurs in the writings of
St Isidore, Archbishop of Seville, who lived in the early part of the
seventh century. The following is the quotation in question:

“_Instrumenta scribæ calamus et penna; ex his enim verba paginis
infiguntur; sed calamus arboris est, penna avis, cujus acumen dividitur
in duo._”

(“The tools of the writer are a reed and a quill; for by these words on
pages are impressed; the reed is of wood, the quill from a bird, and
its point is divided into two.”)

But of course it is extremely probable that quill pens were in use
at a much earlier period than this. It is well known that metal pens
were used by the Romans, as a number of these, made of bronze, are in
existence at the present time.

For general writing purposes tablets coated with wax were used by
the Greeks and Romans. A stylus with one end pointed and the other
flattened was used to write with, the writing being done with the sharp
point and erasures made with the flattened end.



  _Ivory Stilus._
  _Silver Stilus, bound with gold wire._
  _Ancient Roman Bronze Pen._
  _Ancient Reed Pen._

The skins of animals have been used as a writing material since quite
an early period, and the use of vellum was probably an improvement
upon this. Pliny, in his “Natural History,” tells the story, on the
authority of Varro, of how Eumenes II., King of Pergamus from 197 to
159 B.C., was desirous of extending the library in his capital, but
the Ptolemies, being jealous, stopped the export of papyrus, thinking
by this means to prevent the royal library from growing. Owing to the
lack of papyrus, skins were employed and, necessity being the mother
of invention, the manufacture of vellum came about. Whether any real
importance can be attached to this story or not, it is certain that
Pergamus was a great centre for the manufacture of vellum. In fact, the
word “parchment” is derived from _charta Pergamena_, _i.e._, “paper
from Pergamum.”

It is easy to see how this ideal writing-material, with the quill
pen, must have had a great influence upon the formation of letters.
Generally speaking, the writing on parchment or vellum is crisper and
more sharply defined than that on the papyrus.

There is not the slightest doubt that the influence of the tool and the
writing-material had a great deal to do with forming the shapes of the
letters. Good lettering was seldom or never consciously designed, but
was the result of certain influences at work.

In the development of lettering in the past, the pen, as a
letter-making tool, has played a most prominent part. A reed or quill
pen cut with a broad nib, so as to give crisp thick and thin strokes,
is an ideal tool for the formation of letters, but one thing is
necessary: the pen must be allowed to have its own way. The letters
should not be designed first and copied with the pen afterwards. If the
lettering is to be pen-formed, let it be formed with the pen; it should
come straight from the pen.

The capabilities of the pen as a letter-making tool should be carefully
studied. The reed or quill pen should be used, and one of the best ways
to become intimate with the pen is to cut it to shape for oneself. One
is thus able to understand the possibilities of this tool as a means
for the formation of letters, in a much more intimate manner than if
a ready-made tool is placed in the hand. The first thing to endeavour
to grasp is how to cut and use the pen. After this has been mastered,
the next step should be the formation of letters. This is followed
by forming letters into words. Then comes writing and designing with
masses of writing. Not until the student is thoroughly familiar with
the use of lettering should he attempt to add any decoration to it. A
fine piece of writing in black, or black and red, on vellum or fine
hand-made paper is a piece of decoration by itself, but a bad piece
of lettering cannot be made beautiful, however much ornament be added
afterwards. The first step towards the study of illumination proper
comes then, and attention should be given to the place of the initial
letter and the part it has played in the past as a starting-point for
the decoration in the MSS. of the mediæval period. At first a good deal
can be done with the use of black and red only, or black, red, and
blue. Then come simple decoration with gold and colours; the use of
raised burnished gold; the application of illumination for commercial
purposes; and the illuminated MS. book.



Before describing the method of cutting and using the pen, it may
possibly be instructive to survey briefly the development of writing
through the centuries.

The alphabet, as we know it, has been traced right back to that used
by the Phœnicians. In fact, until a comparatively short time ago,
it was thought by some that it could be traced back to the Egyptian
hieroglyphics, but in the light of recent discoveries this theory is
no longer tenable. The origin of our alphabet is therefore still a
matter for research, although there seems to be no doubt concerning its
descent from the Phœnician alphabet.

The Roman alphabet seems to be a direct descendant from this, and it is
from the Roman alphabet that the lettering that is in use to-day has
been derived.

Roman writing was divided into two distinct classes: the formal
book-hand, and the cursive hand which was the common hand-writing of
the people.


The book-hand first took the form of majuscules, which in turn were
divided into Square Capitals, Rustic Capitals, and Uncials. After
this came the modified forms of Uncials caused by the admixture of


(Tradition relates that letters were first introduced into Greece by a
Phœnician named Cadmus.)]

By way of explanation it may be here mentioned that, in both Greek and
Latin palæography, capital letters are termed “majuscules,” while small
letters are known as “minuscules.”


Probably the earliest Latin majuscule writing is that known as square
capitals. These seem to be modelled on the same type of letter that
was used for the fine inscriptions. Although the general opinion is
that these are the earliest form, there is very little square capital
writing in existence. The earliest specimen known has been attributed
to the end of the fourth century, although it is thought that this
form of writing had been in use some centuries before this. It was
in use until the fourth or fifth century. There is not the slightest
doubt that writing, when these letters were used, must have been
comparatively slow work.


Rustic capitals seem to be an attempt to write the letters by means of
simple pen-strokes. Writing with this type of letter must have been
much quicker than when the square capitals were used. This style of
writing has been used in the earliest Latin MSS. now in existence,
but, although this is the case, the general opinion seems to be that
the square capitals were used first. The title “Rustic” is somewhat
misleading, as it might lead one to suppose that these letters are
rough in character, when they are generally written quite as carefully
as the square capitals.



  Roman Square Capitals.
  Rustic Capitals.
  Irish Half-Uncials.
  English Half-Uncials.

FIG. 3.]

The next stage is the use of the majuscules known as “Uncials.” These
are true pen-formed letters. They seem to be based on the square
capitals, but, in place of so many angles, curves are employed, these
being much more adapted to the use of the pen. It is a round hand, and
a very beautiful form of writing. The simplicity of the characters
with their flowing curves is such that they may be easily formed with
a sharply-cut reed or quill. The letters, A, D, E, H, M, and U, are
the principal letters that show the characteristics of this form of
writing. It seems to have been in common use as a book-hand in the
fourth century. It is, however, thought by some that it is quite
possible that it may have been in use as early as the third century,
as in the oldest specimens that are known the lettering appears to
be fully developed. One of the special distinctions of this kind of
writing is the way some of the vertical strokes rise above, or fall
below, the line of writing. From the fifth to the eighth centuries it
was given the premier place as a literary hand. The early uncials, as
also were the square capitals and rustic capitals, were written with a
pen cut with a slanted point.


It must be remembered that all the time these majuscules, both capitals
and uncials, represent only one side of the handwriting employed,
_viz._, that used for the production of books. The ordinary handwriting
of the people, known as “cursive” writing, was in extensive use at
the same time. Very often this form of writing got mixed up with the
other, and the result was a mixed style. For example, in some of the
early majuscule MSS., notes have been found written in this style. This
gradually came to be used as a book-hand, until soon very few of the
early uncial forms were left.


To this form of writing in its full development the title of
“Half-Uncial” has been given. It was employed as far back as the fifth
century for writing MSS. It may have been used because it could be
written more quickly than the ordinary uncial; anyway, it seems to
have been very extensively used as a literary hand. This style is very
important, as it marks the beginning of the change from majuscule
to minuscule writing. These characters were generally formed with a
straight-cut pen.


Writing in the British Isles was greatly different from that used on
the Continent. On the Continent the hand was developed from the Roman
cursive writing, while in England and Ireland the Roman Half-Uncial was
the starting-point of development.

There is not the slightest doubt but that the rise of Christianity in
the British Isles had a great deal to do with the development of the
book-hand. It is a well-known fact that the Christian missionaries
from Rome brought with them a number of MSS. which may have served as
models for the native scribes. These were probably written in Roman
half-uncials, which would account for the manner in which the Irish
handwriting developed. Evidently no MSS. written in pure uncials came
to Ireland; anyway, there seems to be no reason to suppose that such
was the case, as no MS. of this type has been found that may be claimed
to be purely Irish without any shadow of doubt.

Early Irish writing is in two forms, round and pointed. The round hand
is distinctly half-uncial. Although it is most difficult to state the
earliest date of the Irish MSS., the general opinion is that they date
back at least as far as the seventh century. The famous Book of Kells
is a well-known example of Irish half-uncials. The pointed writing
was developed in the eighth and ninth centuries. This is probably a
development of the round hand, and in course of time became the Irish
national hand.


In England there were two distinct schools of writing, one of which
came from Ireland and the other brought over by the Roman missionaries.
Very little is known of the writing brought over by the foreign
missionaries, as only a small amount is known to be in existence. There
is evidence, however, that some of the Roman rustic capitals were made
use of.

The English half-uncials were modelled on the Irish half-uncials. The
writing in the Durham Book, now in the British Museum, affords a good
example of this kind of writing. It is interesting to compare this
writing with that of the Book of Kells; there is a great similarity.
Both are carefully written with the straight-cut pen. The English
half-uncials also developed in the eighth and ninth centuries into a
pointed hand. Capitals which were used for initials, etc., are simply
variations of the majuscules.


As mentioned before, the Roman cursive was the basis of the writing
on the Continent. Three great national hands were formed, _viz._,
Lombardic, Visigothic, and Merovingian.


[Illustration: FIG. 4.]

This was the national handwriting of Italy; it was used from the eighth
to the eleventh centuries. The term “Lombardic” is given as a general
term to the writing of Italy in the early middle ages. In Fig. 4 some
free renderings are given of this hand. The first (_a_) is an example
in one of its earliest stages, written cursively in the early part of
the ninth century. The next, shown in (_b_) is the book-hand a little
later. The third example (_c_) is a later development of the eleventh
century, known as “broken Lombardic.” It may be noted that in all these
the slanted-cut pen has been used.


The title “Visigothic” has been given to the national handwriting
of Spain. Derived also from the Roman cursive, it developed into a
book-hand that was used in the eighth century. It was in use until the
twelfth century. The first example (_d_) is a half-cursive book-hand of
the seventh or eighth century. The next (_e_) a book-hand of the early
tenth century. The last example (_f_) is the last stage, being of the
twelfth century. All these are written with the slanted-cut pen.


This is the name given to the writing practised in the Frankish
empire. This form of writing leads on to the great reform in the time
of Charlemagne. Starting, as was the case in the other two schools,
from the Roman cursive, it developed into a set book-hand which is
noticeable in several MSS. of the seventh and eighth centuries. An
early specimen is shown in (_g_). Several different types of writing
were used within the limits of the Frankish empire, some of which bear
a strong resemblance to the Lombardic style. In fact, so similar are
they that it is rather difficult to distinguish one from the other.
The example (_h_) is one of this type, being of the late seventh
century. As uncial and half-uncial characters were still used for a
good number of MSS. it is but natural that these should influence the
style of writing. The specimen given in (_i_) is an example showing
the influence of the half-uncial, and is a step towards the full
development of the Caroline minuscule.


The great revival of learning during the reign of Charlemagne resulted
in the development of a new school of writing known as Caroline, or
Carlovingian. Towards the end of the eighth century the decree calling
for the revision of the Church books naturally became the cause of
fresh activity in the writing schools connected with the monasteries.
At Tours the book-hand was developed which is known as the Caroline
Minuscule. An example is given of this hand. This form of writing
spread rapidly all over the Frankish empire and gradually influenced
the book-hands employed in the neighbouring countries. The use of the
slanted-cut pen is an important thing in connection with the formation
of these minuscules.


The tenth century example given is from the Benedictional of Æthelwold,
Bishop of Winchester from A.D. 963-984. This lettering is of the
foreign type, but it has a strongly defined native character all its
own, some of the letters being distinctly Saxon in type.

From the twelfth century onwards a great number of MSS. were produced,
each country having its own particular style and developing on certain
definite lines. It is impossible to give specimens of all the different
kinds of Calligraphy. The examples shown must be taken as roughly
indicating the general style of the writing. The use of the slanted-cut
pen tended towards the compression of the letters, thus forming a
strong contrast to the letters produced in the earlier periods with the
straight-cut pen.

In the thirteenth century writing became considerably smaller. In
the latter part of this century a very large number of Bibles appear
to have been written, and volumes were smaller, standing out in
strong contrast to the ponderous tomes of the preceding century. In
the fourteenth century the writing became considerably stiffer and
more angular. This tendency showed itself still more strongly in the
fifteenth century.

In Italy this tendency did not make itself felt quite as early as in
the writings of Northern Europe. Although later on they became more
or less affected in this way, there is a decided difference between
Italian writing and the styles employed by the other countries.

In the fifteenth century the Italian scribes appear to have gone back
to their early periods for models for book-hands, and it is this that
influenced the early printers of Italy to use type of this character,
which has its modern representative in the Roman type of to-day.



To obtain a practical knowledge of the use of the pen as a
letter-making tool is, as stated before, the first important thing for
the student to acquire. All the practice he can get in cutting it to
shape, and using it in the manner described here, will be found to be
of the greatest service in helping him to produce good lettering with
it later on.

For large writing, the best tool is undoubtedly the reed pen. In fact,
this is probably the best pen for the beginner to experiment with
first. It is somewhat difficult to obtain a good reed pen. The ordinary
kind that is sold by the artists’ colourmen is rather too soft and soon
becomes sodden with the ink. Crisp writing is then impossible. A pen
made from a piece of hollow cane or bamboo seems to answer best of all.

A sharp knife is required for cutting, and a thin piece of metal to
form a spring to hold the ink is a great advantage. It should be quite
easy to see from Fig. 5 how the pen should be cut. The great thing to
remember is to see that the pen is cut with a nice chisel point, as
this ensures crisp and sharp writing. Another important detail is the
slit in the nib. This should be just the right length for easy writing.
If it is too long it makes the pen too soft, while, on the other hand,
if too short it is difficult to write with it. The student will find
that experiment alone will teach him what is right in this matter. An
hour or two spent experimenting for himself with a reed or quill will
teach him far more than pages of instruction. Beyond just giving a few
hints, there is no need to devote much space to directions as to how to
cut the pen. The few details given are just to act as a guide to the

[Illustration: THE PEN

FIG. 5.]

In cutting the nib, care should be taken that the slit is a clean cut,
also that the points are equally proportioned on each side. The spring
is best made from a piece of thin brass, copper, or pure tin. If,
ordinary tinned iron is used it is liable to get rusty besides being
generally too thick. It will be found that a great deal depends on the
position in which this is placed, with regard to the flow of ink from
the pen.

When using the reed pen for large writing it will be found necessary to
pare the curved inside of the pen quite flat at the point, to ensure a
firm stroke, as otherwise a hollow stroke will be the result.

For smaller writing the best pen is the turkey quill. The goose quill
is not quite firm enough, but a good turkey quill can be cut either
for quite tiny writing or large bold writing. It is best to strip the
feather part right away, as there is no advantage in having it on the
pen. This can easily be torn off by pulling the end of the feather

For practice any good smooth-surfaced paper may be used. Several of the
well-known makers of high-class hand-made drawing papers make a special
paper for writing and illumination.

A good fluid waterproof drawing ink should be used. Care should be
taken to procure one that will not thicken either in the bottle or in
the pen. It is a great fault with some inks that, although they do
not seem to thicken very much in the bottle, they do so in the pen.
When this is the case, good writing is almost impossible. One cannot
produce good writing if one has to stop every little while to wash out
one’s pen. Besides, when the ink is beginning to thicken, clear, sharp
writing becomes impossible.

Fig. 6 gives some simple exercises with the pen. It should be quite
easy to understand the formation of the pen-strokes from this diagram.
They should be practised over and over again until the strokes can be
made very easily. It should be noticed that the pen is kept practically
at the same angle all the time. It must be held as easily as possible.
There is no need to acquire any special manner of holding it.
Different people hold the pen in different ways and it is best for the
student to find out which way is easiest for him to hold it to produce
good writing. If the pen is held in a manner which may be correct
according to a copy-book but which feels awkward and cramped for the
writer, the writing produced in this way is bound to show evidences
of this. If, however, the pen is held freely, and easily, it becomes
almost a part of the writer himself, and there is a feeling of freedom
about the writing that is entirely absent from that produced by the
other method.

[Illustration: FIG. 6.]

The strokes in the diagram were made with a turkey quill pen in
exactly the same manner as described here. One of the most important
things is to endeavour to keep the pen practically at the same angle
all the time. If the pen is allowed to twist about in the hand, the
distinction between the thick and thin strokes will not be sufficiently
marked. It should be quite easy for the student to acquire this mastery
of the pen without holding it in a vice-like grip.

For clear, sharp writing it is practically essential that there should
be no ink on the back of the nib. A small piece of linen, free from
fluff, should be kept for a pen-wiper, and the back of the pen should
be wiped before commencing to write. The ink should be kept free from
pieces of fluff or small hairs, as if these get into the pen it is
impossible to produce good writing.

The exercise should be practised first with two ruled lines, then with
one only. It is good training if, after this, the student will try his
skill in writing without any lines at all. He should not sketch it in
lightly first in pencil, but should start straight away with the pen.

The width of the nib should be approximately the same as the thickness
of the thick strokes of the writing.

When the nib becomes blunt or uneven it should be carefully re-cut.
When re-cutting the pen it is advisable not to cut it in too drastic a
fashion. Cut it gradually, taking very little off at first and using
only a very sharp knife. One of the best knives for this purpose is a
surgeon’s scalpel, as, being made of hard surgical steel, it does not
get blunt so quickly as the ordinary pen-knife.

In the next chapter it is intended to begin to practise the formation
of letters. Before studying it the student should practise cutting the
pen and forming the strokes in Fig. 6. He should endeavour to make a
sharp distinction between the thick and thin strokes, and also strive
after perfect regularity. The more he practises this exercise the
better will he be able to form the letters in the succeeding ones.

The student is advised thoroughly to master one stage before proceeding
with the next. One that has been mastered is of more value than several
hurried over in a careless fashion.



Having become somewhat acquainted with the use of the pen, the next
step to be taken is the formation of letters, on the same principle as
the strokes were made in the last chapter.

Fig. 7 shows an alphabet of capital letters and also one of small
letters. Each letter is formed with simple pen-strokes, and the student
should experience no difficulty in forming these after practising the
previous exercise.

Perhaps it would not be amiss to give a few suggestions as to working.
In the first place he should set about his task in a workmanlike
manner. It is practically useless practising on a few odd scraps of
paper, in a slipshod way, without making any special preparations. This
method of working is responsible for a good deal of slovenly work and
cannot be too severely censured. The old proverb, “If a thing is worth
doing it is worth doing well,” is perfectly true in this case.

[Illustration: PEN-FORMED LETTERS.

FIG. 7.]

The student should obtain a drawing-board and fasten his paper down
carefully before commencing to work. It will be found that a pad made
of several sheets of blotting-paper placed under the writing-paper will
make the writing easier. This makes a much more sympathetic surface
to write upon than the hard drawing-board. Then the slope should be
considered. It is not advisable to work with the board flat on the
table. It should be raised to form a convenient slope. In the old
illustrations that we have representing the mediæval illuminator at
work, he is always depicted as writing at a sloping desk. By far the
most suitable for writing is a firm water-colour easel which can be
inclined to any angle. If, however, this is not to hand, a drawing can
be raised on a table to the required angle by resting one end of the
board on a small box.

Another point is the lighting. It is best to arrange this so that the
light comes over the left shoulder, otherwise the shadow of the hand
falls on the work.

Rule lightly, with a black-lead pencil, some lines to work upon. First
rule two lines for each row of letters. For the capitals these should
be about ¾ in. apart, and for the lower-case letters 3/8 in. should be

The pen should be cut so as to give a fairly bold stroke, to prevent
forming a thin, weak-looking letter. Great care should be taken to
ensure that the writing be crisp and sharp. See that the back of the
nib is free from ink, and be careful to keep the pen at practically
the same angle. The habit of turning the pen about in the hand while
writing is responsible for a lot of clumsy work. The beginner generally
fails to turn the ends of his strokes smartly, thus failing to
distinguish between the thick and thin strokes. This is caused by not
keeping the pen at the same angle. The least possible pressure should
be put on the nib. Let the pen have its own way; do not force it at
all. Some prefer to dip the pen into the ink, wiping the back of the
nib on a small linen pen-wiper. Others use a small brush or quill for
dropping the ink into the pen. Some dealers put their ink into bottles
provided with quill stoppers for this purpose. Whichever way be used,
care should be taken not to fill the pen too full, as if this is done
there is every probability that a blot may be caused by ink dropping
from it.

Fig. 8 shows exactly how the various strokes are formed. The different
strokes that go to make up the capital A are carefully shown in the
proper order and exactly how they can be made. Most of the letters in
the alphabet are also shown with the pen-strokes necessary for their
production. They are numbered so that the student should have no
difficulty in understanding exactly how to form them, the first stroke
being numbered 1, the second 2, and so on. It will be found that the
letters that are not shown in this manner are made up of strokes that
are shown plainly in some other letter.

[Illustration: FIG. 8.]

After practising the formation of these letters between two lines,
the student should use one line only. In fact, after he begins to
get familiar with this method of forming letters he should discard
altogether the use of the second line, as he should be able to write
just as easily on one line only. Some students seem to be afraid that
they will not be able to keep the writing the same size unless they use
two lines. It is strange that in ordinary hand-writing they would never
think it necessary to rule two lines to keep their writing the same
size. The use of two lines is necessary to the beginner until he has
become familiar with the pen, but there is no necessity to keep using
these, for they only hamper him and give him less freedom in working.

One of the difficulties that beginners generally experience, in
attempting to form letters with the pen in this way, is that they are
unable to get good firm curves and strong upright strokes. The cause
of this is nothing more or less than simply lack of practice. If the
student has any trouble in this way he should practise the earlier
exercise again and again. Weak-looking curves and tottering strokes
will soon become few and far between as he gains confidence in himself.
If he gives his whole attention to forming the strokes, the facility to
produce well-formed letters will soon be acquired.

Another cause of bad writing is often due to the pen. If this is not
cut so that it will give crisp strokes good lettering is impossible.
The student should not waste time trying to write with a badly-cut pen;
it is much better to re-cut it straight away.

After practising forming the letters this size, he should reduce them.
The pen should be cut with a smaller point to suit the size of the
letters, and lines should be ruled closer together. He should endeavour
to get the same crispness and sharp distinction between the thick and
thin strokes as in the larger writing. He should not rest satisfied
until he is able to produce clear sharp writing on single lines. He
should strive to keep the strokes of the letters quite upright, not
leaning to the right or to the left. If he has practised the earlier
exercise thoroughly he should experience no difficulty in this matter.

The next chapter will deal with massing letters together to form words
and sentences. It is, however, as well to emphasise the fact that the
formation of the individual letters should be mastered thoroughly



One of the best ways to get familiar with spacing and forming letters
into words is to write out a short quotation.

In Fig. 9 one is given for the student to transcribe. A sheet of
smooth-surfaced paper should be fastened to a board with drawing-pins,
placing the pad of blotting-paper underneath. The page should then be
ruled out with the lines 3/16 inch apart, with the exception of the
first lines, which are 3/8 inch apart. Rule the lines as lightly as
possible, with an HB. pencil, so that they are just visible, and can be
removed by the gentlest possible touch of the rubber.

It should be noticed that the width of the paragraph is determined by
the first word, “Imagination.” The way that the individual letters
are carefully packed together, side by side, is an important factor.
It is hardly worth while cutting a special wide pen for writing the
initial I. This can be easily formed by making two strokes closely
together. This practice should not be adhered to as a general rule for
this type of letter, as some letters present a patched appearance when
constructed in this manner. Letters should be composed either of simple
pen-strokes or else built up. Never attempt to worry a letter into
existence. Later on a method of building up letters will be shown.
They are, however, a different type from those shown here.

[Illustration: FIG. 9.]

This exercise should first be written between two ruled lines to each
row of lettering. Then write it out using one line only. Then reduce
the size, cutting a pen with a smaller point, but keeping to the same
proportion in spacing. In copying this do not draw the lettering first
in pencil, but go straight ahead with the pen. Also do not attempt to
copy it in a rigid manner, endeavouring to get exactly the same number
of words on each line as in the copy. Pack each letter closely to
its fellow, and do not attempt to spread out any word to make it fit
better. The distance between each word should be about the width of a
small letter. Do not try to squeeze a word or syllable in at the end
of a line. It is better to let it project slightly over the line; see
(_a_) Fig. 9. If, when the end of the line is reached, there is a space
left not quite large enough for the next word, do not attempt to spread
out the last word, but either add a simple pen ornament as in (_b_)
or the line may be emphasised by pen-strokes or dots, as in the copy.
Still another method is shown in (_c_), where flourishes from the final
letter fill the space. These, however, should be used sparingly, as
they tend to make the matter less readable.

After the student has had a good amount of practice in writing in this
manner he will begin to feel his way and be able to mass and arrange
the letters and words properly. It is only when he becomes master over
the pen, so that he can write quickly and easily, that he is able to
mass the letters into words with facility.

After having written this quotation, a fresh one may be selected and
written out in a similar manner. If this practice is persisted in, the
student will gain valuable experience in the spacing and arrangement of

[Illustration: FIG. 10.]

In Fig. 10 several interesting points are noticed. In the first place
the necessity for packing the letters should be noted in (_a_). If
the two renderings of the same word be carefully examined, it will
be seen that the first one has a somewhat broken appearance. This is
notwithstanding the fact that each letter is exactly the same distance
from the next to it. In the second example there is much more unity,
yet the letters are not really so equally spaced. The way to get
over this difficulty is to place each letter as closely as possible
to its fellow. The first example looks like L ETTER ING because due
consideration has not been given to the fact that however closely L and
E, and R and I, are placed together, there will always be a fair amount
of space, so that these should be packed, if possible, closer together
than the rest. As the E is a curved letter, the L can easily be formed
so that the lower part comes underneath. Also the tail of the R can
project under the I. This device should not be carried to excess as
shown in (_b_). One often sees architectural drawings disfigured by a
lot of this kind of thing. The student is advised carefully to guard
against this, or his writing will become freakish.

In (_c_) two examples are given which show the advantage of massed
writing. In the first example the letters are placed together in a
loose manner, and the two lines are too far apart. The second is much
easier to read because the letters are packed closer together, and also
the lines of lettering are nearer. For general purposes massed writing
is undoubtedly best, but for some things, as, for example, in writing
poetry, the lines may be wider apart. The letters, however, should be
packed together, and it is not a bad plan to make the stems and tails
of the letters just a trifle longer than usual.

A curious optical illusion is shown in (_d_), in connection with
the letter S. The first one is constructed so that each half is
approximately the same size, but it appears to be larger in the top
half. It presents the same illusion if the page is held upside down.
The second one, which is drawn with the top half slightly smaller,
appears right. This applies to several other letters in the alphabet,
but in the letter S it is most noticeable. The letter P is a letter
that requires some attention. If a word begins with this letter, the
form with the stem projecting below the line may be used; but when this
occurs in the middle of a word, it tends to make it less readable. The
example given, at first glance, looks like HEADS.

A modern fad of using V instead of U, and I in place of J, should be
discouraged. In Latin, possibly, there is something to be said for it,
but in modern English it looks foolish and affected, besides being
almost unreadable at times.

The student will find the alphabet of italics useful for rapid
lettering of plans, maps, etc. He should endeavour to preserve the same
slope, not getting some letters falling over and others nearly upright.
There is no need to give detailed instructions as to how to form the
individual letters, as, after having practised the formation of letters
in the preceding chapter, he should experience no difficulty in feeling
his way with regard to the forming of the individual strokes that go to
make up each letter. The same thing applies to the pen-formed figures
that are given here. These are all composed of simple pen-strokes, and
the student should be able to form these quite easily and quickly.

Constant practice with the reed or quill pen will do more than anything
to make him an efficient writer.



After the student has, to some extent, mastered the pen, and is able to
write fairly easily, it would be a good plan for him to study some of
the best historical examples, forming the letters in the same simple

The examples given here are free renderings of the various alphabets
used in the different periods. In the case of any of the letters being
missing to form the complete alphabet, these have been constructed
in a similar style. The reason for doing this is so that the student
should experience no difficulty in writing when using any one of these
alphabets, as would possibly be the case if an incomplete alphabet were
given. These alphabets are merely given for convenience, the object
not being in any way to keep the student from studying the original
manuscripts for himself. It was thought, however, that it might
possibly be helpful if the various letters were given in the form of
complete alphabets, as, after studying the various forms of lettering
in this manner, the student would be encouraged to study the actual
MSS. for himself.

[Illustration: FIG. 11.]

One of the most beautiful forms of simple pen-formed lettering is given
in Fig. 11. The uncial characters shown here (_a_) afford one of the
best examples for practice in writing with the reed or quill. These
letters are all formed with simple strokes made with the slanted-cut
pen. For the purpose of general writing it may be as well to change
the form of one or two of the letters, such as the A, for example,
and possibly the D. Forming these characters with a well-cut pen is
splendid practice for the student. He should endeavour to form the
letters with simple direct strokes, with no touching up afterwards.
After having practised the previous exercises well, he should be able
to form these letters quite easily. He should, as opportunity occurs,
examine carefully some of the fine uncial manuscripts, or at any rate
some good reproductions of them.

The alphabet shown next (_b_) is founded on the Irish half-uncials. The
one striking difference between this and the previous alphabet is that
this is written with a straight-cut pen instead of a slanted-cut pen.
This is plainly noticeable in the round letters such as a, c, e, o,
etc., the thickness coming in quite a different place. It will be found
that writing in this manner with the straight-cut pen is much slower
work than writing in the other way. It is, however, very good practice
for the student. The same remarks that were made about the uncial
letters apply also here; it would be as well to modernise some of the
letters, such as the “g” and the “n,” when writing with this alphabet.

In Fig. 12 some very beautiful alphabets are shown which are excellent
in every way as examples for study. These are all formed with quite
simple strokes made with the slanted-cut pen. The one shown in (_c_) is
a free rendering of the letters used in the famous “Benedictional of
Æthelwold.” As the “s” and the “t” given here are liable to be somewhat
unreadable, additional forms of these letters are suggested.

The example given in (_d_) is taken from a tenth-century Psalter, now
in the British Museum. This MS. is a very beautiful example of the
English writing of this period. The writing of this century should be
very carefully studied. The student should not be content with merely
working from the letters given here, but should study some of the MSS.
of this period for himself, noting carefully the spacing and the
arrangement of the lettering.

[Illustration: FIG. 12.]

The next alphabet (_e_) is taken from an Italian twelfth-century MS.
This is slightly stiffer in character than the preceding one, and the
writing tends to become more compressed. However, the lettering still
retains its round character. It is easy to mass the letters together
when using this alphabet.

The letters in Fig. 13 are still more compressed in character. The
alphabet shown in (_f_) is taken from a late twelfth-century MS. of the
French School. It is a very good form of lettering and will well repay
careful study.

[Illustration: FIG. 13.]

The next one (_g_) is a typical example of the style of lettering
largely employed in the thirteenth century. Although the letters
are shown here as large as in the preceding example, the lettering
generally was much smaller. If the student examines carefully any of
the thirteenth century MSS. he will notice this to be the case. He
should practise using this alphabet in the same way, cutting his pen
so that he is able to form the small letters quite easily. He will
probably experience difficulty in producing writing as small as the
mediæval scribe was able to do, as this comes only from a great amount
of practice, but he should be able to write quite easily with the lines
of lettering not more than 3/16 in. apart.

The alphabet that follows this (_h_) is from a fourteenth century MS.
It will be noticed that the letters here are much more angular, and
they conform more to what is popularly known as “Old English.” This
form of writing can be quite easily formed with the slanted-cut pen.

There is no need to employ a fine pen for putting in the thin strokes,
as is so often the case, as the complete letter may be formed with the
same pen if it is cut with a nice chisel point. It is most important
that the student should form the whole of the letter with the same
pen, without any touching up afterwards. The practice of forming
letters roughly and shaping them up afterwards with a fine pen tends
to cultivate most unworkmanlike habits and cannot be too severely
censored. Also letters formed in this manner are always lacking in
character and vitality. If the student has become familiar with cutting
and handling the pen he ought to be able to form any of the letters
given here without the slightest difficulty.

The alphabets of capital letters given in Fig. 14 will be useful as
initials, etc., in connection with the small letters. It is quite
obvious that these letters are not formed with simple pen-strokes in
the same manner as the small letters are. These are built up with a
series of strokes, the body of the letter being then filled in with
either pen or brush. This method of building the letters up with
pen-strokes will be described in detail in a later chapter.

[Illustration: FIG. 14.]

The first alphabet given here (_i_), is based on the capital letters
used in the famous Book of Kells. These will serve well as initials
when using the Irish half-uncial characters for writing with. A good
many of the letters are given in a variety of forms. Some of these are
shown here and are liable to be somewhat unreadable if used in the
present day. For example, the Irish O is shaped more like D, and may
as well be used instead of this letter, which is not very distinct in
character. The letter G would be hardly recognisable if used in the
Irish form, so a simplified letter has been suggested. Some slight
modifications have also been suggested in the letters N and P. By
raising the cross-bar in N it conforms more to the modern shape of
this letter. It is necessary to simplify the Irish P, as this letter
resembles the letter R more than anything else.

The next alphabet, shown in (_j_), is based on capitals used in the
tenth century, a somewhat stiff and severe type of letter.

The last one (_k_) shows the type of capital used in the eleventh

Some further alphabets will be given later on, when dealing with

The student should not content himself merely with forming the letters
given here, but should study the subject for himself. He should,
if possible, examine some of the illuminated MSS. exhibited in the
various museums in London and elsewhere. He is specially recommended
to study the MSS. produced between the tenth and thirteenth centuries.
If he cannot possibly study the actual MSS. he should experience no
difficulty in obtaining reproductions of them. The British Museum
publishes an excellent series of collotype plates of a good number of
their choicest illuminated MSS., as well as some splendidly reproduced
in gold and colours. It will be found that a fair amount of time given
to the study of these old MSS. will well repay in the end. The way the
letters are massed together should be carefully noted, as well as the
formation of the individual letters. He should note also the freedom
displayed, the letters not being cramped in any way.

When studying lettering from photographs, or photographic
reproductions, the proportional compass is extremely useful for
measuring the exact size of the letters. The exact size of the page
is nearly always given, and it is quite a simple matter to adjust the
compass so that, when the measurement is taken with the smaller end,
the exact size of the lettering can be marked off with the opposite
end. This instrument is most useful when used in this manner, as
it is difficult to gauge the exact size of the lettering from the
measurements of the page. It is also always advisable to know, if at
all possible, the exact size of the lettering in the original when
studying a reproduction of a MS.

When examining MSS. in glass cases, when it is not convenient to have
them taken out, a magnifying lens of about five or six inches focus
is very useful for analysing the construction of fine lettering. This
depth of focus enables the lens to be used through the glass without
the necessity of having the case opened.

The student should seize every opportunity that may arise to examine
some of the best work of the mediæval period.

For the present he should confine his attention to the lettering. The
decoration will be considered later on, but, as this springs from the
lettering, it is essential that sufficient attention should be given
to the foundation before attempting to build upon it. He should also,
when opportunity arise, examine some of the best modern work in this



The Roman alphabet is certainly one of the most beautiful of all
the alphabets that we possess. It is, however, strictly speaking,
not a pen-formed alphabet. The fine forms of the Roman capitals,
as exemplified in the well-known inscription on the Trajan Column,
were most certainly the result of the evolution of chisel forms. The
pen-formed letters that came after were evolved from these Roman

At first the type of letter used was practically the same as the chisel
form. Writing with this type of letter must have been extremely slow
work, compared with the simpler pen-forms that came into use later. It
is impossible to write, in the true sense of the word, when using Roman
letters. Although in the case of the early square-capital writing these
letters were constructed in a fairly simple fashion with a slanted-cut
pen, it is very difficult to write with any speed in this manner and at
the same time produce a well-finished letter. For general purposes it
is better to form the letters as shown in Fig. 15.

These are constructed in quite a different way from the types already
shown, the difference being that while they were formed with simple
pen-strokes as in ordinary handwriting, these are built up.

[Illustration: FIG. 15.]

For the purpose of illumination, Roman lettering is not by any means
ideal. It is much better to select a true pen-formed alphabet; but
for modern usage, such as the various branches of commercial work,
Roman lettering is used a great deal. It possesses one very great
advantage, that is, its legibility. As the man in the street has his
daily newspaper printed in a form of Roman lettering, he is therefore
more familiar with this type than any other. The greater bulk of
the commercial art of the present day aims to attract the attention
of this individual, so that it is necessary that it should be just
what he can understand. To letter a popular advertisement in a late
Gothic lettering would be foolish in the extreme, as he would, in all
probability, experience difficulty in deciphering it. The thing to aim
at, in this case, is to do it so that he cannot help seeing it. The
most important thing, in the eyes of the advertiser, is not so much the
design of the poster as the goods advertised, and the lettering calling
attention to these must be clear, distinct, and prominent. Lettering,
therefore, that is based on the Roman type is best for this kind of

Illumination, in general, appeals to a different type of individual.
Something is required that is away from the ordinary. Also as
illumination is so inseparably bound up with writing, it is almost
essential that a true pen-formed lettering should be used.

The Roman capitals, as shown in Fig. 15, are based, to a great extent,
on those used in the Trajan Column inscription. It will be found
that the more practice that one has in forming letters with simple
pen-strokes, as already shown, the easier it will be to form the
letters by building them up, as in this case.

For general purposes the easiest way to form Roman letters is with a
pen cut with a medium point and a fairly long slit. The outward strokes
should be made first, then the ones that come inside the letter.
The serifs are then added, the outline filled in, and the letter is
complete. The lower-case letters given are a type that may be used in
conjunction with the capitals. Apart from the utility of this alphabet,
the student will find that forming these letters in this way will be
extremely good practice. He should also practise forming them with
a brush. For this purpose he should use a small, but firm, sable
water-colour brush. Construct the letters in exactly the same manner
as when using the pen. After a good amount of practice in this way he
will be surprised at the dexterity he is acquiring with the use of the
brush. Then, using a larger brush, he should endeavour to form large
letters in this way. This will be extremely useful for writing large
notices and announcements.

For work where very accurate lettering is required, such as high-class
commercial art, title-pages, etc., the outlines of the letters should
be produced by means of tee-square, set-square, and compasses. The
serifs also should be carefully drawn. In this case it is not wise to
go straight ahead with the pen, without drawing first carefully in

The letters given in Fig. 16 are a type of Roman lettering made with
simple direct strokes of the pen. These will no doubt be useful, as
they may be very easily and quickly written. They should be very
helpful for writing quickly announcements, notices, etc.

A few notes may be useful to the student with regard to the
characteristics of the various Roman capitals.

[Illustration: FIG. 16.]

The letter A is sometimes pointed at the top, being generally formed in
this manner in inscriptions, but for pen- and brush-formed lettering
it is preferable to finish it in the way shown in Fig. 15. It should
be noticed that in the letter B the top part forms an angle with the
upright, while the bottom part curves into the stem. The same thing
applies to D, E, and L. The serifs on the lower limbs of E and L should
point outwards, while the serifs on the other limbs of E are quite
straight. This also applies to F. It is best to make the cross-bar in H
form angles with the uprights rather than curving into them. The form
of the letter J may be varied, the tail may be curved round, but it is
as well to avoid the ugly shape that is in general use. The tail may
project below the line considerably, if it is felt to be necessary, but
care should be taken not to exaggerate this too much. The same thing
applies to the tail of the next letter, K. In the letter M the two
outside strokes occasionally spread outwards, and in the form used in
inscriptions the top serifs are missing. These, however are generally
added to the pen- or brush-formed letter. The same thing applies to the
letter N. The letter O is not quite a circle; it is sometimes made in
the tilted form, _i.e._, as formed with the slanted-cut pen; when this
is the case all the corresponding curved letters should be treated in
the same way. The curve of P does not always touch the upright stem
below. The tail of the Q may be lengthened occasionally, as also is
the case in the letter R. The letter S often leans slightly forward,
but this tendency should not be accentuated too much. The top part of
this letter should be made slightly smaller than the lower part; this
applies also to all letters similarly divided in the middle. In the
letter T the top generally forms angles with the centre stem instead
of curving into it. For general writing the curved type of U should be
used in preference to the V which is used in Latin inscriptions. W is
formed by crossing two V’s.

The student is strongly advised to study some of the best historical
examples of Roman lettering. Some of these are detailed in the next



The examples given in this chapter do not pretend to be, in any way,
a complete series of alphabets of Roman lettering. To go into this
matter properly would require far more space than is available here.
If, however, sufficient interest is aroused to encourage the student to
study the subject for himself, it will be worth while dealing briefly
with the subject here.

One of the most important alphabets is that used in the inscription on
the base of the Trajan Column (circa 114 A.D.). To help the student to
form these letters in their proper proportions, each letter has been
enclosed in a square (See Figs. 17-22). This should be a great help in
determining the correct form of the different letters. For example,
take the letter O; this is not quite a circle, as is shown plainly by
placing the letter in a square. In the case of the W, as this is larger
than the other letters, this has been placed in two squares.

As the alphabet from this inscription is incomplete, suitable forms
have been suggested for H, K, Y, and Z. Also additional letters have
been given for J, U, and W, which are necessary in modern usage.

[Illustration: THE TRAJAN COLUMN.]

This alphabet is extremely beautiful, and for important inscriptions
it is hardly possible to find a better model. The student is advised to
make a careful study of this alphabet.

[Illustration: FIG. 17.]

When using this alphabet for writing an inscription it is not a bad
plan to make a small cardboard gauge giving the width of the different
letters in proportion to the height decided upon. A small gauge like
this is very easily constructed and should be a great help in quickly
spacing the letters. For example, it may be noted that the letters C,
D, G, H, K, M, N, O, Q, U and Z nearly fill the square, while A, R,
T, V come next in size. B, X, and Y are slightly narrower, while the
letter P is a shade less than these. L and S are still slightly less in
width, and E and F are the most narrow of all the letters, excepting,
of course, I and J. If these various widths are marked on the edge of a
small strip of card it ought to be quite an easy matter to space these
letters quickly.

[Illustration: FIG. 18.]

The first alphabet shown in Fig. 20 (_a_) is a free rendering from a
thirteenth-century inscription in the Church of St. Ursula, Cologne. As
the alphabet was incomplete it has been completed, so that it may be
used without any difficulty arising through any of the letters being

[Illustration: FIG. 19.]

The next one is from an inscription of the early part of the fourteenth
century (_b_).

A late fifteenth-century alphabet is given in (_c_), which is taken
from an inscription in niello on a silver plaque fitted to a reliquary.
This is Italian and is dated 1496.

[Illustration: FIG. 20.]

The alphabets of capitals and minuscules shown in Fig. 21 are of
special interest to the illuminator. These are based on the writing
used in a late fifteenth-century illuminated MS. now in the British
Museum, St. Augustine’s “City of God” (Add. MS. 15246). These letters
are formed with quite simple strokes of the pen. In this MS. the
_f_-shaped minuscule _s_ is used. In the alphabet given here this has
been substituted by one more in keeping with the modern type of letter,
and several letters have been added to make the alphabet complete.
The student is strongly advised to study the lettering in this MS. for
himself. It makes a very effective script if written fairly small with
a crisply-cut pen.

[Illustration: FIG. 21.]

Some further alphabets are shown in Fig. 22. The lettering from which
the alphabet is taken that is shown in (_a_) is from a title-page from
“Utopia et Mori et Erasmi Epigrammata,” dated 1518. It has woodcut
borders and title-pages by Holbein. This style of letter is used
throughout the book for headings, etc. It is undoubtedly a very fine
type of letter and is worthy of careful study. As has been the case in
the other alphabets, this alphabet has been completed by adding letters
of approximate form to supply the missing ones.

[Illustration: FIG. 22.]

The next alphabet, given in (_b_), is taken from an inscription in
marble on the monument of the Marchese Spinetta Malaspina (d. 1352),
relating to its re-erection in the Church of San Giovanni in Sacco at
Verona in 1536.

The last one shown here, in (_c_), is from an inscription on the marble
monument of Filippo Decio (d. 1535), in the Campo Santo, Pisa, by
Stagio Stagi (d. 1563).

Of course, numerous other examples might be given, but sufficient have
been shown to enable the student to study the subject further if he so
desires. There are numbers of reproductions from old inscriptions and
MSS. easily obtainable.

In studying these alphabets the student will find that it is not a
bad plan, after forming the letters with a pen as described in the
preceding chapter, to use a brush as also suggested there. He should
then endeavour to form them fairly large, working straight away with
the brush. A good brush for this purpose is a sable “writer,” such as
is commonly used by sign-writers. Dexterity with this type of brush is
to a great extent merely a matter of practice. In fact, as has been
insisted on repeatedly throughout this book, practice, and plenty
of it, will do more than anything else towards making the student

When studying this subject further the student should note especially
the manner in which the letters are arranged in the various
inscriptions, as a great deal depends upon the arrangement of the
letters and words.



(1) _From the Fourth to the Eleventh Century_

Perhaps it would be as well, before dealing with the practical side
of illumination, to give a brief sketch of the history of this art in
Europe. It will not be possible to do more than give just a very short
outline of the history here. The modern illuminator should, however,
know something of the history of illumination. It is not intended to
deal with any but vellum MSS. Possibly it may be claimed that some of
the Egyptian Papyrii are illuminated MSS., but these have little in
common with the illuminated work of the Middle Ages, and it is with
this that this short review is chiefly concerned.


  _By kind permission of
  the British Museum._


It is known from the Epigrams of Martial, who himself lived in the
first century, that vellum MSS. were illuminated as early as A.D. 100.
Although this was undoubtedly the case, very few MSS. have survived. It
is very difficult to state exactly the date of the earliest of these,
but most authorities are of the opinion that the third or fourth
century is the earliest date that any of them can be assigned to. Some
think that the MS. of Virgil in the Vatican (No. 3225) is the oldest
illuminated MS. This MS. is written on seventy-six leaves of vellum.
It has fifty miniatures, but of this number five are scarcely visible
at the present time. These miniatures are framed with gilt or coloured
bands, but the MS. displays nothing in the way of ornament which is
generally associated with illuminated work.

Another early MS. is the Ambrosian Iliad, at Milan, which some think
to be of the third century and others of the fourth or fifth. This is
noted for its fine handwriting and also its illustrations.

These early MSS. are really illustrated rather than illuminated, as the
term is generally understood.

Following on after this comes the Byzantine School of illumination. The
most important of the early MSS. are the Dioscorides and the Genesis
of the Vienna Library. These two MSS. are both thought to be of the
sixth century. The first of these, called after its principal author
the “Dioscorides,” is a collection of treatises on botany, hunting,
etc., by several Greek physicians. This was written for the Princess
Juliana Anicia, daughter of Flavius Anicius Olybrius, who was Emperor
of the West in 472. It is written in uncial characters and contains,
amongst other things, a portrait of Juliana. It contains also a number
of coloured drawings of plants, birds, insects, etc., illustrating the

In the Vienna Genesis the text is written in gold and silver on purple
vellum. It has forty-eight miniatures which are placed in square
frames, and there is no marginal decoration. Gold is occasionally used,
but it is not burnished.

There is also a fragment of a Genesis Codex in the British Museum
(Cott. Otho. B. VI.), which is supposed to be of the same period.

The Joshua Rotulus in the Vatican Library (Codex Vat. Palat. Gr. 431)
is a very important MS. It is thought by some to be a copy of an
original MS. possibly as old as the fifth century. Opinions, however,
differ, other authorities ascribing it to the fifth or sixth century.

Another well-known MS. is the famous Gospel Book in the Laurentian
Library of Florence, known as the Rabula MS. This MS. is dated 586.

The first phase of the Byzantine School is Hellenesque, and, no doubt,
it was part of the Alexandrian School, which was at its height in
the sixth century. The later style, which reached its maturity about
the end of the ninth century and began to decline after the twelfth
century, represents what is generally understood as Byzantine. A Simeon
Metaphrastes of the eleventh-twelfth century (Add. MS. 1180) and a
twelfth-century Gospels (Harley MS. 1810), both in the British Museum,
represent the peculiarly dignified ecclesiastical style of this school.

The Byzantine School influenced the development of illumination very
strongly. Especially is this noticeable in Italy.


In the development of illumination the Celtic School played a most
important part. There is a very strong contrast between this and the
Byzantine School. The Byzantine MSS. were illustrated by more or less
naturalistic representations, while in the Celtic MSS. everything
seems to be treated as pure ornament. Even when the human figure is
introduced it seems to be treated in this way. Gold is also absent in
purely Irish MSS. The artists do not appear to represent the figure
with any degree of realism.

The chief characteristics of Celtic work are intricate spirals and
interlaced pattern, also patterns composed of dots, and curious
elongated creatures entwined together in a most complicated fashion.

Possibly the earliest date mentioned in connection with Celtic
illumination is that given by Giraldus Cambrensis, who went to Ireland
at the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion. He was chaplain to John,
the son of Henry II. He wrote concerning a famous MS. called the
Book of Kildare, a book which at present is not known to be extant.
He describes it as having been written at the “dictation of an angel
in St. Bridget’s own time.” St. Bridget, of Kildare, lived in the
latter part of the fifth and the early sixth centuries, so that, if
this account may be relied upon, it must have been written at least
a century before the celebrated Book of Kells. From the details that
Giraldus Cambrensis gives of the Book of Kildare, he might easily be
describing the Book of Kells. It was evidently very similar.

The Book of Kells is now in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin.
Some authorities think this to be as old as the seventh century, while
others assign it to the eighth or ninth century. This is an extremely
beautiful MS.; it has been described so many times that there is no
need to give a detailed description here.

Another well-known MS. is the Book of Durrow, also in Trinity College,
Dublin. Some have thought that this was written by the famous Columba
of Iona, as the name “Columba” is mentioned in the colophon at the end
of the MS., but whether this Columba was St. Columba of Iona is, of
course, debatable. Certainly a number of authorities are agreed that
its claims to be an actual relic of St. Columba are by no means to be
altogether rejected. The Book of Durrow, although very fine, is not
such a good example as the Book of Kells.

It would be interesting to know if St. Columba had much to do with
the cultivation of this art. The early biographies certainly speak of
him as an enthusiastic calligrapher, and in an ancient “Life of St.
Columba” he is spoken of as having written “three hundred splendid,
lasting books.”

It was through the efforts of the Scoto-Irish missionaries from
Iona that the art of illuminating was introduced into the north of
England. They founded a monastery at Lindisfarne early in the seventh
century. The famous Durham Book, or Lindisfarne Gospels, now in the
British Museum, was written here about the year 700 (Nero D. IV.). The
decoration and writing in this splendid MS. are essentially Celtic.
It, however, differs from the Book of Kells by the slight use of
gold in the decoration, also in the four full-page portraits of the
Evangelists, which show a strong Italo-Byzantine influence. This MS. is
undoubtedly one of the choicest treasures amongst the illuminated MSS.
in the British Museum.


At the end of the eighth century the great revival of the arts which
followed the accession of Charlemagne acted as a great impetus to the
art of illumination. This art was developed from the crude Merovingian
style, and many elaborate volumes were produced. Some of the most
sumptuous are the Alcuin Bibles, and the Gospel Books, which were
written in gold. One of these Alcuin Bibles is exhibited in the British
Museum (Add. MSS. 10546), also one of the Gospel Books (Harley MS.
2788). The miniatures and decoration in these MSS. seem to show the
influence of the Roman, Byzantine, and Celtic Schools. The best period
of Carlovingian illumination seems to be the eighth century.


One cannot write even the briefest of sketches concerning the history
of illumination without referring to the work produced by the two
Winchester Scriptoria, generally referred to under the appellation of
“Opus Anglicum.”

The Anglo-Celtic tradition seems to have been completely lost, probably
due to the Danish raids in the ninth century.

It is said that in the time of Alfred the Great, there was a
scriptorium already in existence at Winchester, founded by St. Swithin,
who was made Bishop of Winchester in 852. Alfred, when a boy of
five, went with his father to Rome, and there is, at the very least,
presumptive evidence that, when returning, he saw the library of
Charlemagne at Aix-la-Chapelle.

When he came to the throne in 871 he founded another monastery near the
old one, attaching a scriptorium. These two scriptoria were, at a later
date, to become the nursery of English illumination.

Although Alfred seems to have done so much to foster this art, there
are, unfortunately, no specimens which have survived that can be
assigned to any earlier date than that of his grandson Athelstan

A small MS. known as Athelstan’s Psalter was principally written on the
Continent in the ninth century, but many additions were made to it in
England towards the middle of the tenth century. This MS. shows that
some efforts had been made to replace the lost art of the Anglo-Celtic
School, which had flourished more than 200 years before by a new style
based on Continental models; and, although these miniatures may appear
somewhat crude, they probably represent the best work of the English
artists at this early period.

The first known example of actual Winchester work is the “Golden
Charter” of King Edgar, in 966, now in the British Museum (Cott. MS.
Vesp. A. VIII.). This represents an enormous advance on the crude
paintings in Athelstan’s Psalter; a miniature on a purple ground
shows King Edgar, standing between the Virgin and St. Peter, offering
the Charter to the Saviour. This page is well designed and a fine
decorative border surrounds the miniature.

The most famous example, however, is the well-known Benedictional of
Æthelwold, in the Library of the Duke of Devonshire. If the student
wishes for a full and illustrated description of this fine MS. he is
referred to the twenty-fourth volume of the Archæologia.

This MS. was written by Godeman, a monk of the old Minster, at
Winchester; it contains twenty large miniatures, each facing a
benediction for the most important days, with seven others of groups of
Confessors, Virgins, and Apostles at the beginning, and at the end the
bishop is represented giving a benediction in his cathedral. All these
miniatures, excepting the last, are surrounded with arches or frames of
gold and colours, and a similar border surrounds the opening words of
the benediction.

The Harleian Psalter (Harl. MS. 2904), in the British Museum, is
another MS. of this school. It would take far too much space to
go into details concerning this, but special mention should be
made of the drawing of the Crucifixion. This is in outline and is
slightly tinted and shaded. It is very interesting as showing the
stage that figure-drawing had reached at this early period. One very
characteristic feature of Winchester work is the curious “fluttering”
drapery which is noticeable in practically all the work of this school.




(2) _From the Twelfth Century to its Decline_


A great change is noticeable in the illuminated work of the twelfth
century, one of the most important being the development of initial
decoration and the use of raised and burnished gold, and especially the
miniatures, which were often introduced within the initial letters. The
art of illumination gained considerably during this century, of which
the second half is notable for the number of richly-illuminated Bibles
of large size that were produced.

In England during this century there is a great difference between the
work produced and that of the preceding century. Probably a number of
things may be instanced as having caused this. There is hardly a doubt
but that the Norman Conquest may have had a great deal to do with
the introduction of Continental ideas. It is also possible that the
Crusades may have been responsible for a better knowledge concerning
the Byzantine and Eastern Schools.

The framing borders to the miniatures, etc., are somewhat different to
the loose entwined borders of the Winchester School, being generally
simple rectangular bands, either displaying a simple pattern or else
practically plain and severe. It is in initial-ornament that the
greatest development is noticeable.

In the latter part of the century some very beautiful initials filled
with conventional foliage with human, animal, and grotesque forms
entwined were produced. Both in miniature painting and also in outline
drawing a very definite style was formed.

The Psalter of Westminster Abbey (Royal MS. 2 A. XXII.) is a good
example of the miniature painting of this period, while the famous
Guthlac Roll (Harley Roll Y. 6) affords a good example of the outline
drawing of this period.


In the thirteenth century the style of decoration was more refined.
Some of the most beautiful work in the whole history of illumination
was produced in this century. Numerous examples abound, and these
deserve very careful study. The ornamental border, which had
practically disappeared in the twelfth century, gradually re-developed
during this century; first in the form of a growth from the initial
letter, it developed into a foliated border upon which small animals,
birds, and quaint little figures were placed.

Some of the French MSS. of this period are particularly beautiful.
Bibles are numerous, being often quite small in size. Some of these
MSS. appear to be as perfect as if they had just been completed, the
gold being still brilliant and the colours still retaining their
freshness. All the MSS. of this period seem to follow a general scheme
of decoration. For example, the opening page of Genesis is one of the
most elaborate, being taken up with a series of miniatures representing
the days of Creation; the Jesse tree was also represented at the
opening of the Gospels.

In the latter half of this century diaper backgrounds were used a great
deal in the miniatures, and in some cases burnished gold was used with
patterns indented upon it.

A typical example of a thirteenth-century Bible is shown in the Bible
of Robert de Bello, who was Abbot of St. Augustine’s, Canterbury,
1224-1253. This MS. is in the British Museum (Burney MS. 3). It is
written in a minute hand and illuminated with figure initials and
partial borders. The initial I of Genesis is quite characteristic of
thirteenth-century work.

Another MS. in the British Museum, a Bible History, moralized, in Latin
(Add. MS. 18719), is a good example of the outline drawing at the end
of this century. This is a MS. of the French School.

Another fine French MS., of about 1300, also in the British Museum,
is that of the Somme le Roi (Add. MS. 28162), which, with its bright
colours and burnished gold, is a good example of the best French work
of this period.

There are, of course, many other MSS. that might be detailed, these
instanced here being merely typical of the general style of work
produced in this century.


The illumination of the fourteenth century was a development of the
work of the preceding century. Nature was copied more, and natural
foliage treated in a conventional manner was largely used. The oak, the
hawthorn, the ivy, and various other natural growths were frequently
employed. Especially was this the case with the ivy, which in the
French MSS. was used a great deal. The use of very large initials was
not so usual, but while the initials decreased in size the technique
improved. This tendency towards naturalism developed more and more
as the century advanced. These natural forms, however, were still
considered as decoration and were not mere naturalistic renderings.

Miniature painting was also developed in this century; indeed, the art
of illumination is generally considered to have reached its highest
point of development in this century. Certainly some of the most
beautiful and richly-decorated MSS. are of this period.

There is a fine example of English work of the early fourteenth century
in the British Museum in the MS. known as Queen Mary’s Psalter (Royal
MS. 2 B. VII.). This MS. is very interesting, as it not only has the
usual richly-illuminated pages, but also a large number of lightly
tinted outline drawings.

A beautiful example of French miniature work of the early part of this
century is shown in an Apocalypse, also in the British Museum (Royal
MS. 19 B. XV.). The miniatures in this MS. are drawn in outline and
slightly tinted, on grounds of dark blue and red.

Another fine French MS. in the British Museum is an Epistle in French
by Philippe de Maizières, Celestin of Paris, to Richard II. of England,
advocating peace and friendship between him and Charles VI. of France,
1395-1396. This affords a good example both of miniature work and
ivy-leaf decoration.

Some initials that have been cut from a large Missal (Add. MSS. 29704,
29705) show the development of rich decoration in England towards the
end of the fourteenth century.


In the early part of the fifteenth century the work of the French
School was undoubtedly superior to that of the English. The ivy-leaf
decoration of the fourteenth century was developed into an elaborate
decorative scheme. The gold and diaper backgrounds began to be
dispensed with and natural scenery was substituted. In fact miniature
painting became more and more naturalistic in treatment, and the same
tendency is noticeable in the decoration, which, although often most
elaborate and highly finished, is not to be compared with the earlier

In this century, Flemish illumination, which during the thirteenth
and fourteenth centuries was very similar in style to the French and
English MSS., developed into a most distinctive style specially notable
for its fine, delicate drawing. An illuminated MS. in the British
Museum, “Mandeville’s Travels” (Add. MS. 24189), is an example of this
style. It contains twenty-seven miniatures, without text, illustrating
Sir John Mandeville’s travels. These are drawn with a pen on vellum
that has been tinted a soft pale green. They have been shaded in black
and white with a brush, and colour is used for flesh tints, foliage,
etc., and gold is also used for crowns, nimbi, etc.

In Flemish illumination of the latter part of the fifteenth century
miniature painting became highly developed, becoming more realistic.
The decoration became debased, becoming eventually merely a frame of
gold or colour upon which were painted realistic representations of
flowers, fruit, insects, etc. These were often beautifully painted, and
the miniatures also show great skill from a technical standpoint, but
lacking generally the fine feeling that characterises the work of the
earlier periods.

This later style is represented by a number of MSS. in the British
Museum. One only is mentioned here, although this is but one of many.
The “Hours of the Virgin” (Egerton MS. 1147).

The Breviary of John, Duke of Burgundy (Harley MS. 2897), and the “Book
of Hours” of John, Duke of Bedford (Add. MS. 18850), are two famous
MSS. of the French School at this period, now in the British Museum.

“The Missal of William Melrith, Alderman of London” (Arundel MS. 109),
is an example of English illumination of the first half of this century.

In Italy, as was the case in regard to writing, the illuminators in
the early part of this century seem to have gone back to the period
of the eleventh and twelfth centuries for models. A familiar type of
decoration is formed of twining vine-tendrils, generally in white
on coloured grounds. Another type that was in use a great deal was
a delicate style of decoration composed of a conventional treatment
of flowers, foliage, etc., studded with a large number of raised
gold spots brilliantly burnished, outlined and rayed. In course
of time these styles became much more elaborated with medallions,
vases, candelabra, portrait busts, realistic renderings of gems, and
Renaissance figures.

Some examples of late Italian work in the British Museum are as
follows:--St. Augustine’s “Commentary on the Psalms” (Add. MS. 14799);
“Luiz, de Bello Macedonico,” etc. (Harley MS. 3694); “Book of Hours,”
of Bona Sforza, Duchess of Milan (Add. MS. 34294).

When the art of printing from type was first practised, this did not
at once stop the production of illuminated MSS. The large number of
MSS. that were produced after this date shows quite plainly that,
except in the commoner class of books, the MS. book still occupied the
most prominent place. Professional illuminators were still employed by
people in high positions, and some very costly and elaborate volumes
were produced. Many of the early printed volumes were printed with
spaces left for initials, miniatures, etc., to be filled in by the
illuminator. However, in course of time this art gradually fell into

This brief summary of the history of this art is necessarily
incomplete; it has not been possible to deal thoroughly with this
subject here. It is hoped, however, that the student will continue the
study of the historical side of illumination, and that this little
sketch will serve as an introduction to further study.

[Illustration: Early 14th Century.


[Illustration: Late 13th Century.




If the illuminated MSS. of the Middle Ages are carefully studied, the
importance of the initial letter as a starting-point for the growth of
the decoration cannot possibly escape one’s notice. The rough sketches
shown in Figs. 23 and 24 trace the development in this direction
through the various centuries. These are given simply to indicate the
way in which the initial letter was used in the different periods. The
student is strongly advised to study the subject for himself. If he
cannot examine the details from the actual MSS., there are plenty of
excellent reproductions published which will enable him to study them
at his leisure. It is, however, practically essential that, even if he
cannot spend much time over them, he should make a point of at least
seeing some of the actual work of the mediæval artists.

In the famous Book of Kells the initial letter is used to great
advantage. It will well repay the student to study carefully some good
reproductions of the pages of this wonderful MS. It shows what can be
done with fine decoration based on lettering. Quite a number of pages
are taken up with the words _Liber generationis Christi_, while one
page is entirely devoted to the sacred monogram X P I.

[Illustration: FIG. 23.]

In Fig. 23 an example is shown in (_a_) from the famous Lindisfarne
Gospels, now in the British Museum (Cotton MS., Nero D. IV.). This
beautiful MS. is written in fine, half-uncial characters, the
decoration being of the kind known as Hiberno-Saxon, or Anglo-Celtic.
A note at the end of this MS. states that it was written by Eadfrith,
Bishop of the Church of Lindisfarne. It was finished about the year
700. It has a most interesting history, which is much too detailed
to describe here. It should, however, be carefully studied from the
standpoint now being considered, viz., the initial letter. The page
represented by this rough sketch is the opening page of the Gospel of
St. Matthew. Of course this very rough suggestion can convey no idea of
the beauty of the original, but it gives one some notion of the way in
which the monogram X P I has been used as a basis for the decoration.

Perhaps it would be as well for the student to study, for the present,
some of the MSS. of the best periods from this standpoint alone. He
should note exactly how the letters are placed and the manner in which
they are used. For the time being he should not concern himself so much
with the details of the decoration. This may follow later, after he has
become more familiar with the subject.

The page shown in (_b_) is from a Psalter probably written at
Winchester in the latter part of the tenth century (Harley MS. 2904).
It is the commencement of Psalm ci. This is also in the British Museum,
as also are all the examples illustrated here. It is quite different
to that of the Lindisfarne Gospels, although possibly some Celtic
influence may be noted.

The next one (_c_) is also from a Psalter (Arundel MS. 60). This is a
further development of the same school as the last, and was probably
written at New Minster, Winchester, about 1060. It is interesting to
observe how the D is linked up with the border.

The initial B, illustrated by (_d_), is from a twelfth-century Psalter
of Westminster Abbey (Royal MS. 2 A. XXII.). Very large initials were
very common during this period. This letter is filled with foliage,
animals, etc., and also shows scenes from the life of David. The
initial B at the commencement of the Psalms was a favourite subject
with the illuminator at this time. He generally introduced the subject
of David slaying Goliath also.

A common feature of the thirteenth-century illumination was the use
of large decorated examples of the initial I, of which an instance is
given in (_e_). These were filled with miniatures and foliage and were
extremely decorative in character. This one is from a French Gospel
Lectionary (Add. MS. 17341), and is filled with scenes from the Life of

A charming example is shown in (_f_), which is from a Book of Hours
(Stowe MS. 17). The initial D contains a miniature, as also does the A.
This is probably either late thirteenth or early fourteenth century.
David and Goliath are also represented. The whole MS. is delightful in

Fig. 24 shows some more examples. Another page from a Book of Hours is
given in (_g_) (Egerton MS. 2781). This is a fourteenth-century MS. The
initials and borders are rather rough in technique, but they are very
interesting from the point of view of design. The large initial D has a
miniature representing a legendary story of the childhood of Christ.

The initial A shown in (_h_) is from a fourteenth century Missal
(Harley MS. 2891). The letter is filled with a most delightful

The next example (_i_) is a very beautiful initial taken from a Bible
executed in England during the latter part of the fourteenth century
(Royal MS. 1 E. IX.). A number of the initials are filled with foliage,
as in this case, and others contain miniatures. The backgrounds of
these letters are usually of burnished gold with patterns indented upon

A simple, but very beautiful, type is given in (_j_). This is taken
from an extremely fine MS. written, also, at the end of the fourteenth
century (Royal MS. 20 B. VI.). It is a very interesting MS., being an
Epistle by Philippe de Maizières to Richard II. of England, advocating
peace and friendship between him and Charles VI. of France. This type
of initial was fairly common at this period. It is a type of letter
that should be very useful for the beginner.

[Illustration: FIG. 24.]

In the fifteenth century the initial letter lost a good deal of its
importance. The result of this was that the decoration became debased
in character, until it finally became nothing more or less than a
number of naturalistic renderings of flowers and insects, painted
on a gold border and represented as throwing shadows upon it. There
is, however, a certain amount of sweetness about some of this work,
especially when it is compared with some of the work of the present
day. However, some of the MSS. that were produced in the earlier part
of this century are very fine pieces of work. The example illustrated
by (_k_) is from a Psalter of Henry VI., about 1425-1430 (Cotton MS.
Domitian A. XVII.). The large initial D is joined to a miniature.

Several initials are given in (_l_). These are all of the thirteenth
century. The E is of raised and burnished gold on a blue block, the
centre being red and the whole finished with white lining. The N,
P, and U are of a type largely used, being generally red with blue
pen-work, or _vice versâ_. The others are similar to the E, but are
shown as an example of how they were joined when coming close together.

Excellent reproductions of these examples have been published by the
British Museum authorities in a series of collotype plates, the only
exception being (_e_) in Fig. 23, of which an illustration is published
in the Guide to the MSS., Part III.

The main object of this chapter is to direct the student to the study
of the MSS. for himself and especially to show what an important place
the initial letter had in the MSS. of the mediæval period. He is
strongly advised to make a point of studying some of the actual MSS.
for himself.

[Illustration: A Simple Page in Black & Red.]



A good deal of very effective work can be done by using black and red
only. The student should be able to do good work in this way before
attempting to use gold and colours.

A method for setting out the page, before commencing to write, is shown
plainly in Fig. 25. For this purpose a tee-square and set-square are
required, together with a pair of spring dividers and a sharply-pointed
HB. pencil. The approximate size of the page and the distance between
the lines of lettering must be decided. Then the margins at the top and
the two sides must be marked out, and the upright lines drawn in by
means of the set-square. The distance between the lines of lettering
is then pricked off down one side with the spring dividers. The lines
can then be ruled across against the tee-square. A word of caution is
perhaps needed here: the pencil should be held as shown in the diagram,
and kept at the same angle during the ruling of the line. If this rule
is not carefully observed, it is possible to start with the point of
the pencil close up against the edge of the tee-square, or set-square,
and finish the line with it about one-sixteenth of an inch away from
it. If this habit is developed, the lines of lettering will hardly ever
be quite straight and even. Another important detail is to see that
the tee-square rests tightly against the edge of the board, and the
set-square against the tee-square.

[Illustration: FIG. 25.]

It will be found that an HB. pencil is the most satisfactory grade for
ruling the lines with, as if used lightly the lines can be cleaned off
quite easily afterwards with a piece of soft rubber. Some illuminators
recommend an H. or HH. pencil for this, but, although these keep a
sharp point longer, the lines produced are not so easily erased.

After ruling the page the next thing to be settled is the size of the
initial letter. It should be lightly sketched in with the pencil. It is
best to use the writing lines to govern the size of this. For example,
the size of this letter might be four or five lines down.

It is very effective to have the first few words in capitals. Several
different arrangements are shown in Fig. 25. The position of these
may be roughly planned out in pencil. They may then be written in red
straight away, or may be left until after the black lettering is done.
It is best not to finish the initial until after the lettering is done.

When the position of the initial and the opening words is determined,
the black lettering should be proceeded with. The student should
endeavour to ensure perfect freedom in working, also to aim at
preventing the writing from looking as if a great deal of trouble had
been taken to make it fit and space well. For anyone to derive any joy
out of it, there must be a feeling of spontaneity and freedom about it.
He should allow his imagination to work when writing. If he studies
the words that he is writing he is bound to have suggestions come
to his mind. For example, perhaps one verse seems to stand out very
prominently, and it is felt that it would be better if written entirely
in red. Or, again, another verse seems to start a new line of thought,
and a fresh initial is suggested.

After the writing is completed, attention should be paid to the initial
and the decoration. A good method for the beginner is to fix a sheet of
tracing-paper over the page; as the lettering shows plainly through,
there is plenty of opportunity for experimenting with decoration.

Some good types of letters suitable for initials are shown in Fig.
26. The first alphabet is based largely on a type of letter used in
the eleventh century, while the second one is a free rendering of
thirteenth-century letters. These letters are all built up. They may be
made with either pen or brush.

[Illustration: FIG. 26.]

Building up these letters with strokes made with the pen or brush is
excellent practice for the student. For constructing the letters in
the first alphabet the pen will probably be found to be the best tool.
These letters are constructed in a similar manner to that described in
an earlier chapter on forming Roman capitals. Some suggestive details
are shown in Fig. 27.

The letters in the second alphabet may be formed much more easily with
a brush than with a pen. It will be seen in Fig. 27 how naturally the
letter is filled in with the brush, the end of the stroke terminating
in a small knob. For filling in the letters in this way a brush should
be used quite full of colour, and it should also have; a good point.

[Illustration: FIG. 27.]

After having a fair amount of practice in forming letters in this way
the student will soon be able to produce them quickly and easily.

The terminals of these letters may be drawn out if necessary, or they
may be joined up with the border. The student should take note, from
the examples given in the previous chapter, of the manner in which the
initial was used in the past as a starting-point for the decoration.

Vermilion is a good red for this purpose. There are several varieties
sold, known by various names, such as scarlet vermilion, orange
vermilion, vermilion, and Chinese vermilion. The kind known simply as
vermilion seems to answer best of all. Scarlet and orange vermilion
are liable to look somewhat weak. This also applies to the Chinese
vermilion we are able to get in this country. Some illuminators prefer
to add a little crimson to the vermilion.

It is important that the red should be painted in solid, and not be
thin and washy in character. This also applies to the black, which
should be a decided black, not inclining to brown or grey. The red
should be kept quite bright and clean, care being taken not to get
it mixed up with dirty colour in any way. A great deal of the effect
depends on the strong black and brilliant red.

In Fig. 28 an initial with a simple border is shown in (_a_). The
initial letter and the decoration may be done in red, and also the
opening words.

Very decorative arrangements are possible with simple lettering and a
fine initial, as in (_b_). When an initial letter is used in this way,
without any border, it is best to fit it in with the lettering so that
the line of the letter does not project beyond the line of the black
lettering. When, however, a simple border is added down the side, it
may project, as shown in (_c_).

An interesting arrangement is shown in (_d_), where two columns are
used. By the judicious use of red, a fine decorated page is possible if
carried out in this style.

[Illustration: FIG. 28.]

The initial O shown here is an example of what can be done with simple
pattern work in the way of diapers. In the illuminated manuscripts
from the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries a great number of these
were used. This simple pattern work is very pleasant, and the student
is recommended to study these for himself. He should also study the
fine initials with pen-work in red and blue. He can then vary his
work by adding blue in addition to red, using a red initial with blue
decoration, or _vice versâ_.

The various forms of simple pattern work, made with simple
pen-strokes, and shown here, should also claim his attention. He should
endeavour to make borders for himself in this simple way. They may
serve as tail-pieces and line finishings, and the construction of these
is all good practice in design.

It is excellent practice for the student to write out a number of
quotations in this way, in black and red, with nicely-drawn initials
and borders of simple pattern work. He should endeavour to guard
against making them too florid in treatment, and, above all, should
be careful not to employ a lot of meaningless flourishes. The work of
the mediæval period affords the best examples for study that he could
possibly have.



One can hardly study the illuminated work of the Middle Ages without
being interested in the methods employed by the artists of this period.
The MSS. still in existence, with colours still fresh and bright, make
one curious to know what colours were used to produce this result.

Our knowledge of the colours used in classical times is derived
chiefly from Pliny’s “Natural History” and the writings of Vitruvius.
Theophrastus, in his work on stones, also adds some description of

It appears from these writers that the earth colours, such as the
ochres and siennas, were well known, as also was the green earth terra
verte. Blues and greens were obtained from the ores of copper, one of
the most notable being azurite, a blue carbonate of copper. Verdigris
was prepared by the action of vinegar on copper. Cinnabar, a native
variety of red sulphide of mercury similar to our vermilion, which is
the same thing artificially prepared, and orpiment, the native sulphide
of arsenic, were also colours used at this period.

A number of white earths were also employed, chalk being the most
important. White lead was used, being prepared in practically the same
way as the best is to-day. Lakes were made by dyeing chalk or gypsum.
Several vegetal dyes were used for this purpose, such as madder, weld,
and woad. In addition to these dyes, lakes were prepared from kermes
and the celebrated murex. Kermes is a red dye caused by a small insect
similar to that of the cochineal insect; it was used for dyeing and for
making pigments, both in classical and mediæval times. The murex was a
species of shellfish from which was extracted the famous purple dye.
This was the dye used for the purple vellum that was used so much in
the early period.

The blacks used were carbon-blacks, such as lamp-black, bone-black, or
the black prepared from grape husks and vine leaves.

Indigo was undoubtedly in use, and it is highly probable that the red
resin known as dragon’s blood was also in use. Pliny, in his “Natural
History,” describes the fighting between the elephant and the dragon,
and he states that the name cinnabar should be given to the thick
matter which issues from the dragon when crushed beneath the weight
of the dying elephant, mixed with their blood. It is thought that he
may be referring to this pigment, for, in another chapter, he refers
to India sending the corrupt blood of her dragons and elephants. There
is one colour, which was one of the principal pigments of the Middle
Ages, of which no mention is made in the classical period, and that is

It is difficult to be certain as to how the different colours were
mixed, but the ink used was prepared from lamp-black mixed with gum
and water, and it is probable that the colours were mixed with either
gum, glue, or egg.

The Lucca MS. of the eighth century, in the cathedral library at Lucca,
contains, amongst other things, a short list of pigments. There is very
little difference between the information given here and that given
by Pliny. This MS., however, gives the first distinct directions for
making artificial vermilion. It is also interesting as giving definite
information as to how colours were mixed for working on parchment or
vellum, as the following quotation plainly shows: “On wood the colours
being mixed with wax, on _skins_ fish-glue being mixed.”

In the twelfth-century MS., the Mappæ Clavicula, the greater part of
the Lucca MS. is repeated.

The Schedula Diversarum Artium of Theophilus is also of about the same
date, and is a very important MS. It is divided into three books, the
first dealing with painting, the second with the manufacture of glass,
and the third with metal-work. It is evident that Theophilus, who was
a monk in some German monastery, was a worker in metal. However, he
collected quite a lot of information on various forms of art work. It
is, of course, in the book on painting that the information with regard
to colours is found.

In Chapter XXVII. he gives instructions for preparing the gum for
mixing with colours. This is described as follows: “Take gum which
exudes from the cherry or plum tree, and, cutting it up very small,
place it in an earthenware pot, and pour water upon it abundantly and
place it in the sun, or in winter upon the coals, until the gum has
liquefied; and mix it together with a smooth piece of wood. Then strain
it through a cloth, and grind the colours with it and lay them on.”

In Chapter XXXIV., which is entitled “How Colours are Tempered for
Books,” he says: “Make a mixture of the clearest gum and water as
above, and temper all colours except green and ceruse and minium and
carmine. Salt green is worth nothing for books. You will temper Spanish
green with pure wine, and if you wish to make shadows, add a little
sap of iris or cabbage or leek. You will temper minium and ceruse and
carmine with clear of egg. Compose all preparations of colours for a
book as above, if you want them for painting figures. All colours are
laid on twice in books, at first very thinly, then more thickly; but
once for letters.”

Salt green, that is mentioned here, was a mixture of verdigris and
subchloride of copper. Spanish green was verdigris, and minium was
red lead, while ceruse was white lead. Verdigris is, of course, a
notoriously fugitive colour, but while in ordinary water-colour
painting it would probably not be safe to use, it would last fairly
well in books. Certainly it seems to have done so in the past, if one
may judge from the greens in many of the old MSS., which are still

Other colours described are those known as “folium” colours. These seem
to have been different vegetal dyes.

In Chapter XL. he gives a description of how to prepare ink. This
is quite different from the ink of the classical period, which,
as mentioned before, was made from lampblack and gum-water. The
ink described by Theophilus is more of the nature of our modern
writing-ink, being prepared from the bark of thorn-trees, amounting
really to an infusion of tannin, with the addition of iron sulphate,
popularly known as green vitriol.

There is no mention in this MS. of the preparation of ultramarine.

Following this there are the MSS. that have been translated by Mrs.
Merrifield, _viz._, Eraclius, Alcherius, the book of Peter St.
Andemar, all included in the MSS. of La Bègue, the Sloane MS., and the
Strassburg MS.

The MS. of Eraclius is regarded as not being later than the thirteenth
century, the first two books being very early and quoted by Theophilus.

In these MSS. it is plainly stated that the colours were generally
mixed with either gum-water or egg. White of egg was often used,
but occasionally the yolk. For example, it seems to have been used
as a medium for vermilion and orpiment. These MSS. contain a lot of
information very similar to that in the MS. of Theophilus.

Lakes were, in the earliest MSS., prepared in a similar way to that
used in the classical period, and are described in this manner in
the MS. of Eraclius. In the MS. of Jehan le Bègue, however, there
are several recipes that have been compiled by him from the MSS. of
Alcherius, of the fourteenth century, which are practically the same as
the modern method.

The MS. of Le Bègue is also of interest, as it contains a recipe for
the preparation of real ultramarine.

Perhaps the most interesting MS. of all is that known as the Book of
the Art of Cennino Cennini. This is a most delightful treatise on the
methods then in use. Cennino Cennini was an Italian painter and was
living in Padua in 1398. The MS. in the Vatican is dated 1437, but
this is in all probability merely the date attached by the copyist. It
is evident that the colours and methods that he mentions were in use
during the fourteenth century.

As this was a period when some of the finest examples of illumination
were produced, it is interesting to note the various colours used, so
they are given in detail.

The reds mentioned by him are sinopia, cinabrese, cinnabar, minium,
amatisto, dragon’s blood, and lake. Sinopia is a similar colour
to light red, either native or prepared by roasting yellow ochre.
Cinabrese is a mixture of sinopia with chalk. Cinnabar, as mentioned
before, is mercuric sulphide, which, when artificially prepared, is
termed vermilion. There is hardly any doubt that the variety Cennino
was familiar with was the artificial kind, for he remarks that it
“is produced by alchemy, performed in an alembic.” Minium is red
lead, while amatisto is probably hæmatite. Dragon’s blood, as already
referred to, is a resinous colour, and lakes were prepared from various

The yellow pigments were ochre, giallorino, orpiment, risalgallo,
zafferano, and arzica. Giallorino is supposed to have been a native
mineral yellow pigment. It is described by Cennino as a volcanic
product. Some, however, think this to be similar to the pigment that
used to be known as Naples yellow, which was a compound of the oxides
of lead and antimony. Risalgallo realgar, or red orpiment, was prepared
by gently heating orpiment. Zafferano was saffron, while arzica was a
lake prepared from weld, which is wild mignonette.

The greens that he refers to are verde terra, verde azzurro, and
verderame. Verde terra is the natural earth known also as terra verte.
In all probability verde azzurro was a native copper carbonate, similar
to green bice. Verderame was verdigris.

The blues used were azzurro della magna, azzurro oltre marino, and
indaco baccadeo. Azzurro della magna was a copper-blue similar to the
azurite of the classical period. Azzurro oltre marino was the genuine
ultramarine. Cennino’s description of the preparation of this pigment
from the _lapis lazuli_ is very similar to the recipes that are given
in other MSS. Indaco baccadeo was indigo from Bagdad.

The white pigments were bianco sangiovanni and biacca. Bianco
sangiovanni was whiting or chalk, while biacca was white lead.

The blacks were “a soft black stone,” black “made of the young shoots
of the vine, which are to be burnt, and when burnt, thrown into water,
and quenched, and then ground like other black pigments.” Another
black pigment “is made of the shells of almonds, or of peach-stones.”
Lampblack was also used.

The colours were mixed with gum arabic or egg.

Cennino also makes mention of the use of the _pezzuole_ colours, or
clothlet tints, which were used a great deal in the Middle Ages. These
were pieces of linen stained with transparent pigments. When required
for use, a small piece was cut off and soaked in water to make a tint
of the colour, a little gum being added.

Cennino also treats of tinting parchment with various colours. This
was not done, as was the custom in the earlier period, by staining the
vellum with a dye, but by washing a colour over it with a large brush.

It may be noted that practically all the permanent colours mentioned in
these MSS. are in use to-day. Some of the colours used in the Middle
Ages can hardly be recommended to-day. The copper blues, for instance,
are not reliable, as impure air is very liable to change them into
copper sulphide. Orpiment is an unsafe colour to use, while kermes will
fade in a strong light, besides being no longer an article of commerce.
Both dragon’s blood and saffron are notoriously fugitive colours.

It is hoped that these few brief notes with regard to the colours used
by the mediæval artist may be of interest to the student. If he wishes
to study this subject further he is referred to the various works



One of the characteristics of the mediæval artist was that he had a
good knowledge of the different materials that he employed in his work.
One cannot help being struck by this fact when reading some of their
writings that have come down to us. They seem to have known all the
various properties of the different colours and materials that they
used. It is probable that the chief reason for this was that it was
absolutely necessary for them to be able to prepare the materials for
use, as it was practically impossible to buy them ready prepared.

The artist of to-day can buy so many things ready prepared for him by
the artists’ colourman that he is very liable to give little or no
attention to their composition and quality. It is as well, however,
that the artist should have some knowledge of the materials that he
uses, so that he may be able to select the best for his purpose.

It is important that he should understand something, at any rate,
about the composition of the various colours that he uses, and that he
should be able to distinguish permanent colours from those notoriously
fugitive. Of course, it must not be understood by this that it is
necessary for the artist to subject all his colours to chemical
analysis; if he buys his colours from any reliable artists’ colourman
he can rely on the colours being true to their name.

There are, however, some students who have not the slightest idea of
the character of the different colours that they are in the habit of
using. It is a great pity when good work is completely spoiled by being
executed with fugitive colours through the ignorance of the artist.
Good work should be as lasting as it is possible to have it, and this
is not practicable if one is not certain whether the colours are likely
to fade or change in any way.

The following notes as to the composition and permanence of the
different colours may be of service to the student.


Aureolin, Cadmium Yellows, Chrome Yellows, Gamboge, Raw Sienna, Yellow
Ochre, Naples Yellow.

Of these colours, Aureolin is the most expensive, but it is a very
beautiful colour, and has the advantage of being permanent. It is
sometimes called Cobalt Yellow; it is prepared from cobalt and
potassium nitrites.

The Cadmium Yellows are sulphides of cadmium, and are in various shades
from pale yellow to orange; they are also permanent.

Chrome Yellows are all chromates of lead, and they darken very quickly
in an impure atmosphere, especially when used in water-colour
painting. These colours are very cheap, and, at the same time, very
brilliant, but they should be avoided in all cases where permanence
is desirable. They also produce serious changes when mixed with other
colours; for example, a green made by mixing chrome yellow with
prussian or antwerp blue is notoriously fugitive in character.

Gamboge is a gum-resin from the East Indian tree _Garcimia Cambogia_.
It forms a bright opaque yellow solution with water, requiring no
grinding or mixing in any way, owing to its natural gum. It is
fairly permanent and works well in water-colour, but is not quite so
satisfactory in body-colour painting.

Raw Sienna and Yellow Ochre are both natural earths containing iron
oxide. They are quite permanent.

Naples Yellow is generally prepared by mixing Cadmium Yellow with Zinc


Vermilion, Rose Madder, Scarlet Madder, Alizarin Crimson, Crimson Lake,
Carmine, Indian Red, Light Red, Burnt Sienna.

Vermilion is one of the most important colours for the illuminator. It
is prepared from sulphide of mercury. There are various kinds, which
are termed Orange Vermilion, Scarlet Vermilion, Vermilion Extract,
Vermilion, etc. Probably that known simply as Vermilion is most useful
to the illuminator.

Most vermilions are manufactured in this country, but that known as
Chinese Vermilion is imported from China.

Although vermilion is indispensable to the illuminator, it cannot be
guaranteed as being absolutely permanent. Cennino Cennini, writing
about this pigment, says: “But remember that vermilion is not durable
when exposed to the air; it is more lasting on pictures than on walls,
because, by long exposure to the air, it becomes black when applied to

It is a fact that vermilion does change in this way, but it is
debatable whether it is affected by the air. It is thought by some
that the action of the sun’s rays is a more likely cause of change.
There are two varieties of mercuric sulphide, the red and the black;
unfortunately the red is liable to change into the black. No chemical
change is necessary for this, as they are both identical from a
chemical standpoint. In the diffused light of a room this colour seems
to be quite permanent, but it is liable to turn black suddenly when
exposed to direct sunlight. There is conclusive proof that vermilion,
when not placed so that the rays of the sun come into direct contact,
is quite permanent by the fact that in the illuminated MSS. produced
centuries ago the vermilion is still bright.

Most authorities are of the opinion that genuine Chinese vermilion is
more permanent than the English variety. There are two methods employed
at the present day in the manufacture of this colour--the wet and the
dry process. The dry method is used in China and the other in Europe.
The wet method is more economical, but it is generally admitted that
vermilion produced by the dry process is more permanent than the other
kind. Unfortunately the Chinese vermilion that is obtainable in this
country is often rather poor in quality.

Rose Madder and Scarlet Madder are lakes prepared from the madder root.
These are very beautiful colours and are permanent under ordinary
conditions. They should not, however, be exposed to direct sunlight.

Alizarin Crimson is a permanent crimson with a coal-tar origin.

Crimson Lake and Carmine are lakes prepared from cochineal; they are
quite fugitive and should not be employed for serious work.

Indian Red is a variety of iron oxide and is permanent.

Light Red and Burnt Sienna are prepared by burning Yellow Ochre and Raw
Sienna; they are both quite permanent.


Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue, Ultramarine, Ultramarine Ash, French
Ultramarine, New Blue, Prussian Blue, Antwerp Blue, Cobalt Violet,
Purple Madder.

Cobalt Blue is a fine colour prepared from cobalt oxide and alumina.
This is quite permanent under ordinary conditions.

Cerulean Blue, made from cobalt and tin oxides, is also a permanent

Genuine Ultramarine is a beautiful permanent colour obtained by
grinding the _lapis lazuli_. Cennino Cennini, in his treatise, gives
interesting particulars concerning the method then used to prepare
this colour. Ultramarine Ash is a second quality of this same blue.
Unfortunately the great cost of genuine ultramarine debars the
majority of artists from using this colour. Happily, under the name
of French Ultramarine, it is now made synthetically. By this means a
good permanent colour is produced at a cheap rate. New Blue is a pale
variety of French Ultramarine.

Prussian Blue is ferrocyanide of iron. Antwerp Blue is a weaker variety
of the same colour containing alumina. These colours are not altogether
reliable, as they are subject to change.

Cobalt Violet is a purple colour made from cobalt, and is quite

Purple Madder is usually prepared from the madder root, and is
permanent under ordinary conditions. Sometimes, however, it is prepared
from Crimson Lake, in which case it is fugitive.


Chromium Oxide, Viridian, Emerald Green.

Chromium Oxide is, as its name implies, an oxide of chromium; this
is an opaque variety. Viridian is also an oxide of chromium, but is
transparent. Both these are quite permanent.

Emerald Green is aceto-arsenite of copper, and a somewhat dangerous
colour to use; it is darkened by impure air, but this is not so serious
as are its effects upon other colours when mixed with them. If used at
all, it should be used quite by itself, as if it is mixed with other
colours it is sure to have a bad effect on them. It turns some colours
black very quickly.


Raw Umber, Burnt Umber, Sepia, Vandyke Brown.

Raw Umber is a natural earth, containing oxide of manganese; it is
quite permanent. Burnt Umber is the same colour burnt, by which it
becomes darker and richer in colour.

Sepia is generally prepared from the ink of the cuttle-fish, although
occasionally a natural earth is substituted. Vandyke Brown is also a
natural earth; both these colours are permanent.


Ivory Black, Lamp Black, Indian Ink.

Ivory Black is made from ivory and bone charred to blackness.

Lamp Black is a smoke-black, being a finely divided soot formed by the
incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons.

Genuine Indian Ink does not come from India, as might be supposed, but
from China. There are, however, several other varieties in liquid form.
It is generally admitted that carbon-black forms the bulk of all these.

All these black pigments are quite permanent.


Zinc White, Flake White.

Zinc, or Chinese, White is an oxide of zinc. This pigment is quite
permanent and should be used always when a lasting white is needed.
Unfortunately this white does not photograph its true value, so for
process work it is best not to use this.

Flake White is prepared from lead carbonate and hydrate, and may be
used for process work in place of zinc white. It, however, should not
be used for work that is required to be lasting, as when used as a
water-colour it soon turns black. As, however, it has more body than
zinc white, it photographs better. A white is sometimes prepared for
process work from barium sulphate. This is permanent, but does not work
quite so well from the brush.



It is practically needless to say that the colours used for
illuminating are water-colours. These are sold by the artists’
colourmen, ready prepared, in three different forms, _viz._, in cakes,
pans, and tubes. These consist of powder colour ground with gum arabic,
or senegal (a brown variety of the same gum), to which a portion of
honey and glycerine is added.

The best prepared colours are undoubtedly those sold in the form of
cakes, as they are the purest. The other forms contain a considerable
amount of glycerine, which does not improve the colour, but enables
them to be kept moist for quite a long time--a greater advantage to the
artists’ colourman than to the artist.

Tube colours contain more glycerine than those sold in pans. The great
advantage, however, that tube colours possess is their convenience. A
small quantity of clean colour can be squeezed out and the cap replaced
on the tube, thus keeping the rest of the colour free from dust. The
admixture of so much glycerine with the colour, however, often prevents
it from drying quite flat when used as body colour.

One word of warning may be useful here: gum should not be mixed with
water-colours. This is often recommended in books on illumination, but
it is not only unnecessary but it entirety spoils the appearance of the
colour. There is always quite sufficient gum mixed with the colour, and
there is nothing specially beautiful about the shiny appearance caused
by an excess of gum in the colour.

Without a doubt the best colours for the illuminator to use are powder
colours. They are mixed with gum arabic and water. Care should be taken
to get the right quantity of gum mixed with the colour. If there is not
sufficient to bind the colour it will rub off when dry, while, on the
other hand, if there is too much, it will dry patchy, and if very much
in excess it will present a shiny appearance. Experience will soon show
the exact amount necessary.

One very great objection that is often urged against the use of powder
colours is their inconvenience, but if these are prepared in the manner
described below they should not be more inconvenient to use than the
ordinary ready-prepared water-colours.

For illuminating, where the work is required to be lasting, none but
permanent colours should be used; but when making designs which are
for temporary use only it is foolish to use expensive colours like
aureolin and cadmium yellow when the same effect can be obtained with
the various shades of chrome yellow, which is much cheaper, although
notoriously fugitive.

It is best to buy the colours ready ground. A china slab or a piece of
plate glass may be used to mix the colours on, or the back of a large
white plate might serve in lieu of these. When it is necessary to
grind the colour a muller is used for this purpose. (See Fig. 29.)


  Slab & Muller.
  Palette Knife.
  Saucer, with Cover.
  Method of taking Gum from Jar.

FIG. 29.]

Gum arabic is prepared in a very simple manner for mixing with
colours. Some pieces of this gum are placed in a wide-mouthed jar and
covered with cold water. It should be given a stir occasionally, and
the following day it will probably be dissolved. It may be strained
through muslin if necessary. A few drops of carbolic acid added to it
will prevent this solution from becoming sour. It is as well also to
provide a loose-fitting cover for the jar to keep dust from the gum.

For mixing the colour a palette-knife is required. A little of the
powder colour is placed on the slab and mixed with the palette-knife to
a stiff paste with water and a little gum. A glass tube may be used to
take the gum from the jar. If this tube is placed in the jar of gum,
and the finger placed over the top of it, a small quantity of gum can
be easily removed and may be dropped on to the slab by removing the
finger. (See Fig. 29.) This is a much better method than dipping the
palette-knife into the gum, as this is very likely to get contaminated
with the colour if this is done.

It is not advisable to mix the colour too thinly with water before
adding the gum, as one of the effects of the gum is to make the colour
flow much easier, and if there is a fair quantity of colour on the slab
it is liable to flow over the edges.

After it has been well mixed up with the palette-knife it should be
tested to see if it has sufficient gum in it. The student should take
a clean brush and paint a small square with the colour on a piece of
paper. When this is quite dry it is very easy to tell if it has the
proper quantity of gum in it. As mentioned before, if it has too much
the colour will look patchy or shiny. To find out if there is enough
gum in it, take a small piece of rough paper and rub the patch of
colour vigorously with it; if there is insufficient gum to bind the
colour it will rub off on to the paper; if there is too much gum, more
colour should be added; while, on the other hand, if there is not
enough a little more should be mixed with it.

When painting a fresh square of colour for testing purposes it is
essential that the brush should be thoroughly washed before painting
the new patch. If this is not done the result will be that the colour
will be mixed with that already in the brush, and the test will not be
a true one. Another important thing is to see that the colour is well
mixed with the gum, otherwise one is very liable to get one brush full
of colour that is nearly all gum and another with insufficient gum in

When the colour is well mixed up with the right quantity of gum it
should be thinned out with water and is then ready for use. It should
be placed in little saucers, which may be obtained from any artists’
colourman. A small square of glass may be placed over the saucer to
prevent the evaporation of the water from the colour, as, if left
exposed to the air, this will soon dry quite hard. If it is desired to
keep the colour moist for any considerable time, a small quantity of
glycerine and honey should be added to it. The colour, however, does
not work so well when used as body-colour if this is done.

The following is a good method of keeping body-colour in a convenient
form. The colour should be painted on large pieces of glass or slabs
of porcelain and allowed to get perfectly dry. It can then be scraped
up in the form of a fine powder. An old chisel-knife, or a broken
palette-knife, makes a good scraper. This powder requires only a little
water to be added to it and the colour is ready for use. It dissolves
very quickly in water to form an easy-flowing colour, much superior
to colour that has glycerine and honey added to it to keep it moist.
Especially is this the case when working on vellum. It dries with a
dull, velvet-like surface which shows in strong contrast to brightly
burnished gold. If the colour, when scraped up, is not very finely
divided it should be rubbed up, in its dry state, on the slab, with
the palette-knife or muller, until it is quite fine, as the finer the
powder the more quickly will it dissolve.

A complete set of colours for illuminating may be prepared in this way
and put into small bottles until required. No gum should be added when
using them, as each small grain of colour has its own portion of gum
which binds it to the surface on which it is painted.

When it is required to use any of the colours prepared in this way, a
small quantity of the powder should be placed in a small saucer and a
little water added. It should then be worked up with the finger-tip
until it is fluid enough to work well with the brush.

Colours prepared in this way work very well also in the pen, vermilion
especially working very well indeed. It is not advisable to use a brush
to mix the colour up with, as this method not only quickly spoils a
brush, but also it does not mix the colour up nearly so well as the

If a little colour is left in the saucer after using it, it can
easily be moistened up again with a little water. It is not, however,
advisable to mix up much more than is required, as it dries rather
hard and requires soaking some little time if a considerable quantity
is left to dry.

When mixing colours in this way it is as well to label carefully the
bottles in which the colour is stored. If this is not done, one is very
liable to mistake a fugitive colour for a permanent one, and _vice
versâ_. Cadmium yellow may easily be mistaken for chrome yellow, and
crimson Lake for permanent crimson.



The most casual observer cannot fail to notice the gilding that is
such a prominent feature of the MSS. of the mediæval period. Brightly
burnished gold, which appears as if it had been laid and burnished
quite recently, although centuries have passed since the work was
completed, cannot fail to impress and arouse one’s curiosity as to the
gilding methods employed when this work was produced.

Some of the old MSS. that treat of painting and the preparation of
colours give also some information concerning the various methods of
gilding, and our knowledge of these methods is chiefly derived from
these MSS.

Dr. A. P. Laurie has made careful examination of the different forms of
gilding employed in illuminated MSS., and in his book, “Pigments and
Mediums of the Old Masters” says that gold was used in three distinct
forms: as gold-leaf laid on the surface, and in the form of gold paint,
prepared by grinding leaf-gold to powder; the other method seems to
have been a paint made of rounded granules of gold. He suggests that
this gold was probably obtained from river washings, and that the only
preparation has been to sift out the finer grains. He says, further,
that when it is examined under the microscope this form of gold paint
is easily distinguished from that prepared from leaf-gold, which
presents the appearance of little particles of gold with sharp corners
and edges, while this shows rounded granules.

The art of gold-beating is of very great antiquity. Pliny, in his
“Natural History,” states that one ounce of gold was made into 750
leaves, each leaf being four fingers square. This is about three
times as thick as the ordinary gold-leaf of the present day. It is
very difficult to form any idea as to when and where it originated.
Some think that it arose amongst Oriental peoples. It certainly has
been practised amongst these since quite remote periods. Some of the
coffins of the Egyptian mummies have gilding on them evidently done
with gold-leaf in a similar way to modern methods. Some of the books of
gold-leaf used by the ancient Egyptians are in existence to-day, there
being one at the Louvre in Paris.

Pliny says, “Gold-leaf is laid over marble, etc., with white of egg,
on wood with glue properly composed; they call it leucophoron.” In
another place he states that leucophoron is composed of sinopia (a red
earth colour), light sil (yellow ochre), and melinum (a white earth).
Evidently this was mixed with size to form a ground upon which to lay
the leaf.

The Lucca MS., of the eighth century, gives instructions how to prepare
gold for writing by reducing the metal to a fine powder to form a gold

The following recipe is from the “Mappæ Clavicula,” a MS. of the
twelfth century: “If you wish to write in gold, take powder of gold and
moisten it with size, made from the very same parchment on which you
have to write; and with the gold and size near to the fire; and, when
the writing shall be dry, burnish with a very smooth stone, or with
the tooth of a wild boar. Item, if then you wish to make a robe or a
picture, you may apply gold to the parchment, as I have above directed,
and shade with ink or with indigo, and heighten with orpiment.”

Parchment size is prepared by boiling parchment or vellum cuttings with
just enough water to cover them for about two hours. The size is then
poured off and sets in a firm jelly when quite cold. When required for
use a small portion is placed in a jar, which is put into a basin of
hot water, the size then quickly becoming liquid.

In the writings of Theophilus, of about the same period, he gives a
good deal of information concerning the mediæval methods of gilding.
In Chapter XXIV. he gives directions for hammering out gold-leaf. The
next chapter, which is quoted, explains how the leaf is laid on. “In
laying on gold, take the clear part of the white of egg, which is beat
up without water, and then with a pencil paint lightly over the place
in which the gold is to be placed, and, the handle of the same pencil
being wetted in your mouth, touch one corner of the cut leaf, and so
elevating it, lay it on with the greatest quickness, and spread it even
with a brush. And at that moment you must beware of a current of air
and refrain from breathing, because if you blow you lose the leaf and
with difficulty recover it. When this is laid on and dried, superpose
another upon it, if you wish, in the same manner, and a third likewise,
if it is necessary, that you may be able to polish it more brightly
with a tooth or a stone.”

Evidently this was the general method of gilding, for he states that
the leaf can be laid in the same manner on a wall or ceiling.

In Chapter XXX. he describes the method of grinding gold for books.
This is done by first filing the gold very finely and then gradually
grinding it until it is an extremely fine powder. In the next chapter,
which is entitled, “How Gold and Silver are Laid in Books,” the method
of applying the gold is given. This is as follows: “Afterwards take
pure minium and add to it a third part of cinnabar, grinding it upon a
stone with water. Which being carefully ground, beat up the clear of
the white of an egg, in summer with water, in winter without water,
and when it is clear, put the minium into a horn and pour the clear
upon it, and stir it a little with a piece of wood put into it, and
with a pencil fill up all places with it upon which you wish to lay
gold. Then place a little pot with glue over the fire, and when it is
liquefied, pour it into the shell of gold and wash it with it. When you
have poured which into another shell, in which the purifying is kept,
again pour in warm glue, and, holding it in the palm of the left hand,
stir it carefully with the pencil, and lay it on where you wish thick
or thin, so, however, that there be little glue, because, should it
exceed, it blackens the gold and does not receive a polish. But after
it has dried, polish it with a tooth or bloodstone carefully filed and
polished, upon a smooth and shining horn tablet. But should it happen,
through negligence of the glue not being well cooked, that the gold
pulverises in rubbing, or rises on account of too great thickness, have
near some old clear of egg beat up without water, and directly with a
pencil paint slightly and quickly with it over the gold; when it is
dry, again rub it with the tooth or stone. Lay in this manner silver,
brass, and copper in their place, and polish them.”

In this early period this form of gilding was certainly used a good
deal, but soon after this the raised gilding, which was produced
by laying the leaf on a raising made of gesso, was in general use.
A number of different recipes have been found. Probably the most
important, however, are those given by Cennino Cennini in the early
part of the fifteenth century. Chapter CLVII. is entitled, “How You
Must do Miniature-Painting and Put Gold on Parchment.” It is quoted in
full. “First, if you would paint miniatures you must draw with a leaden
style figures, foliage, letters, or whatever you please, on parchment,
that is to say in books; then with a pen you must make the delicate
permanent outline of what you have designed. Then you must have a paint
that is a sort of gesso, called asiso, and it is made in this manner;
namely, a little gesso sottile and a little biacca, never more of this
than equals a third part of the gesso; then take a little candy, less
than the biacca; grind these ingredients very finely with clear water,
collect them together, and let them dry without sun. When you wish to
use some to put on gold, cut off a piece as large as you have need of,
and temper it with the white of an egg, well beaten, as I have taught
you. Temper this mixture with it; let it dry; then take your gold,
and either breathing on it or not, as you please, you can put it on;
and the gold being laid on, take the tooth or burnishing-stone and
burnish it, but hold under the parchment a firm tablet of good wood,
very smooth. And you must know that you may write letters with a pen
and this asiso, or lay a ground of it, or whatever you please--it is
most excellent. But before you lay the gold on it, see whether it is
needful to scrape or level it with the point of a knife, or clean it
in any way, for your brush sometimes puts more on in one place than in
another. Always beware of this.”

The next chapter is also quoted, as it gives another method of laying
gold on parchment. “If you would like another kind of asiso--but this
is not so good, but may be used for putting on gold grounds, though not
to write with--take gesso sottile, and a third part biacca, a fourth
part Armenian bole, with a little sugar; grind all these very finely
with the white of an egg; lay on the ground in the usual manner, and
let it dry; then with the point of a knife scrape and clean the gesso.
Put the previously mentioned tablet under the parchment, or a very
flat stone, and burnish it; and should it by chance not burnish well
when you put on the gold, wet the gesso with clean water with a small
minever brush, and when it is dry burnish it.”

Gesso sottile was plaster of Paris that had been thoroughly slaked by
long soaking in water so that it had lost all its setting properties.
As mentioned in a previous chapter, biacca was white lead. The white of
egg is prepared by beating it thoroughly to a thick froth and letting
it stand one night to clear itself. Armenian bole is a red earth colour
which seems to have been used a great deal to give colour to the ground
for gilding. In some of the MSS. where the gold has been slightly
rubbed off, the red colour of the raising preparation plainly indicates
that is one of the ingredients used.

In Chapter CLX. instructions are given on “How to Grind Gold and
Silver, and How to Temper Them to Make Foliage and Embellishments.”
Evidently in this case the gold was prepared by grinding the
leaf-gold--not, as was the case in the earlier descriptions, by first
filing the metal and gradually reducing it to a fine powder.

The powder gold was, however, generally used only for painting in fine
gold lines and heightening miniatures, although in the latter part of
the fifteenth century matt gold grounds were often used as borders
round miniatures, etc.

The raised gilding was, however, used more often, and the various
recipes given in the different MSS. are generally very similar to those
given by Cennino. Sometimes chalk or pipe-clay is used instead of
gesso, and occasionally parchment size or fish-glue is recommended as a
medium for mixing it with.

Endeavouring to work from these recipes is no easy matter, and the
student is not advised to waste too much time in experimenting in
this direction. Although there is a certain amount of fascination in
trying the various preparations and methods, there is so much that is
important that should claim the attention of the student that it is
hardly profitable for him to spend a lot of time trying to work from
these old formulas when it might be better employed.

One cannot help being interested, however, in these old recipes and
directions for applying gold to vellum.



Gilding, in illuminated work, is done with either gold-leaf or shell
gold. Gold-leaf is the metal that has been beaten out into thin sheets,
and shell gold the same ground up and mixed with gum and honey. Shell
gold is so called on account of the fact that it is sold in small
shells ready for use.

The student is especially warned against using any of the varieties of
gold paint for work that is desired to be permanent. These are mixed up
with powdered bronze, and, in course of time, will turn black.

Shell gold is painted on in the same way that other colours are.
A small brush should be used, so as not to waste any more than is
absolutely necessary. It is also essential that quite clean water
should be used, to ensure the gold being as bright as possible, as if
the water is contaminated with colour it will dull the gold when mixed
with it. The great disadvantages of shell gold are lack of brilliance
and also the expense. It is, however, very useful for putting in very
fine lines, which are difficult when using gold-leaf.

The use of gold-leaf for gilding purposes has been known since quite
an early period. Some of the early manuscripts were written with gold
and silver letters on purple vellum. Silver-leaf is prepared in a
similar manner to gold-leaf; unfortunately, however, it quickly turns
black when exposed to the air. The best substitute for silver-leaf is
undoubtedly platinum, although it is very expensive. Aluminium leaf is
sometimes used, but it is rather too thick for fine work. Sometimes
aluminium paint is used where silver work is required. This, however,
has the same objection as shell gold in lacking brilliance.

Without a doubt the use of leaf, raised and burnished, is the ideal
method of gilding. If the student examines any of the old MSS. of the
best periods he is bound to be struck with the brilliance of the raised
gold, and he will notice how superior are the results to any produced
by means of gold paint. Gold-leaf gilding, even if it is unburnished,
is infinitely more brilliant than either gold paint or shell gold.
Some difficulty may at first be experienced in handling the leaf, as,
being so thin, it has an unpleasant habit of blowing about. It is sold
in books containing twenty-five leaves. It is best to get that known
as “double fine gold,” specially prepared for illuminating. For large
masses of gold, a thicker leaf may be used, known as “quadruple.”

The student should be careful to use only the best gold-leaf. Some of
the cheap foreign leaf is very poor in quality. He should be careful
also to avoid the leaf known as “Dutch metal,” which is not gold at all.

A gilder’s cushion should be obtained with a knife and tip. (See Fig.
30.) The cushion is generally about nine inches by six in size, and
is made by stretching a piece of soft leather over a piece of board
slightly padded. A piece of parchment is fastened on one end, which
acts as a shield to prevent currents of air from blowing the leaf
about. The student should be extremely careful to prevent touching
the surface of the cushion with his fingers, as, if it becomes greasy
in the slightest degree, he will experience trouble through the leaf
sticking to it.


  Guilder’s Cushion
  Guilder’s Tiip
  Agate Burnisher
  Guilder’s Knife
  Camel Hair Mop

FIG. 30.]

The best way for the beginner to learn how to handle the gold-leaf is
to get an experienced gilder to show him how to use the cushion. If
this is not possible he ought, by carefully following the directions
given here, to be able to manage the leaf after a little practice.

The best way is to take the book of gold-leaf and open it very
carefully. It is then turned over so that the leaf rests on the
cushion. The back of the book is then gently tapped with the
finger-tips; if it is then carefully lifted up the leaf will be found
lying upon the surface of the cushion. If it is not lying quite flat
and even, it may easily be smoothed by blowing gently on the centre of
it. It is as well, however, not to be too vigorous, or the result may
be to crumple the leaf up worse than before.

The student should be careful not to touch the leaf with his fingers,
otherwise it will stick to them and the whole leaf will probably be
spoiled. He should also avoid breathing upon the surface of the leaf,
or it will probably roll up in a hopeless tangle, or else go floating
off into the air, as the slightest puff of wind tends to do this.

It is hardly necessary to point out that it is not wise to attempt
handling gold-leaf for the first time with the doors and windows open,
as the slightest draught will carry the leaf with it.

The gilder’s knife must not be sharpened, as, if this is done, the
result will be that instead of cutting the leaf it will probably tear
it and cut the cushion. One important thing to remember is that the
fingers should be kept from touching the blade, otherwise the leaf
will stick to it owing to the slight amount of grease left on it. Also
if the blade is allowed to get rusty it is liable to tear the leaf
instead of cutting it properly. The knife should be kept clean, and the
edge should occasionally be burnished with the back of a pen-knife, or
something similar, to remove any roughness that may prevent it from
giving a clean cut. If it is found that the leaf sticks to the blade of
the knife, it is because there is a slight amount of grease on it; this
may be removed by rubbing the knife on a board with a little powdered
bath brick.

The leaf is cut by placing the knife carefully down on to the surface
of the leaf, and moving it backwards and forwards with a sawing
movement. The knife should be pressed down firmly on the cushion when
cutting, and great care should be taken not to rumple the leaf in so

It is as well not to endeavour to be too economical when cutting the
leaf up. A piece of leaf should be cut large enough to cover the part
that it is required to gild. If the student tries to be too exact in
cutting, he is very liable to cut the piece too small, and then other
pieces have to be cut to patch the parts not covered with the leaf.
When this is the case, apart from the extra time taken up, it is false
economy, as more leaf is required than if a slightly larger piece was
cut at first.

After the leaf is cut, it is conveyed from the cushion to the work by
means of the gilder’s tip. (See Fig. 30.) This is a kind of brush made
by fixing a thin layer of hair between two pieces of card, which are
pasted or glued together. This tip is used by first rubbing it on the
skin or hair, and then placing it on the piece of leaf, which will
then adhere to it. It can then be carried and placed in position where
it is needed. The reason that the gold adheres to the tip is because
by rubbing it on the skin or hair the tip becomes slightly greasy and
attracts the leaf.

If any leaf is left on the cushion after finishing the gilding, it
should be carefully replaced in the book. This may be done by putting
the top of the blade of the knife down flat on the cushion and pushing
it under the centre of the leaf. By this means the leaf may be lifted
and carried to the book. The tip should not be used for this purpose,
or some difficulty may be experienced in inducing the leaf to leave
this for the book. When pushing the knife under the leaf, however, it
should be pressed firmly on the cushion, otherwise the result will be
to crumple the leaf and spoil it.

For dusting the loose leaf away after gilding, a large camel-hair mop
similar to that shown in Fig. 30 is useful.

For burnishing the gold, an agate burnisher is required. The best shape
is shown in Fig. 30.

For commercial work it is hardly worth while using gold-leaf, and
bronze powder is recommended instead. A method of using this will be
explained later when dealing with commercial work.



The best material for the illuminator to work upon is undoubtedly
vellum. No paper has ever been made that is equal to it. The chief
drawback that this material has is, of course, the expense. Parchment
is cheaper, but not nearly so nice.

In selecting vellum for illuminating, the ordinary thick kind,
generally known as illuminators’ vellum, is to be avoided. This
presents too much the appearance of shiny cardboard, the surface being
much too hard and horny. This kind is prepared calf-skin, and it is
most objectionable to work upon. A very fine vellum, known as “Roman
Vellum”--probably prepared lamb-skin--has an ideal writing surface. It
is perhaps best to get a slightly heavier vellum if it is intended to
cover it with a lot of heavy work.

A very curious statement has found its way into a number of books on
illumination to the effect that it is impossible to remove pencil-marks
from the surface of vellum. It has been stated that all attempts to
remove a pencil-mark with rubber or bread result only in producing
a greasy smudge. The present writer has worked on a considerable
quantity of vellum, but he has never come across any from which he
has experienced any difficulty in removing pencil-marks. Of course it
is not advisable to use a very soft pencil, such as a 4 or 6B, very
freely on a piece of vellum, especially if it is at all inclined to be
greasy. The use of carbon-paper is often recommended for transferring
a design to vellum, but, generally speaking, the use of this material
is not desirable. It is generally somewhat greasy, and it certainly
is difficult to remove these marks from the surface of the vellum.
The best way is to cultivate the habit of working straight away on
to the vellum. Work that is carried out in this manner is generally
characterised as having more vitality and displaying more freedom than
when it is traced off from another drawing.

Some of the fine hand-made papers, specially prepared for writing and
illuminating, make excellent substitutes for vellum, although, of
course, paper is never as durable as vellum. Cold tea makes a very good
and quite harmless stain with which the paper can be tinted a similar
shade to vellum. When tinting the paper with tea, it is best not to
use too strong tea for this purpose, otherwise the result may not be
altogether satisfactory. The paper should be carefully fastened to a
board with drawing-pins. A broad, flat camel-hair brush is useful for
washing the tint on, care being taken to get this quite even. If the
paper is needed to be used for a MS. book, both sides should be tinted,
but this is hardly necessary if one side only of the paper is to be
worked upon.

When using paper for large, important work it is best to stretch it
before commencing to work upon it. This is done by damping it freely
until it becomes quite limp. The margin is then coated with paste for
about half an inch all round. It is then stuck on to the drawing-board
by means of this pasted margin while the paper is still wet. Care
should be taken that the pasted margin dries hard before the rest of
the paper begins to dry, otherwise, when the paper starts to contract,
it will come away from the board. This is obviated by re-damping the
centre of the paper, so that the margin has a chance of becoming firmly
attached to the board before the paper begins to pull.

The beginner is not advised to attempt to stretch vellum in this
manner. It requires considerable experience to stretch vellum
satisfactorily, and it is quite easy to spoil a large sheet in an
unsuccessful attempt at stretching it. The best way is to fasten it
to the drawing-board with plenty of drawing-pins. If the sheet of
vellum is placed in a damp place for some little time before pinning
it on to the drawing-board, or placed for a short time between damp
blotting-paper, it will, if stretched tightly on the board with the
drawing-pins while it is slightly damp, be found to be stretched quite
well enough for all practical purposes when dry.

Perhaps it would be as well here to have a word to say about brushes.
The best kind for the illuminator are red sables. These are made both
in quills and with metal ferrules. Some prefer one kind and some the
other. Two or three of the smaller sizes should be selected, with a
larger one for bolder work. The student will soon find out which size
is most convenient for him to use. The present writer uses a No. 1,
metal ferrule, for most of his work, using a larger brush for filling
in broad masses of colour and larger work. To ensure getting the best
service out of brushes they should be taken care of. After using, they
should be carefully washed by shaking vigorously in a jar of clean
water. Brushes soon spoil if they are put away dirty. The colour gets
between the hairs and prevents the brush from coming to a point. If
the colour dries in the brush it is very difficult to get it quite
clean afterwards. One would think it was hardly necessary to state that
brushes should not be placed so that they are resting on their points,
but they are often left in this way by careless people. When a brush
has been used for Indian ink it will be found that washing in ordinary
water will be insufficient to clean it. In this case soap and water may
be used, carefully washing the soap out afterwards with clean water.

Vellum is generally pounced before working upon it. A very good pounce
may be prepared by mixing equal parts, by measure, of pumice powder and
french chalk. When pouncing vellum it should be spread out flat on a
board covered with a sheet of clean paper. The pounce is sprinkled over
it and rubbed in with the palm of the hand. Care should be taken not to
pounce too long, or the vellum will be roughened and spoiled. After the
vellum has been well pounced, the pounce is shaken off and the vellum
carefully dusted with a soft handkerchief.

If the surface of vellum is examined very carefully it will be
noticed that one side is different from the other. The side which was
originally the hair side of the skin is rougher than the flesh side.
The smoother side is nicer for writing upon, although, when using one
side of the vellum only, it is not advisable for the beginner to use
the flesh side, as it is so difficult to make an erasure on this side,
without spoiling the skin. Of course, it is much better to endeavour
to avoid making mistakes, but still it is almost impossible to prevent
them occasionally. When it is necessary to make an erasure a _very_
sharp knife should be employed with the least possible pressure. For
erasures on the flesh side of the vellum the kind of rubber known as
kneaded rubber is very useful. This erases very slowly, but at the same
time very efficiently. When using a knife for erasures on vellum it
is essential that it should be extremely sharp and that scarcely any
pressure be put on it. It is best, however, to avoid the use of the
knife on the flesh side of vellum.

A simple but effective style of illumination is shown in Fig. 31. This
is based, to a large extent, on pen-work. The block of the initial
P may be blue, with the centre red. The initial itself is of raised
gold, as also are the buds and centres of the small flowers in the
surrounding decoration. The fine scroll-work may be in black or brown,
the decoration on the initial being white.

[Illustration: FIG. 31.]

After the lettering is completed, the decoration should be drawn in
carefully with pencil. The scroll-work may then be drawn in with
the pen. The page should then be carefully cleaned with a piece of
soft rubber, removing all pencil-marks that will not be covered with
colour. The next step is the gilding. Various preparations are sold by
different artists’ colourmen for this purpose. When buying gold-size,
however, the student should see that he gets the kind specially
prepared for illuminating. There are many varieties on the market,
some of which are useless on vellum. For example, it would be foolish
to try and gild on vellum with oil gold-size or japanners’ gold-size.
Also the different kinds of water gold-size, used by decorators and
picture-frame gilders, are difficult to use on vellum, as the gold is
laid by flooding the surface of the size with water and then applying
the leaf. The result of this is to cockle the vellum in a most
unpleasant fashion.

Most dealers sell raising preparation and water gold-size. The raising
preparation is generally sold in two distinct forms by different
makers, one in the form of a thick paint and the other a thick jelly,
which requires heating to liquefy ready for use. The former kind will
be found the most satisfactory.

A small ichneumon brush may be used for applying the raising
preparation. Before filling in the parts that it is desired to raise
it is not a bad plan to roughen the surface of the vellum slightly in
these parts. This will help to prevent the raising from scaling off
when it dries.

Difficulty is often experienced through air-bubbles in the raising
preparation. In drying, of course, these show as tiny holes. In this
case prevention is better than cure. These bubbles are generally
introduced into the preparation by means of the brush. The brush being
full of air is used to stir the preparation, and the air leaves the
brush in the form of bubbles, which mix with the raising preparation.
The best way to use the raising preparation is to take a small quantity
out of the bottle and place it in a small saucer. It should then be
carefully worked up with the finger-tip with a little water until
it is about the consistency of cream. It is much better to use the
finger-tip to mix it up with rather than a brush. Using a brush for
this purpose is a fruitful source of air-bubbles, besides spoiling the
brush. Before using the brush to lay on the preparation with it should
be shaken vigorously in water and squeezed out, thus displacing the
air and preventing the formation of bubbles. All the parts that it is
desired to gild should be given a fairly substantial coating. It should
be almost dropped from the brush. It is not desirable to raise it too
high, or the effect will be somewhat tawdry. The student should use the
work of the mediæval artist as his guide in this direction. When this
is all filled in, the work is placed in a room free from dust for the
raising to dry firm and hard. The surface is then scraped carefully
with a knife until it is quite smooth, all little irregularities being

It is then given a coat of water gold-size, and when this appears
dry on the surface it is breathed upon until it becomes tacky. The
leaf is then cut to size and laid on at once, pressed down with
cotton-wool and left to dry. The superfluous gold is then brushed away
with a camel-hair mop. On the following day it may be burnished. If
the burnisher does not work freely on the surface, its action may be
facilitated by rubbing the surface of the gold with a soft cloth that
has been slightly smeared with beeswax.

When using the water gold-size it is most important that this should
be kept free from dust, and especially small hairs and pieces of
fluff that often float about in the air. It is impossible to gild
successfully if the size is full of these. After painting on the size
it should not be allowed to get thoroughly dry before laying the
leaf--it should only _appear_ dry on the surface. If it is allowed to
get properly dry it will be next to impossible to make it tacky by
breathing upon it.

It is just possible that after the gilding has been done it will be
noticed that the gold-leaf has adhered to the surface of the vellum
in parts where it was not intended. Brushing the surface with the
camel-hair mop is not sufficient to remove this. It, however, can
generally be cleaned by means of kneaded rubber. There is no need to
use any friction; if it is pressed on the parts and lifted again it
will pick up the leaf from the vellum. Care should be taken, however,
to avoid touching the surface of the raised gold, as it is very liable
to spoil the appearance of it.

After the gilding is completed, the colouring should be proceeded with.
The large masses of colour are laid in first, then the white lining on
the colour, and finally the outline. If the surface of the vellum is at
all inclined to be greasy it may be advisable to use a little oxgall
with the colour.

The various other suggestions shown in Fig. 31 practically explain
themselves; (_b_) and (_c_) are different methods of spacing the
decoration. Two more initials are shown, also the construction of the
decoration and other suggestive details.




The style of decoration suggested in the previous chapter was based, to
a large extent, on pen-work. The examples indicated in Fig. 32 show a
further development, in which brush-work plays a more prominent part.

A suggestion for an illuminated version of the Twenty-third Psalm is
shown in (_d_). The decoration here may appear somewhat stiff, but it
is difficult to show in black and white the effect that colour gives.
This simple and somewhat severe type of decoration is, however, much
easier for the beginner than the freer kind of ornament.

It is rather difficult to suggest in writing the exact colouring, as
so much depends on the various shades used to form the general colour
scheme. Possibly the following notes may be useful to the student as
indicating roughly the colours that may be used.

[Illustration: FIG. 32.]

The writing is in black with the capital letters in red. The background
of the initial and border, _viz._, the parts indicated by horizontal
shading, should be blue. This colour should be neither too dark nor
too light, also it should not tend towards either purple or green.
The student should take special note of the blues used by the mediæval
artists. The large initial T should be painted in a warm shade of red,
not quite so vivid as vermilion, nor yet a cool crimson. The centre of
this initial and also the centres of the blossoms, with the background
of the small circles formed by the stems, are of raised burnished
gold, as also are the small buds in the line work. The stems should
be painted in a neutral tint and may be heightened up in places with
touches of clean bright colour. The leaves may be green shaded with a
lighter tint of the same colour. The flowers might be a pale creamy
tint with the centres shaded with orange. The scroll-work on the colour
may be painted either in white or in a lighter tint of the background
colour upon which it is painted. The initial T may be treated in this
way, and also shaded with a darker red.

In (_e_) an arrangement is shown for a page with the border completely
surrounding it. Some endeavour should be made to get good pattern
with the masses of gold and colour. In the page suggested in (_f_)
the decoration is formed down one side, springing from the initial P.
The initial B that is shown here is in raised gold, the flowers in
the centre also being in gold, as well as the berries in the pen-work
springing from the letter. The background of the letter is blue and
red--blue where the shading is indicated by horizontal strokes and red
where vertical strokes are used.

A study of plant form is very useful to the illuminator. The decoration
used by the mediæval artist was practically all based on natural
forms, and some of the best advice that can be given to the modern
illuminator is that he should study nature. In doing this the student
should remember that the object is primarily decoration and not
representation. He should not degrade this art into a mere realistic
rendering of sprays of flowers, insects, etc., but rather aim at
producing decoration as the direct result of his study of nature. As
an example, some of the ivy-leaf decoration that was so much used
during the fourteenth century is shown here. The importance of study
from nature cannot be emphasized too strongly. Drawing from plant-form
is one of the best exercises the illuminator can have. Possibly a few
hints on this important study will be of service to the student.

In the first place, when drawing a plant, or indeed any natural object,
one should be careful to avoid drawing it like drawing a map, _i.e._,
without realising that it is form. If this is persisted in, the result
will be that the drawing will be lacking in vitality, besides being not
nearly so intelligible. If the endeavour be made to keep constantly
before the mind the fact that it is _form_ that one is drawing, and
everything is carefully reasoned out before attempting to draw it, the
finished drawing will not only have far more life in it, but it will
also be much easier to understand.

One should also strive to draw with feeling; there is a great
difference between a _living_ plant and an artificial reproduction of
it. The drawings of plants and flowers made by some students remind
one of paper flowers and foliage, as they are drawn in such a hard and
severe manner. A natural leaf is a thing of beauty, there is nothing
rigid or stiff about it, but one that is cut out of paper is dead and
unyielding in every respect and is absolutely devoid of all feeling.
One should get all the life and feeling possible into one’s drawing,
and this comes from plenty of practice in careful and thoughtful
drawing from nature.

When making plant studies for one’s own use in design there is no need
to limit oneself by making outline drawings in pen and ink, as when
they are intended to be reproduced by means of line-blocks. The aim of
the artist should be to make the drawing as much as possible like the
original. It is not advisable to go in for sketchy effects; everything
should be made perfectly intelligible so that it is possible to
understand every detail of the drawing.

Of course, some parts of the plant should be painted in colours, so as
to form a record of the actual colours, but for general drawing a soft
black-lead pencil, such as a 3 or 4B, is very useful. One should be
careful to observe all the details, such as the way the branches attach
themselves to the main stem, also the manner in which the leaves and
flowers arrange themselves. The feeling of unity which runs throughout
the whole of the plant should be carefully noted, how there is a
distinct relationship between every leaf and bud with the main stem.

There is no need to confine one’s nature study to actual plant-drawing.
If one’s powers of perception are trained to observe, there is a
great deal to be learned from a walk in the country. Attention should
be given to the pattern that abounds everywhere in nature; flowery
banks and hedgerows are rich in suggestion. The meadow spangled with
buttercups and daisies is a delightful example. A field of barley when
it is just beginning to change colour offers a wealth of possibilities
both in pattern and colour. Then take trees, their different structure
and foliage. No two species of trees are exactly alike in the
arrangement of foliage, etc. One should not, however, give too much
attention to detail to the neglect of considering things as a whole.
For example, a tree as a whole should be noted, attention being given
to the way in which the trunk springs from the ground and the general
massing of the branches and foliage.

The use of a sketch-book for noting things down is very useful, but
too much reliance should not be placed on this. If one’s powers of
perception are trained to observe, the memory will be stored with an
abundance of suggestions and ideas from the study of nature that has
been going on almost unconsciously day by day.

[Illustration: FIG. 33.]

As well as nature study, the student should also make careful study of
some of the best illuminated work of the mediæval period, especially on
the lines indicated in the chapter on the Initial Letter. The use of
a note-book will prove to be very serviceable for this purpose. Quick
sketches of the arrangement of the pages, as suggested in Fig. 33,
should help the student very much in arranging the decoration of the
page. Of course, the drawing of details is also useful, as by carefully
copying some of the initials and decoration he is able to gain some
experience of the mediæval artists’ methods of working.

[Illustration: A ROLL OF HONOUR.

  _By kind permission of
  Miss Harrison, of
  Little Waltham Hall._

Possibly it may be as well to say a few words about miniature painting
in connection with illumination. As has often been explained, the
term “miniature” when used with reference to illuminated MSS. must
not be confounded with the modern idea of miniature painting, _i.e._,
painting on a small scale in a minute fashion, as the word “miniature”
is derived from the Latin word _minium_, the red pigment used in the
decoration of MSS., therefore the original meaning is writing or
painting with minium. There is also no reason at all why miniatures,
when painted on vellum and used in conjunction with illumination,
should be stippled and worked up in the minute fashion that is usual
with the ordinary miniatures on ivory.

It is not advisable to paint these in a similar way to the ordinary
water-colour painting. It is very difficult to paint on vellum in this
way. Undoubtedly the best way is to paint fairly direct, using body
colour. The miniatures should be nicely finished without any excessive
laboured finish produced by stippling or other similar methods.

A miniature should always be treated as part of the decoration, and
not as a picture added to it. If the student examines carefully the
best work of the mediæval period he will notice that it is practically
impossible to separate the miniature from the rest of the decoration.
A strong feeling of unity runs throughout the whole. The greater part
of modern work, however, differs in this respect. The miniature is
often quite good, so also is the decoration, but they are independent
of each other. It would be quite possible to replace the miniature by
another totally different. The ideal that he should endeavour to attain
to is to make the miniature with the rest of the decoration form one
harmonious whole.

Although the miniature should be essentially decorative, there is no
need to make it too rigid and conventional. A fair amount of sketching
from nature will go a good way towards preventing this. It is not a bad
plan for the student to practise making small quick sketches in oils
from nature, treating the subject broadly and going for colour. This
will help him very much in painting his miniatures in a direct fashion,
and, if this is combined with plenty of careful drawing, it should
enable him to develop his style of decoration considerably.

With regard to the decoration as a whole, it has often been said that
it is impossible to teach one how to design, but that it is possible to
direct one in the right way; and there is no better method than that
suggested above, _viz._, a study of nature combined with good examples
of work that has been done in the past.


When designing, it is a great mistake to strive after originality. The
way to be original is to be natural and do the work in the best way
that one is able. If the artist does this he is certain to be original,
as he cannot help himself. If he strives after originality the
work produced will be of an unhealthy type, and will show signs of
affectation which will be anything but pleasant.

Imitating someone else is equally foolish, as an imitation can never
be equal to the real thing. Art is worth nothing unless it springs
spontaneously from the joy of working, without any concentration on its
æsthetic aspects. Therefore the thing for the modern illuminator to do
is not to imitate either ancient or modern artists, but simply seek to
do his best, giving the best workmanship that he is capable of. There
are untold possibilities in the future for the development of schools
of illumination as great as any of those that have existed in the past.

There are quite a number of different ways in which illumination might
be used in the present day. Perhaps it might be useful to suggest a few
of these.

The Illuminated Address and the Illuminated MS. Book are so important
that separate chapters have been devoted to these.

One of the most important things that illumination can be used for is
for the service of the Church.

Altar tablets offer plenty of scope for the modern illuminator. They
should, of course, be on vellum and be framed quite simply.

Service Books, such as the Communion Service, also provide another
application for illumination. Books should be written in sections. (See
Chapter 25 on the Illuminated MS. Book.) A Service Book may either be
fairly elaborate or may be written simply in black and red. It is as
well to use red for the Rubrics, so as to make a distinction between
these and the rest of the text.

The Marriage Service is another thing that may well be written out in
good script and illuminated. This should have the size of the pages on
the small side, as in this case it would be for the use of a private
person and not for the clergy.

Texts for churches, the Creed, Commandments, etc., are also subjects
suitable for illumination. These should be bold and distinct.

Permanent Notices in churches and other buildings would be much more
attractive if, instead of the usual printed form being used, they
were executed with beautiful lettering, preferably with a reed pen,
and possibly illuminated. These should, however, not be overburdened
with decoration, as it is necessary that they should be as distinct as
possible. Black and burnished gold makes a very effective combination.

Another use to which illumination might be utilised is Family Trees and
Pedigrees. These are likely to give plenty of opportunities for the
illuminator, as good decoration may easily be formed with coats of arms
and other symbols.

Many other things will probably suggest themselves to the artist as
subjects suitable for illumination.

[Illustration: A CHURCH PORCH TEXT.]



The illuminated address is the form which most modern illumination
takes. The greater number of these cannot, even by the widest stretch
of imagination, be called works of art. Not only are they generally
executed with vivid and crude colour schemes, but also the style of
decoration is usually extremely bad. Some of the letters are painfully
contorted. Others are represented as if they were solid blocks throwing
shadows, and are drawn in false perspective. Meaningless flourishes
abound. Occasionally a little bit of decoration, that has been copied
from some mediæval work, is introduced. This, however, is mixed up with
a lot of straggling ornament which it is impossible to conceive as
having been produced by any artist of the Middle Ages.

One can quite understand how this is so when one considers how so
much of the work is done. Illuminated addresses are often executed by
people who have had practically no training at all. One can scarcely
complain if they are in bad taste when such is the case. If one has had
a good grounding by studying the work of the ancient illuminators it is
practically impossible to produce this type of work. Therefore, before
attempting to work in a modern style, the student should make a careful
study of the work of the mediæval period.

When one receives an enquiry regarding an illuminated address, a
definite understanding is necessary as to the form which the address
is to take. Those generally employed are the Framed Address, the Book
form, and the Vellum Scroll. (See Fig. 34, _a_, _b_, _c_.)

[Illustration: FIG. 34.]

One should be able and willing to give advice and help in the matter
of wording. It is advisable to guard against the usual foolish and
somewhat bombastic manner of wording testimonials. The first or third
person is generally employed, but it would be much better if it took
the form of an ordinary letter expressing appreciation and good wishes.
Whichever form is employed, care should be taken that these are not
confused in any way.

It is a good plan to make, first of all, a careful copy of the wording,
and get it checked with the original before commencing to work. This
will prevent mistakes being made. Then the artist should find out
if any coats of arms, etc., are needed to be introduced into the
decoration. The approximate size is then decided, and the whole is
roughed out in pencil on detail paper to find the exact spacing of the
lettering and decoration.

The form that the address should take depends on the matter to be
introduced. If, for example, 500 names are required to be appended, a
framed testimonial is clearly out of the question. For the same reason
one in the form of a scroll is useless. The only practical method is to
do it in book form.

When executing an address in this manner, the best way is to write it
in sections composed of two folded sheets. After the work is completed,
the whole is carefully bound by an experienced binder. Another method
is to write it in a blank album, but, if this is done, care should be
taken that the paper is of good quality and suitable for writing and
illuminating. The paper of which these albums are generally made is
unfortunately rather poor in quality.

If the scroll form is employed, it is best that large masses of raised
gold should not be used in the decoration, owing to the likelihood of
this cracking when the vellum is rolled. When completed, the scroll is
generally enclosed in a cylindrical case or a metal casket. Of course,
the latter, if made by a good craftsman, is much to be preferred.

For a framed testimonial the best kind of frame is undoubtedly a black
one, as this serves well to show up the brilliance of the gold and
colours. It is also a good plan to frame it with a cut mount, so that
the vellum does not touch the glass.

A word of warning is possibly needed here. When having illuminated work
on vellum framed, it is most important that the frame-maker should not
be allowed to mount it. If he does this he is almost certain to spoil
the work, as, when the back of the vellum is damped, the moisture soaks
through and softens the raising preparation, thus spoiling the raised
gold work; also the chances are that the vellum will be spoiled at the
same time. It is very annoying, after spending a considerable time on
the work, to find it completely ruined by an unsuccessful attempt to
mount it.

If a list of names is wanted at the end of an address it should be
ascertained if signatures are needed or a carefully-written list of
names. If signatures are required, it is best to get these before
completing the decoration. Lines should be ruled faintly with a
sharply-pointed H.B. pencil to act as a guide for the various writers.
The signatures should all be written under the artist’s personal
supervision. It is a great mistake to allow the work to leave one’s
hands before it is properly finished. If it is carried here and there
by various people it is very liable to become soiled, to say nothing of
mistakes made and signatures written in ink of various shades. A good
fluid Indian ink, the same as that which the lettering is written with,
should be provided. A number of pens of different styles should be to
hand, with paper for the subscribers to try the pens on before signing
the actual address.

Signatures certainly have a more sentimental value than a mere list of
names. A neatly-written list of names, however, looks much better and
is more in keeping with the decoration. It is best to place the names
in alphabetical order.

If the names are to be put in by the artist, he should first of all, as
mentioned before in the case of the wording, make a copy of these and
get it carefully checked before writing them in.

It is very usual to include coats-of-arms in the decoration. When this
is done, great care should be taken that these are blazoned in the
correct colours, and also that they are properly drawn. A good handbook
on Heraldry should be consulted. The illuminator should have, at any
rate, an elementary knowledge of this subject, as he is so often called
upon to make use of it.

After he has carefully ascertained by means of the rough drawing the
measurements and spacing, he should start work straight away on the
vellum. It is not necessary to go into details as to how to set about
this. Explanations have already been given, in a previous chapter,
concerning how to set out an illuminated page.

In the case of a beginner who has not sufficient confidence in himself
to work direct on the vellum, the first drawing may be made on a sheet
of tracing paper. If this is pinned over a piece of white paper it is
quite easy to work upon. When the drawing is completed, the tracing
paper should be reversed, and the whole of the decoration should be
traced on the back of it with a finely-pointed H.B. pencil. This is
referring to the decoration only. The lettering should in any case be
written straightway on to the vellum, after the necessary measurements
and calculations have been made.

After the whole of the decoration has been traced through the tracing
paper should be carefully placed in position on the vellum. It should
be fastened with drawing-pins down one side. The traced decoration can
then be easily transferred to the vellum by rubbing the back of the
tracing paper with a burnisher or paper-knife. Care should be taken
that the paper does not shift about during this process. It should be
held firmly, lifting it up occasionally to see if a clear impression is
being made.

It is just possible that the illuminator may be asked to submit a rough
sketch. He should bear in mind that the object of this is to give some
idea of the finished work. This should be executed in a bold fashion
on cartridge paper with a soft pencil. A few words may be written in
the script that he intends to use, and it is as well to finish a small
portion of the decoration in colours. This should enable his client to
understand something of what the finished work will be.

A simple but very effective form of address is that having a
coat-of-arms at the top, with the matter in plain lettering with a fine
initial, as indicated in (_d_). A still simpler form might consist of a
nice piece of lettering with a plain initial either in raised gold or
vermilion, omitting the coat-of-arms at the top.



It is essential that the artist who does work for reproduction should
have some knowledge of the different methods employed. A lack of
knowledge in this respect is responsible for a large number of drawings
made which are quite unsuitable for the purpose. It is not necessary
that the student should be able to reproduce his own work by the
various methods used, but he should be familiar, in a slight degree,
with the processes used.

For black-and-white work, the two processes largely used by publishers
in magazines, etc., are known as Line Process and Half-Tone. The former
is used for the reproduction of pen-drawings, and the latter for tone

The line process is the most useful for the class of work that the
illuminator is likely to do. In this case the method of procedure is
briefly as follows: The drawing is made with good black ink on white
paper. It is then photographed. A piece of polished zinc is given a
thin film of fish-glue in which some bichromate of potash has been
dissolved. The effect of the bichromate is to make the fish-glue
insoluble when it has been exposed to the light. The zinc plate is
dried rapidly in a subdued light, and is then exposed behind the
negative. The light, penetrating through the clear parts of the
negative, renders these insoluble. The zinc is then given a thin
coating of soft, greasy ink with a roller. It is then placed in a
dish of water to develop. The effect of the water is to dissolve the
fish-glue that has been protected, and is therefore still soluble. This
leaves the design on the surface of the zinc in ink. While the ink is
still tacky, it is dusted over with resin. This is fused over a stove,
and the background of the zinc is etched away in an acid bath, leaving
the design standing in relief.

This is, briefly, an outline of the process of making a line block.
Of course, it must be understood that many details are omitted in
this description. These, however, although most important to the
block-maker, are not necessarily essential to the artist. The chief
thing that he should be careful to ensure is that his drawings should
be executed with an absolutely black line on white paper. By this
means he will have done his part to help the block-maker to obtain a
clear negative, which is unquestionably vital to the production of a
successful process block. Drawings executed with a weak, washy kind of
ink on yellow-toned paper do not give the block-maker a chance. The
thing, then, for the artist to remember is to see that his drawing
consists of firm black lines on a white surface, with no half-tones,
unless these are produced by means of lines.

For drawings executed in tone, the other method, known as the
half-tone process, is used. In this case the drawing is photographed
with a glass screen in front of the negative. This screen is ruled
with fine lines in such a manner that the tints of the original are
broken up into dots. The print is obtained on the metal, and the block
is made in a somewhat similar manner to that of a line block. In
etching, the metal is bitten away round the edges of the various dots
more or less, according to the strength of these. This gives a similar
effect of light and shade to the original. An examination, with a
magnifying-glass, of any reproduction of a photograph or tone-drawing
in any of the magazines of the present day will show this quite plainly.

When working for this process, drawings should be rather more vigorous
than are required in the finished production. The reason for this is
that the photograph generally softens down everything, so it is as well
to forestall this by making the original stronger.

It is also important that the half-tones in the drawing should not tend
towards being a bluish grey, as blue does not photograph well. The
result of a reproduction from a drawing of this kind would be that the
half-tones would be much weaker than in the original.

In colour reproduction, a method largely used is that known as the
three-colour process. This is a development of the half-tone process.
In this case, however, the drawing is photographed three times in
succession on different plates. In each case a colour filter is placed
in front of the lens, which allows only the red, yellow, or blue
rays to pass through. By this means the three negatives obtained are
records of the red, yellow, and blue used in the drawing. Three blocks
are made, and are printed in red, yellow, and blue ink respectively,
superimposed over each other. This, if carefully done, gives a fairly
faithful reproduction of the original. Sometimes an extra block is
used, and in the case of the reproduction of illuminated work, a
special block is used to print the gold. It can easily be understood
why this is necessary, as, when printed from the three blocks only,
this comes out as a colour in the printing.

When working for this form of reproduction there is no need to limit
oneself in the number of colours used. Work that has been executed with
about twenty different colours can be reproduced as easily as that in
which only four or five colours are used.

As in half-tone, the work should be stronger and more vigorous than is
needed in the finished reproduction. The colours also should be bright
and clear, and the modelling should be strongly accentuated, as this
process has a tendency towards flattening everything. If the original
appears flat and washed-out in treatment, it will certainly look much
worse when reproduced.

Another process, largely used for commercial work, is lithography. This
is quite different from any of the previously mentioned processes. In
all these the blocks are in relief, and are printed in a typographic
press. For the general form of lithography, a species of limestone is
used. This process depends on the absorption of grease by this stone,
and on the mutual antipathy of grease and water. The design is drawn
on the surface of the stone with a greasy ink. The grease is absorbed
by the stone. The stone is then damped all over; the greasy ink of
the design repels the water, but where there is no design the surface
of the stone becomes wet. An ink-roller is then passed over the stone
while it is still damp. As this printing ink is of a greasy nature, it
will leave the roller only for the lines of the design, which remain
quite dry. The moist surface of the stone repels the ink. After the
stone has been inked up, a print is obtained in a lithographic press.

For general work the surface of the stone is highly polished, but for
the reproduction of chalk drawings and for shading purposes it is given
a grain.

Zinc and aluminium plates are often used as substitutes for stone.
These, although not as good as stone, have the advantages of being
cheaper and more portable.

Colour printing by this process is known as chromo-lithography. A
separate stone is used to print each colour. A careful tracing is first
made of the outline of the drawing, and this is transferred to the
surface of the stone. This forms the key-stone from which the other
colour stones are prepared. When it is desired to print gold, the stone
is rolled up with a very sticky kind of ink. A print is obtained in
this medium, and while this is still tacky it is dusted over with
powdered bronze, which adheres to the print and gives the effect of
gilding to some extent. For very special work real gold is occasionally
employed instead of bronze powder.

It can easily be understood that the larger number of colours used,
the more costly this process is. Students often wonder why designs are
sometimes not accepted by firms who use this process. Very often one
of the most important reasons is that too many colours are employed.
If a design is shown that can be produced with a striking effect with
two or three printings only, it will certainly be considered before one
requiring ten or twelve.

Lithography is used for the greater bulk of commercial work, such as
posters, labels, Christmas cards, etc.

The great thing to remember when doing work for reproduction by
chromo-lithography is to get a good effect with as few colours as
possible. There is no need in this case to make the drawing more
vigorous than is required, as the lithographer will endeavour to get
exactly the same effect as in the original.

The student who is ignorant as to the different methods of reproduction
employed should at any rate, after paying a little attention to the
descriptions given, avoid making designs that are almost impossible to
reproduce satisfactorily. The object of this chapter is not to teach
the student how to reproduce his drawings by means of the processes
described. The only reasons for dealing with the subject are to enable
him to produce workable designs, and at the same time to give him an
added interest in his work by an elementary knowledge of the methods of


  _By kind permission of
  Messrs. Raphael Tuck & Sons, Ltd._



In the application of illumination for purposes of reproduction,
designing for Christmas cards occupies a prominent place. Although
these are not all necessarily of the illuminated type, a great number
are of this kind. All varieties have lettering as an important part
of the design. There is plenty of scope for the illuminator in this
direction. If he can produce effective designs that can be easily
printed, and are likely to be saleable when reproduced, publishers of
Christmas cards will always be pleased to see his work.

When designing, there is no necessity for using permanent colours, as
the original is seldom kept after it has been printed. The same thing
applies to the use of gold-leaf for gilding. This can be done with
bronze powder. Gold paint can be readily made by mixing the powdered
bronze to a stiff paste with gum-water, then thinning it out with water
so that it flows freely from the brush. Care should be taken to get the
right amount of gum in it, as if there is too much it will present a
shiny appearance and will turn black quickly. If, on the other hand,
there is not enough to bind the particles of bronze together, it will
rub off when touched. The best way is to test before proceeding with
the work, by painting on a small piece of paper and noting the effect
when dry.

When it is desired to produce raised gold, this also can be done with
bronze powder. For this purpose some raising preparation, of the kind
sold in the form of a thick paint, should be used. A little should be
placed in a small saucer, and a drop of honey added to it with some
water. It should then be carefully rubbed up with the finger until it
is about the same consistency as cream. Care should be taken not to add
too much honey, otherwise the raising will not dry at all, but will
remain a sticky mass.

The parts that are intended to be raised should be filled in with this,
in the same manner as described for leaf-gilding in a previous chapter.
After this has become dry on the surface, it should be breathed upon
until it becomes tacky. The bronze powder is then dusted over it with
a small piece of cotton-wool. After leaving for a little while, the
superfluous bronze is dusted off with a clean piece of cotton-wool. Any
parts where the bronze powder has not attached itself can generally be
covered by again breathing upon the surface and applying the bronze. No
attempt should be made to burnish gilding done in this way.

Christmas cards are nearly always produced by means of
chromo-lithography, as described in the previous chapter. Occasionally
they are produced by means of line and three-colour blocks, but,
generally speaking, chromo-lithography is the process employed.


  Cover.      First page.


  _By kind permission of
  Messrs. Raphael Tuck & Sons, Ltd._

When about to make a design, the student should endeavour to
visualise the completed design before commencing work. If he cultivates
this habit he will find it much better than worrying a design into
existence--a method very often employed.

It is a good plan, when setting out to design, to ask oneself a series
of questions: “How is it to be reproduced?” “What style of design is
needed?” “What is the general taste of the buyers of this kind of
thing?” etc. If one asks oneself a number of similar questions to
these, it should, at any rate, be the means of ensuring that the design
is suited to its purpose.

A very common fault in designing Christmas cards is making them too
heavy in treatment. It is essential that the finish should be light and

Designs may be either for the complete card or merely for the outside
cover. Several suggestions are shown in Fig. 35. Of course, it will be
understood that these are only rough sketches. They do not pretend to
be designs.

The one represented by (_a_) is for the general type of illuminated
design. This is for the outside cover only: a short greeting with an
illuminated initial and decoration. When selecting words for this
purpose, one should be careful to choose something not too trite. On
the other hand, it is as well to avoid using some copyright quotation.

The designer must be up-to-date: he must not expect to sell his designs
if he gets his ideas from Christmas cards that were published twenty
years ago.

There are no special sizes to work to, as cards of all shapes and
sizes are produced. It is best, however, not to get them too large.

The style of card indicated in (_b_) is a very usual kind. The centre
is left blank for a small picture, or a monogram, to be inserted.

If the artist is able to paint little landscapes or girls’ heads, he
could insert them himself as shown in (_c_). He should, however, avoid
getting these heavy or crude in colour.

[Illustration: FIG. 35.]

The designer will always find that he is much more likely to sell his
designs if they represent new ideas. The publisher is always on the
look-out for something new.

For example, the idea might be a small booklet containing a brief
anthology on “Happiness,” or some other like subject.

If a small booklet is designed, it is as well to remember that all
the pages should not be fully illuminated. The cover and the opening
page might be illuminated in gold and colours, while the rest might
be in black and red only. If the booklet was executed with all its
pages fully illuminated it would probably be rejected on the score of
expense of reproduction. It is little things like this which, if taken
into consideration, would prevent a good number of the disappointing
refusals that are so often received.

[Illustration: FIG. 36.]

A very attractive form of card is shown in (_d_). This has a cover
design, a greeting with a space for name, and a quotation. When a card
of this type is designed it should be arranged as shown in Fig. 36.
By this means the card, when opened out, has the design all on the
same side of the paper, and is much more convenient. Some may be made
upright and others oblong in shape, as in Fig. 36.

The prices paid for Christmas card designs may be anything from 10s.
6d. to £3 3s. Of course, higher prices than these are often paid for
good work, when there is a demand for the work of the designer. A good
average price for a design, however, is £1 1s.

It is a mistake to mark designs at a low figure, with the idea that
the publisher will be more likely to take them. This is quite a wrong
impression, as, if the publisher wants the designs, he will not be slow
to make an offer if the price is too high; while, on the other hand, if
they are not suitable for his purpose, he would not take them as a gift.

When sending designs, it is as well not to write long letters of
explanation. Letters should be as brief and pointed as possible.

Apart from designing for publishers, the illuminator ought to be able
to produce a series of hand-written Christmas cards. There ought to
be a demand for cards well written in fine script on nice hand-made
paper. A little simple decoration might be added in colour, and the
modern illuminator ought to be able to produce these quite quickly, and
therefore cheaply.

[Illustration: Designs for Programme and Progressive Whist Card.]

Invitation cards for select parties are amongst numerous other things
that suggest themselves for production in this manner. Of course, for
large gatherings, where a good number of invitations are sent out,
writing them by hand is out of the question. But when this is the case,
one copy could be nicely written in black and a zinc line block made
from this. The edition could then be printed off. An invitation card
written in well-formed lettering would make a pleasant change from the
usual type of card.

Possibly a number of other opportunities will suggest themselves where
fine pen-formed lettering might be substituted in place of the ordinary
style of thing.




  _By kind permission of
  Messrs. Benn Bros, Ltd._

The ability to produce good lettering is of the utmost importance
to the artist employed in commercial work. The list of things that
require lettering seems almost endless. To mention just a few, there
are posters, catalogue covers, showcards, labels, boxes, packages,
displayed advertisements, calendars, title-pages, book covers, magazine
covers, letter headings, maps, diagrams, etc. This list might be
extended considerably and yet not include all the many things for which
lettering is absolutely necessary.


  _By kind permission
  of the House of Vanheems
  and Messrs. Clarke
  & Sherwell, Ltd._

In fact, when one begins to consider the number of things that require
lettering of some description, one begins to realise how essential
it is that the artist should be able to produce good and well-spaced

As mentioned before in an earlier chapter, there is nothing like having
plenty of practice with the reed and quill pen to help the student
towards ability to mass and arrange lettering in the best possible way.
The difference between the lettering done by one who has had plenty
of practice with the reed or quill, and one who has had no experience
in this direction, is most noticeable. The one is able to design
with words, while the other is concerned only with the shapes of the
letters. To be able to produce well-arranged lettering it is necessary
to be able to design with words, and familiarity with the reed or quill
gives this facility better than any other training. No matter how the
letters are formed afterwards, the experience gained in massing letters
together in this way to form words will be found to be of great service.

The arrangement of letters to form words is of the utmost importance;
in fact it might be said to be as essential a factor as the formation
of the individual letters.

A well-arranged inscription often adds greatly to the finish of a
drawing, and with the latter it often happens that it is incomplete
without a heading or title of some description. But this, if badly
done, may completely spoil the appearance of the drawing.

[Illustration: A HANDBOOK COVER.]

Maps and diagrams require a simple form of lettering that is distinct
and at the same time can be written in a fairly quick manner. The
style of Roman lettering, formed with simple pen-strokes, shown in
a previous chapter, might be used for this purpose; or the simple
pen-formed italics might be used. For writing these a sharply-cut quill
pen is required.

[Illustration: FIG. 37.]

In Fig. 37 an alphabet is shown which is formed with all strokes
of equal thickness. This is a very useful kind of lettering for
illustrations, maps, and diagrams. It has one distinct advantage: that
is, it can be written with the same pen that the drawing is made with.
If this style of lettering is used, however, it is as well to make sure
that all the strokes are of equal thickness. It should not look like
quill-pen writing badly done. This type of lettering may be upright
or slanting. Until the student is quite familiar with this lettering
two lines may be used. The writing should be done very carefully and
the words should be well spaced. This kind of lettering should be
used only for names on maps, notes on diagrams, or references under
illustrations. When a title is needed for an illustration, or a heading
is required, carefully-drawn Roman lettering should be used. Each
letter should be exact in finish, and at the same time there should be
good arrangement.

For poster work it is essential that the lettering should be bold and
decisive. For hand-written posters, that need to be produced quickly,
the Roman alphabet, formed with simple pen-strokes, given in a previous
chapter, will be found useful. A large reed pen should be used for
this purpose. By using red and black inks very effective hand-written
notices may be produced. If the poster is to be displayed out-of-doors,
waterproof inks only should be used for writing it with. However, this
will be dealt with in the next chapter.



  _By kind permission of the
  National Institute for the Blind,
  and the Byron Studios._

For lettering on a poster that is to be reproduced, a good strong
Roman type of lettering is the best. The type shown in Fig. 38 is a
very suitable kind. It must be strong, bold, and well displayed. The
principal words must show up strongly defined. For this, and, indeed,
all kinds of commercial design, the lettering must be firm and exact
to a nicety. The looseness that is suited to illumination will not do
for this kind of work. The little accidental turns and twists, which
are one of the charms of illuminated work, would be entirely out
of place in commercial work, which must be firm and strong in every
detail. Penscript is not used to any large extent. The greater part
of the lettering used in commercial design is carefully drawn in an
extremely accurate manner.

[Illustration: FIG. 38.]

When lettering a poster, some endeavour should be made to get a certain
amount of display in the lettering. For example, if the object is to
advertise “Brown’s Tea,” or “Smith’s Cocoa,” great prominence must be
given to these words. The lettering should be so arranged that it is
practically impossible to avoid seeing the name of the commodity that
is being advertised.

[Illustration: Two Designs for Labels.]

Another important thing when lettering advertisements is to see that
each letter is quite distinct. For example, C must not be mistaken for
a G, and _vice versâ_.

For good arrangement in lettering the mistake should not be made of
taking type as a model, as, owing to each type letter being in the form
of a block, it is impossible to space it with the same facility that is
possible with writing. Note the examples given in Fig. 22.

[Illustration: _A Design for a Letter Heading._]

One or two further hints may be useful. It is never advisable to put
two upright strokes too closely together. Also in the case of round
letters, such as O, C, G, etc., these should project slightly over the
line, otherwise they will appear smaller than the other letters. This
should, however, be very slight, as it is easy to overdo this kind of

When lettering a diagram, if possible keep all the lettering the same
way, so that there is no need to turn the page round to read it. This
is, of course, not always possible, but if it is at all practicable it
is quite the best thing to do.

It is never wise to jumble a number of different styles of lettering
together in one inscription, as is sometimes done. The practice of this
kind of thing tends to make the lettering less readable, besides making
it look somewhat freakish. Sometimes the use of two styles of lettering
together, such as an upright form of Roman lettering and an italic,
helps to emphasize certain words; but when a variety of different forms
is used the only result is to make the lettering look confused.

For the greater part of commercial work a form of Roman lettering is
used. The student who intends to practise this kind of work should
study some of the best modern work. He will have no difficulty in
getting plenty of examples.

When designing a cover for a magazine, one of the first things to be
taken into consideration is how to make it stand out in a striking
manner so that it will be noticed on the bookstall.

[Illustration: A Design for a Music-cover.]

Designs for magazine covers may be roughly divided into two classes,
_viz._, those which occupy the whole of the cover, and those where the
design is in the form of a heading. In any case, however, it is best
that the title should be prominently arranged at the top of the
cover, so that it can readily be seen when the magazine is placed on
the bookstall, and is generally in that position partly covered through
other magazines and books overlapping it. The great thing to remember
is that the object of each design for a magazine cover should be to
make it stand out distinct from all the other magazines on the stall,
so that it can be recognised in an instant.

[Illustration: A Design for a Bookplate.]

One important piece of advice in this kind of work is to avoid making
the lettering look freakish by forming some of the letters quite tiny
and others excessively large in the same word. This is one of the most
prominent signs of the amateur.



It is very useful at times to be able to produce quickly a hand-written
poster. It is not always desirable to have printed ones, especially
when one or two copies are all that are required, and a hand-written
poster can be very effective even if it is produced hurriedly. It
is, however, very essential that these should be written as quickly
as possible, as the price that the writer would have to charge for a
poster that he had spent a whole day in writing would make it quite
prohibitive. Therefore speed of production is an important factor that
must be considered in connection with the hand-written poster.

It is well to remember that a poster must attract attention. Unless
there is something arresting about it, comparatively few people will
stop and read it, however well it may be written. Of course all posters
do not depend upon the lettering alone to attract, but in any case the
lettering should be distinct and prominent. However, the type of poster
described here is composed of lettering alone, and so depends entirely
on the display of this to catch the eye.


  _By kind permission of
  Messrs. Marshall & Snelgrove, Ltd._

A poster that is written comparatively badly may attract attention much
more than one that is written well but without any display, because
the badly-written poster may have something striking about it that
compels attention. The thing to aim at is to make the poster prominent
without annoying people by offending their artistic susceptibilities.

[Illustration: FIG. 39.]

The following is a good method of quickly writing a poster. A sheet of
paper is ruled, in the manner shown in Fig. 39, with a soft black-lead
pencil. The lines should be ruled lightly and fairly closely together.
If the poster is to be written on thin paper, it is not a bad plan to
rule these lines boldly in ink on another sheet, so that if this is
placed under the paper upon which the poster is to be written these
lines will show through quite plainly enough to act as a guide to the
writer. It is a good practice to have a number of sheets of various
sizes ruled out, so that when a poster is required of a given size one
of these can be utilised and the poster written quickly.

The lettering may be roughly sketched in either with a soft black-lead
pencil or a piece of charcoal. It may then be written straight away
with the pen or brush. When the lettering is quite dry the pencil-marks
may be cleaned off with bread or soft rubber, or if charcoal has been
used this may be dusted off quite easily; the poster is then complete.

As is plainly obvious, the poster shown in Fig. 40 is produced by means
of the pen. The best type of pen for poster-writing is undoubtedly the
reed pen, especially if the writing is needed to be fairly large. When
this form of pen is used it is advisable to cut it with a fairly long
slit; this will ensure the pen working much easier.

When writing with black and red inks, one pen should be kept for black
and the other for red. If this is not done, the pen should be carefully
washed after it has been used for black ink before using red ink,
otherwise the black left in the pen will mix with the red and make the
colour dirty. Undoubtedly the best way is, as already mentioned, to use
a separate pen for each colour.

[Illustration: FIG. 40.]

As most posters have to be exposed to the weather it is well to use
only fixed inks. Fixed inks are generally prepared by being mixed
with shellac which is dissolved in a solution of borax. Ordinary
water-colours may, however, be made waterproof quite easily by the
following method. A saturated solution is made of some bichromate of
potash, and a few drops of this solution are added to the colour just
before using it. As this chemical makes a bright orange solution it
will alter some colours slightly, but for blacks and reds it will
not be noticeable. This chemical has the property of making glue,
size, or gum insoluble when it is mixed with them, after exposure to
the light, and, as water-colours are mixed with gum, it has the same
effect in this case. If, therefore, the poster be exposed to the light
of the sun for a short period after it has been written, the colour
quickly becomes insoluble and therefore waterproof. The best way is
to mix as much colour as will be required in a small saucer, adding
the bichromate solution. It is quite easy to understand that if any of
this colour dries in the saucer it will have to be thrown away, as the
light quickly affects it when dry and it will be quite useless owing to
its insolubility. Possibly it will be noticed that a yellow stain will
show on the back of the poster when the bichromate has penetrated. As,
however, in this case one side only of the paper is used, this will not
matter in the least.

Larger posters may be written with the brush (see Fig. 41), or partly
with the pen and partly with the brush. A brush that is very suitable
for quick writing is a Japanese brush like the one illustrated in Fig.
41. This can be used almost in the same manner as the pen, and it is
possible to write very quickly with it.

[Illustration: FIG. 41.]

[Illustration: DESIGN FOR A MENU.

  _By kind permission
  of Messrs. Marshall
  & Snelgrove, Ltd._

For very careful writing the best brush is the kind known as a sable
writer. This is a sable brush with rather long hair. Practice is
necessary before the student becomes expert in the use of it, but it
will be found that the long sweeping curves of the round letters, as
also the straight strokes of the other letters, may be formed much more
easily with this type of brush than with the ordinary kind used for

Writers are generally in quills, so perhaps a word may be useful here
with regard to the method of fixing a quill brush on a handle. It is
not wise to take the quill as it comes from the shop and push it on to
a stick. The quill is very liable to split if pushed on too tightly,
while, on the other hand, if it is not fixed securely it will drop off,
probably whilst doing some important work, and will almost certainly
spoil it if it falls off when well charged with colour. The proper way
to fix a quill brush is, first of all, to soak the brush well until the
quill becomes quite soft. The stick is then carefully tapered with a
sharp knife until it exactly fits the quill. Then, while the quill is
still soft, it is carefully fitted on to the stick. The result of this
method is that when the quill gets dry and hard it will be found to be
fitted quite tightly on to the stick, and will certainly not fall off;
while, at the same time, there is no danger of splitting the quill.

When writing posters in black and red, the red should be used to give
emphasis to words that are important. For example, in the specimen
shown, the word “CONCERT” may be in red; also the place, date, and
time may well be written in this colour to make them more conspicuous.
A simple border may be added composed of some slight decoration formed
with direct brush strokes if so desired. This may be either in one or
two colours.

[Illustration: FIG. 42.]

Large notices that are required to be lasting may be written on canvas,
using oil-colours.

Some examples of window-tickets are shown in Fig. 42. These may be
written with the quill pen. The use of black and red is very effective
for these, but any colours may be used. It might be a good idea to
write a quantity of tickets according to a special colour scheme
for a particular window display. This, however, could best be done by
working in conjunction with the one who is responsible for dressing the
window. Some tickets might be written in white on a dark background. It
will be found that, for use in the pen, colours that have been mixed
with gum and water without any addition of honey or glycerine will flow
much better than ordinary water-colours. When these are used they tend
to clog the pen. There is no necessity in this case to fix the colours
as they will not be exposed to the weather, so therefore will not need
to be waterproof.

[Illustration: FIG. 43.]

If the student has become familiar with the use of the quill pen he
should be able to write these fairly quickly and therefore cheaply. The
use of simple decoration formed with the same pen that the lettering
has been done with may be employed, but this should not be overdone.

In Fig. 43 an example is given of a show-card that has been written
with the pen in a simple, straightforward fashion. A simple border
has been added which may be quickly and easily formed with the pen or
brush. For writing small show-cards the quill pen may be used, but for
larger ones the reed pen will be more serviceable.



In the Middle Ages the illuminated MS. book occupied a very prominent
position. The printing-press was not then in existence, so the
manuscript book was without a rival. To-day the printing-press is to
the forefront and the manuscript book is practically unheard of. There
is, nevertheless, no reason why the art of illumination should not be
practised in the same manner as was formerly the case. It is true that
beautiful books are produced by the printer, but there ought also to
be a demand for books beautiful, written and illuminated by artists of
the present day. An illuminated manuscript has many advantages over
the printed book, one of which is the fact that it is unique instead
of being one of many. There is no need to enumerate the many other
advantages that the manuscript book possesses.

The best material upon which to write a manuscript book is undoubtedly
vellum, although fine hand-made paper may be substituted if it is not
desirable to go to the expense of procuring vellum for this purpose.
A paper that is soft and flexible should be selected in preference to
one that is hard and stiff. Anything approaching cardboard should be



The first thing to decide in writing a manuscript book is the size of
the page. After this is settled, the size of the lettering should be
taken into consideration. If the manuscript is to be on vellum this
should be bought ready cut to the size required. It is much cheaper to
buy vellum in this way than to buy the skin and cut it for oneself. The
reason for this is because the manufacturer can cut up a more or less
imperfect skin into small pieces, but when a whole skin is required
this must be perfect in every respect.

The best vellum for manuscript books is the kind known as Roman vellum,
a very soft and flexible kind of vellum. For title-pages, and any other
pages which are likely to be covered with elaborate work, a slightly
heavier vellum may be advisable.

For general purposes a good size for the page is 10 in. by 7½ in.,
_i.e._, the vellum sheets should be cut 10 in. by 15 in. It is as well
to leave a slight margin for drawing-pins in addition to this. One of
these sheets should be ruled out, as shown in (_a_), Fig. 44, with a
sharply-pointed H.B. pencil. The lines should be ruled very lightly
so that they may be erased with the slightest possible touch of the
rubber. After one sheet has been carefully ruled out in this manner,
the others can be marked out in a similar fashion by pricking through.

Manuscript books are generally written in eight-page sections, formed
by folding one sheet within the other, as in (_b_).

The proportion of the margins may vary according to circumstances, but
it is best to make them fairly wide. The inside margin is made smaller
than the outside one, because the two inner margins come together, thus
forming a wide margin between the two pages of lettering. It should,
however, be made wider than half the size of the outside margin, to
allow for the folding of the leaves when the book is bound. A good
arrangement for the commencement of a MS. book is shown in Fig. 44
(_b_), (_c_), or (_d_). The title is written on page 1. Pages 2 and 3
are blanks. The frontispiece and title-page occupy pages 4 and 5. Page
6 is another blank, and the manuscript starts on page 7. The title may
be written simply in red, or red and black. This should not be written
quite in the centre of the page, a larger space should be left at the
bottom, as if this is equal with the top it will look as if a larger
space had been left at the top.

[Illustration: FIG. 44.]

For the frontispiece a miniature may be used, illustrating some passage
in the book; or a coat-of-arms or some symbol may be worked in
surrounded by decoration. The title-page should have the title and the
author’s name, but the artist should not put his name here. When he has
finished the MS. he may write at the end a colophon, stating his name,
and when and where the book was written. It is best when writing out
the manuscript to leave the title-page and frontispiece until the rest
of the matter has been written.



No elaborate planning of pages is necessary. A good number of pages
should be ruled out with lines ready for writing, and the manuscript
should be written straight away with the quill pen. Spaces are left
for initial letters, miniatures, etc., as the writer feels they are
fitting and necessary. The student should be very careful to write out
the pages in the proper order, as it is very easy to make mistakes by
writing on the wrong pages. For example, if he is not careful he is
very liable, after having written the second page of a section, to go
on writing on page 7, instead of page 3, which is on another sheet of
vellum folded inside the first. A good method for avoiding this is to
number the pages lightly in pencil with large figures at the head of
each page.

When writing out the words, the vellum should be fastened to the
drawing-board with drawing-pins, a pad formed with several sheets of
blotting-paper being placed under the vellum to ensure easy writing.
If possible, place the copy just above the writing level, where it can
easily be seen.

If it is necessary to find out how many pages the manuscript is likely
to run into, a rough calculation can easily be made by ruling out a
sheet of paper and lightly pencilling in a page of the writing. It
will then be an easy matter to count up the number of words to form an
estimate of the number of pages required.

The student should always, before commencing to write, read through the
matter and decide what initials he will have, also whether he will have
any miniatures, etc. In fact, he ought to be able, before he commences
work, to visualise the whole of the manuscript completed. If his mental
image of the finished book is a grand one he will be inspired to do his
utmost to make the actual one as much like the one in his imagination
as possible.

After the writing has been done, the initial letters, borders,
etc., may be drawn lightly with pencil. After this, the next stage
is the gilding. Before this is done, however, the vellum should be
carefully fastened tightly to the drawing-board with a large number of
drawing-pins to prevent it from cockling.

When the gold has been laid and burnished, the colouring is proceeded
with, and the page is finished.

The colophon is written at the end, a blank page being left between it
and the last page of writing. This should be in quite simple lettering
without any ostentatious show of decoration. The wording may be as
follows: “This book, written out by me ---- in ----, for ----, was
finished on the ---- day of ----, Anno Domini, 19--.”

Of course, there is no need to word the colophon always in this manner.
This is merely a form suggested. In the case of a book where several
have taken part in the work, mention should be made of this. It is not
a bad plan also to include the name of the binder, in the event of the
book being bound by a good craftsman. Some examples of colophons are
shown in Fig. 45.

It is a mistake to make all the pages elaborate in style; in fact it is
best to make the majority of them quite simple in treatment, with here
and there one that is more ornate in character.

[Illustration: FIG. 45.]

The writing is the principal thing in the book, therefore nothing must
be added that will in any way detract from this. If the addition of
decoration has this effect it would be much better to leave the writing
quite plain. It is impossible to lay down any rules to govern the use
of decoration in the manuscript book. It is largely a matter of feeling
one’s way. If the decoration is well-considered and suited to the
words it will help, rather than detract from, the lettering.

It should be remembered that the primary object of a book is to be
read. If the book fails in this respect it will also most certainly
fail from the standpoint of beauty. One of the first essentials of
anything that lays claim to beauty is that it shall serve its purpose.
Therefore care should be taken that nothing be done that will, in any
way, tend to make the book less readable.

The decoration should be strongly influenced by the subject-matter of
the book. Some illuminators appear to have one idea only with regard to
illumination. No matter what the words are, the same kind of decoration
is used. They seem to make no distinction whether the subject is a
mediæval romance or something quite modern. This is a great mistake,
and shows a lack of thought and imagination on the part of the artist.
The ideas expressed in the words should also be felt in the decoration;
in fact, the book when completed should form one harmonious whole.

When miniatures are introduced these also should harmonise with
the decoration. It is not advisable to make these resemble small
water-colour paintings that have no connection with the rest of
the ornament. On the other hand, these should not be drawn in too
conventional a manner. They should be essentially decorative in
treatment, and careful study from nature should prevent the student
from making these too hard and rigid in character. Complete unity
should run throughout all the work.



Even in the writing itself it is possible to express something. For
example, some prose looks best if written with a fairly heavy massed
writing, whilst other of a lighter character seems to be best if
written with the lettering less heavy and more loosely arranged. Poetry
generally seems to require to be written with a lighter type of letter
and with the lines of lettering wider apart. It is, however, not wise
to lay down hard and fast rules with regard to this: one should be able
to feel what is the best thing to do.

When writing the MS., and, indeed, right through every stage, absolute
quiet is necessary to concentrate one’s mind on the work. One should
endeavour to give it one’s undivided attention.

A test as to whether an artist has succeeded is to observe, when the
book is shown to anyone, whether the words are noticed at all, or if
the decoration only is admired without any apprehension as to what the
words are about. If the latter is the case, then, to some extent, the
artist has failed. A manuscript that has been illuminated in the right
spirit should enable the reader to understand and appreciate the words

After the MS. is completed it should be carefully bound by an
experienced binder. It is as well to choose a good craftsman for this
purpose, and one who has had some experience in binding manuscripts
containing raised gold, as it is very easy for a binder to spoil the
manuscript if he is not accustomed to handling work of this kind. To
make the whole thing a success it is necessary that the binder should
be an artist as well as the illuminator.

A simple method of binding MSS. in limp vellum, without special
appliances, is described in the next chapter.



The method of binding described in this chapter is not intended to
take the place of proper binding in leather. However, it is sometimes
useful to be able to put the MS. in a cover when it is not desirable or
convenient to go to the expense of having the book bound in the usual
way. Binding with stiff boards is an art that requires considerable
experience as well as skilled training, but there is no reason why MSS.
should not be bound in limp vellum in the manner described here. No
special appliances are needed for this method, and the writer should be
able to complete his MSS. by binding them without any difficulty if the
directions given here are carefully followed.

Two additional sections of plain paper or vellum should be made, to
serve as end-papers, one at each end of the book. If the MS. is on
vellum, the end-papers should be of the same material, but if on paper
the end-papers should be made of paper of the same kind as that used
for the rest of the book.

Four strips of binder’s vellum should then be cut, these being about
3/8 in. wide and four inches long. The sections should be knocked
up quite squarely, and should be marked on the back with a soft
black-lead pencil in the manner shown in Fig. 46, using a square
to get the lines accurate. The sections should all be marked quite
distinctly so that each section shows the divisions quite plainly. This
gives the position of the four strips of vellum and the kettle-stitches
at each end. The mark for the kettle-stitch should be about ½ in. from
each end, although sometimes at the bottom a little more than this
is allowed. The position of the vellum strips should be in the same
proportion as given in Fig. 46.

[Illustration: FIG. 46.]

When ready to sew the sections, take the four vellum strips and
fold each one about 1½ in. or 1¾ in. at right angles from each end,
according to the thickness of the book. Then take a drawing-board and
place on the edge of it the first section face downwards, with the
four strips placed in position with their shorter ends underneath. Get
a needle, threaded with good silk or unbleached thread, and insert it
at the top kettle-stitch mark from the outside, bringing it out again
at the first mark for the vellum strip. Bring the thread round the
strip and re-insert the needle on the other side, bringing it out again
and round the next strip, and so on until it comes out at the bottom
kettle-stitch. When this is done it should have the effect, shown in
Fig. 46, of a continuous thread passing in and out and round the vellum
strips. Now take the next section and place it in position and sew in
the same manner, continuing with the same thread but in the reverse
manner. Upon coming to the loose end, where the needle was first
inserted, this should be tied up with it. Then add another section,
going backwards and forwards, adding section by section until the whole
is completed. Each kettle-stitch is linked up as shown in Fig. 46,
and it is a good plan also to link up the threads that cross over the
vellum strips in the same manner.

To keep the sections in position while stitching, a small paper-weight
is useful. The thread should be drawn fairly tightly, a fresh needleful
of thread being tied on to the end of the other when it is exhausted,
and when the stitching is completed the end should be carefully tied
up with the last kettle-stitch. The back may then be covered with thin
glue and lined with a piece of thin leather or tough paper, and the MS.
is then ready for covering. (See Fig. 49.)

A piece of binding vellum is cut for the cover and marked with a folder
on the underside, as shown in Fig. 47. The two lines marked down the
centre represent the thickness of the sections. The two spaces on
either side, exclusive of margins, should be slightly larger than the
size of the sides of the book. The wide margin that extends all the
way round may be approximately 1½ in., while the additional narrow
margin on two sides may be ¼ in. in width. The corners should be cut
along the dotted lines with a sharp knife.

[Illustration: Vellum Cover

FIG. 47.]

The cover is then folded up in the manner shown in Fig. 48. It is as
well to stick the edges down with a little stiff quick-drying paste.
The two narrow margins should be marked with the folder and folded over
to form two flaps on the fore-edge of the book. All these folds should
be made very carefully so as to ensure them being quite even. Some
people find it best to make a cover of stiff paper first, and, when
this fits correctly, they make the vellum cover exactly the same size.
It is possible by this method to avoid spoiling the vellum through
cutting it so that it does not fit.

[Illustration: Cover ready for binding the MS.

FIG. 48.]

The next thing to do is to mark the places on the inside of the cover
for the vellum strips to be laced through. These should be made about ¾
in. from the creases of the back. Another mark should be made about 3/8
in. away from the first mark. If the book is now placed in the cover it
will be quite an easy matter to mark exactly where the vellum strips
intersect these lines, and slits may be cut with a sharp knife in the
cover in the places marked with dotted lines in Fig. 48.

The vellum strips may now be laced through these slits and the ends
stuck down with strong paste. Some pieces of good silk ribbon may be
attached to the top and bottom strips and laced through the cover,
leaving the ends to tie, or the book may be left without these.

The two outside end-papers may then be pasted down on to the inside of
the vellum cover. This will cover up the ends of the vellum strips. It
is, however, essential that for all this a quick-drying paste should
be used and not one that is very liquid, as this would quickly strike
through and cockle the vellum. The end-papers should be pasted down
very neatly and then the book should be placed under pressure until it
is quite dry. One or two heavy books make a very good press for this

[Illustration: MS. ready for insertion in Cover.

Finished Volume.

FIG. 49.]

When the book is quite dry the decoration of the cover may be proceeded
with. The title may be written on it with quite plain lettering or
it may be decorated in a more elaborate fashion. It is better not to
use raised gold, as it is very liable to get damaged on the cover of
the book. However, some very good effects can be obtained with flat
gilding. The vellum strips that are laced through the cover offer scope
for decoration. If it is desirable to write the title on the back of
the book it is better to do this before the book is bound, as it is
rather a difficult matter to write here when the book has been bound.

If it is desired to do so, the cover may be made of thin card or stout
paper in this way and then have a cover of vellum folded over it. If
this is done, the vellum strips will, of course, be covered up on the
outside, as well as the inside, of the cover.

Generally the books most suitable for this style of binding are small
ones, although larger MSS. are sometimes bound in this way.

The same remarks that were made with regard to the style of decoration
in the MS. itself apply equally here. The subject of the book must
decide, to a large extent, what style of ornament is to be used.
For example, a volume of modern poetry will require quite different
treatment to that of a mediæval romance.

It ought to be possible for the illuminator to make some very charming
little volumes in this manner.



As already mentioned in an earlier chapter, some of the early printed
books were enriched with fine illuminated initials, borders, etc. These
books were printed with spaces left for the artist to insert these,
and this seems to have often been the custom during the early days of

There ought to be a demand for books produced in this manner in the
present day, and the modern illuminator should be able to do good work
in this way.

When it is intended to apply illumination to the printed book, it is
well that the book selected should be worthy of being illuminated, both
with regard to subject-matter and also the way in which it is printed.
It should be beautifully printed on good paper. Some choice editions
have been printed on vellum, but these are few and far between.
However, if possible, the book selected should be printed on good
hand-made paper. The illuminator should carefully avoid so-called “art”
papers, which have a clay surface and are by no means durable, besides
being far from ideal for working upon. The book should be printed from
good type, with nice wide margins so as to leave plenty of scope for

[Illustration: FIG. 50.]

Illuminating a book after it has been bound is a rather difficult
matter, so it is better to procure the sheets, if possible, before they
have been bound. It is much more convenient to work upon them when they
are unbound, as each page in turn can be fastened to the drawing-board
in the usual way. A good edition of any book can generally be obtained
from the publishers in sheets if application is made. In the case where
it is possible only to work on the book after it has been bound, it is
best to tie the pages back with a piece of narrow tape in the manner
shown in Fig. 50. A piece of stout cardboard is placed at the back of
the book, and the book is tied to this by means of the tapes. This not
only prevents the pages from turning over, but also precludes the
possibility of the book accidentally closing.

One thing is extremely important in connection with the illumination of
the printed book, and that is that the decoration should be in keeping
with the modern type used in printing. The book should not look as if
the text ought to be written in Gothic script. The illuminator must
endeavour to preserve a feeling of unity about the book. If the book
is illuminated like a thirteenth-century missal, the ordinary Roman
type will look out of place. It is hardly necessary to add that Gothic
initials should not be used, as they would be entirely out of keeping
with the type. A good form of Roman capital may be used instead.

If illustrations in the form of full-page plates form part of the book
they may be mounted on good stout hand-made paper and have the titles
nicely written underneath. For writing the titles under illustrations
a simple form of Roman script should be used, so as to be as much
in keeping with the type as possible. It is not advisable to add
any decoration to the page on which the illustration is mounted.
The inscription alone is sufficient and should be nicely written in
well-formed writing.

For the title-page of the book this may either be substituted by one
entirely done by hand, or the printed one may be slightly decorated. It
is best not to make this too elaborate, especially if the printed one
is used. In fact it may be best to leave it practically plain, but this
is a point that must be decided by one’s own good taste.

The opening page may be made important by using a fine initial letter.
By the use of body colours it is possible to paint this in on top
of the printed letter. The first word, which is generally printed
in capitals, may also be painted in the same way, either in gold or
colours. The decoration should be suited to the subject-matter of the
book and should not be carried to excess. It is much better for the
decoration to be somewhat too simple in character than for it to look
too ornate and crowded.

The decoration should be kept quite free in character and every
endeavour should be made to prevent it from getting hard and severe.
All the poetry and sweetness possible should be put into it.

Every page should not be covered with decoration; this should not be
attempted. All the variety possible should be got by making some pages
quite simple in treatment, others may be more elaborate, while some may
be left quite plain. Too many heavy borders should not be introduced.

The use of illuminated tail-pieces affords a good opportunity for the
illuminator to add to the interest of the page, and there is generally
plenty of scope for these at the end of chapters, etc.

Generally speaking, the printed book should not be used for
illuminating when it is possible to write out the words, as a
manuscript book is certainly preferable to a printed one. But in
cases where a book is too long to be written out, the application
of illumination to typography is certainly a great advantage if
judiciously used.

At the end of the book the illuminator may add his colophon, stating
that the illumination in the book was executed by himself, and giving
the date of its completion and other interesting details.

A complete edition of the works of a favourite poet is a good example
for illumination in this manner. It would take far too much time, as
well as being too costly, for the modern illuminator to write out a
large volume of poetry, but it might be nicely printed and illuminated
in this way. By these means a beautiful book might be produced that
ought to appeal to the lover of choice books.

Doubtless there will be many books that will suggest themselves for
treatment in this manner, although it is to be feared that a great
many of the books written in the present day are hardly suitable for
illumination. No one would dream of illuminating a treatise on surgery
to-day, and yet even this was done in the Middle Ages. There is in the
British Museum an illuminated MS. of a French treatise on surgery of
the thirteenth century which is quite charming in style. This kind of
thing is, however, quite impossible to-day. Still, there is quite a
large number of books that are suitable in every way for illumination.

Service books for use in churches may well be made subjects for
decoration in the form suggested here. These alone ought to offer
plenty of scope for the modern illuminator. A service book beautifully
printed on fine hand-made paper and illuminated should form an ideal
gift for a church.

A well-printed edition of a favourite author, illuminated with fine
initials and borders, might occasionally be substituted for the usual
illuminated address. This would probably be appreciated very much more
than the ordinary type of testimonial which is generally given. In this
case an inscription may be written at the commencement of the book
giving particulars concerning the presentation.



There ought to be plenty of scope for the modern illuminator in printed
book decoration. His training in writing and illumination ought to
be of the greatest service to him when he is called upon to produce
decoration for the purpose of printing with type.

Without a doubt, the ideal form of printed decoration is that produced
by means of wood-blocks that have been engraved by the artist. If he
is able to engrave blocks from his own designs it will be possible for
him to get much more human interest in his work. As a direct method of
artistic expression wood-engraving has merits far above that of the
mechanical methods of reproduction. Wood-engraving is, however, so
important as to require a separate treatise, it being quite impossible
to deal with it here.

By far the greater part of printed book decoration is produced from
line process blocks, and it is with this form of reproduction that it
is intended to deal in this chapter.

One of the most important parts of the book, from the point of view
of decoration, is undoubtedly the title-page. In Fig. 51 some of the
forms that this may take have been suggested. In making a design for
reproduction by this process it is not advisable to make the drawing
much larger than it is required to be when reproduced. The decoration
loses much of its individual charm when it is reduced too much. A
successful reproduction should represent the original drawing of the
artist as nearly as possible, and if it is reduced a great deal there
will probably be a considerable difference between the reproduction and
the original.

[Illustration: FIG. 51.]

In designing a title-page a great deal depends on the style of book it
is intended for. A book on architecture or engineering would require
quite different treatment from a volume of poetry.

A very simple form of title-page is suggested in Fig. 51 (_a_). This
consists of nicely-arranged lettering with a printer’s device or some
symbolical ornament. If desired, the larger lettering may be drawn and
the rest printed from good type well arranged. It is hardly necessary
to add that the lettering should be in keeping with that used in the
other part of the book.

A title-page with the lettering printed from type and suitable
decoration added is a very satisfactory form.

The next one, shown in (_b_), is one where the lettering is enclosed
within a border. This may be either quite simple or elaborate, as

The style indicated in (_c_) is one in which the lettering is
incorporated with the design. This is a form often employed for an
elaborately decorated edition, such as a volume of poems.

The next one (_d_) is the pictorial type: nicely-arranged lettering
with a picture in the centre. This may be either in line or colour, but
generally it is in line, treated rather boldly. A woodcut illustration
with red and black lettering makes a very effective title-page.

The last suggestion, given in (_e_), is for the double form of
title-page. A good number of richly decorated volumes are of this form.

Another type that is often used is where the lettering is placed on a
tablet, scroll, cartouche, or other ornamental device; or the page may
be a combination of lettering, border, and illustration. Instead of a
border that is rigidly defined it may have a border that is quite loose
in character.

Possibly several other variations will suggest themselves to the artist.

Another important part of book decoration is the initial letter. As
mentioned in the previous chapter on the illumination of the printed
book, these should be of the Roman type. Gothic initials should never
be employed with modern type. Above all, the initial letter should
always be distinct. A puzzle is all right in its place, but this is not
the place for it.

In Fig. 52 some examples are given of bad forms for the student to
avoid. It would have been easy to have filled quite a large number of
pages with letters of this character. The letter A shown here is a
type of initial that was very familiar in books about fifty years ago.
Occasionally one sees it now, but not often. Most of these bad forms
arise from a misconception as to the nature of the letter. A letter
is simply a sign intended to convey a meaning to the reader; there is
no reason why it should pretend to be something else. The sign may
certainly be a thing of beauty, but surely making it look as if it is
formed with branches like a rustic bridge is not making it beautiful.

Another bad type of letter is shown in the initial B. This form of
letter is largely used by sign-writers even in the present day. In this
case the letter is apparently conceived as a solid block, which is
drawn in false perspective so that it may throw a meaningless shadow.

[Illustration: Types of Initials to avoid.

FIG. 52.]

Sometimes the surface of the letter is broken up, as in the letter C.
In the case of a stencilled letter, breaking the surface of the letter
is, of course, unavoidable (although even in this case it would not be
broken up like this example), but for a printed letter, where there is
no necessity, it is extremely foolish.

The other C is another example sometimes seen, formed with a coil of

[Illustration: FIG. 53.]

The other shapes are all equally bad, and no one with a training in
really good forms of lettering could possibly originate them. They all
practically err in the same direction, _i.e._, in pretending to be
something that they are not. It is curious that this tendency should so

Another bad form of initial, not illustrated here, is that formed by
contorting figures into shapes to represent various letters. All this
sort of thing cannot be too severely censured.

It is far better to have initials quite simple in character rather than
forms like these, which are absolutely debased in style. A fine form of
Roman capital with little or no ornament added is much to be preferred.

In Fig. 53 some elaborate examples are given showing how it is possible
to produce striking initials without resorting to any of the devices
illustrated in Fig. 52.

The A and the T are examples of initials filled with decoration based
on plant-form. This makes a very good style of letter.

One of the O’s has a decorative landscape placed in the centre. Of
course, only the round letters can be treated in this fashion.

The other letter O has a fanciful style of decoration very suitable for
the commencement of a fairy tale. In fact this initial was designed for
that purpose, the story commencing in the usual way, “Once upon a time.”

In Fig. 54 some suggestions are given for tail-pieces which are used
to fill up when a chapter ends half-way down the page. These may be of
various shapes, such as triangular, rectangular, lozenge-shaped, or
irregular. They may consist merely of decoration or they may embody
the words, “The End,” “Finis,” “Conclusion,” or “Here ends the story

A small decorative scene may be employed as suggested here. Another
way often used, and also indicated here, is for the lettering to be
separate, with a band of ornament beneath it.

Borders for illustrations should be in keeping with the style of the

[Illustration: FIG. 54.]

Chapter headings may be either well-arranged lettering enclosed within
a border, or the lettering may be placed on a scroll, cartouche, etc.
Another form may be that in which a picture is incorporated with the
decoration. Generally, chapter-headings are used more in magazines than
in books. If one is designed for a special page in a magazine it should
be definitely for that particular page.

When making a design that is to be reproduced in two colours, in
which both colours are distinct--_i.e._, they do not overlap--the
drawing should be made all in black. A sheet of tracing-paper is then
pasted on the top edge at the back and folded over on the face of
the drawing. The parts that are intended to be printed in the second
colour should then be painted in with vermilion on the tracing-paper.
This indicates to the block-maker the parts to cut out when making the
blocks. The reason for doing this is because it is much easier to make
the line-blocks from the drawing if it is all in black. Of course,
this only applies when the two colours are quite distinct. When they
overlap, the best way is to make two separate drawings in black. This
can be done quite well by making a pencil drawing first, then painting
in one colour in black on this drawing; the second colour is then
painted on a piece of tracing-paper which is placed over this drawing
for the time being. A small cross should be placed at each corner of
the drawing and traced through on to the second one to act as register
marks for the block-maker.

Generally speaking, all designs for book-decoration should be in line.
The great disadvantage of the half-tone process is that the blocks
cannot be printed well on a paper that has the slightest tendency
towards being rough on the surface. The best results are undoubtedly
produced when they are printed on art paper. Art paper is, however,
far from durable, and should not be used for books that are required
to be lasting. Apart from this, the half-tone process is not nearly
so satisfactory as the line process. A good line block will give a
fairly faithful reproduction of the original drawing without losing
detail. This cannot be altogether claimed for the half-tone process.
Three-colour process blocks, being a development of this, are open
to the same objections. When the student has seen some of his work
reproduced by these processes he will be able to appreciate the

If colour is required in the decoration, a much more satisfactory form
of colour reproduction is that produced from several line blocks, but,
of course, if this process is used there must be no attempt at wash

This chapter is intended to be merely suggestive of the developments in
printed book-decoration that ought to be quite possible for the modern



It may be as well again to emphasise the fact that it is imperative, if
one desires to succeed in the art of illumination, that it should be
taken up in a serious manner and not merely as a pleasant pastime. It
is an art which is worthy of the best that time and careful study can
give to it, and it may serve as useful a purpose in the present day as
it has done in the past.

There is no royal road to success: this can only come through steadily
plodding along the lines suggested. The methods of study that have been
outlined in the previous chapters are the result of what the writer has
learned in the hard but excellent school of experience.

Good, well-formed writing comes first and foremost, making use of the
reed and quill pen in the formation of letters. The method of practice,
commencing with simple pen-strokes, that is given in the early part of
this book, ought to enable the student to produce good lettering if he
works with the exercises in the manner suggested. After he has become
familiar with the use of the pen in this way he will be able to study
the various forms of lettering that were used in the past in a much
more intelligent fashion than would be the case if he had no knowledge
concerning the manner in which the letters were formed. He should
continue this study on the lines suggested in Chapter 6, and should not
be content with the examples given here but should study the original
manuscripts for himself.

Careful attention should be given to the way in which the lettering
is arranged and the manner in which the letters and words are massed
together. The student cannot have too much practice with the reed and
quill pen.

The many good historical forms of Roman lettering should not be
neglected. Roman lettering is, without doubt, the most useful form of
lettering for general inscriptions, and it is necessary that the modern
illuminator should be familiar with the beautiful forms of this style
of lettering. He should note the general arrangement of these letters
when used in inscriptions, etc. He will experience no difficulty in
getting photographs of some of the important Latin inscriptions that
were executed with letters of this style.

He should endeavour to form these letters in a direct manner with
the pen and brush, and, if he has worked consistently with the quill
and reed pen in the manner described, he will find that he will soon
acquire dexterity in forming these letters. The practice that he gets
through forming these letters with the brush will be most helpful to
him when the time comes for him to make use of the brush for painting
in decoration.

It is hoped that the very brief sketch that is given of the history of
illumination may arouse some interest, so that the student will study
this subject for himself, going into detail that is quite impossible
here. Even if the whole of this volume had been devoted to the history
of this art it would have been impossible in this limited space to deal
with it in an efficient manner. The object of this short survey has
been merely to act as an introduction to the study of this important

Making use of a simple colour scheme such as red and black, as is
suggested in Chapter 12., is likely to act as an excellent training
in taste. If the student starts straight away with a full array of
colours, the chances are that the result may be anything but pleasant
and agreeable. If he is able to produce good pattern with black and
red, he will probably be able to do good work with gold and colours.
However, if he cannot make good pattern with these, he will find it
difficult to do it more successfully with less limited means.

The student will never regret the time spent in the study of the best
work of the Middle Ages. By this means he is brought face to face with
examples of the work of artists who were masters in this particular
craft. The study of the best work that the mediæval artists have
produced, combined with plenty of study from nature, is, without doubt,
the finest training that the modern illuminator could possibly have.
One would hesitate to recommend the one without the other, as the
general tendency of the illuminator who neglects nature study, going to
ancient examples only, is to produce weak imitations of mediæval work.
If this is the case, there can be no opportunity for real living art.
On the other hand, if the study of the best work of the mediæval period
is neglected, he loses the benefit that may be gained by a close study
of the methods of working employed by the artists of the Middle Ages.
The same problems that confront him were before the mediæval artist,
and, although there is no necessity for him to produce imitation
thirteenth-and fourteenth-century illumination, he is able to build on
the foundation that these artists have laid and help to carry forward
the traditions of the craft in the best way that he is able.

That there are abundant ways in the present day in which the modern
illuminator may make use of his craft has been amply exemplified in the
preceding pages. The work of the craftsman, of course, stands first
and foremost, but it must be remembered that the machine has come to
stay, and the artist must endeavour to realise something of the great
possibilities that there are in this direction. Although the product
of the machine can never equal that of handcraft, there is no reason
why, if there is intelligent co-operation between the artist and the
manufacturer, the greater part of the work produced should not be
infinitely superior in character than is so often the case.

There are numerous ways in which the machine is employed in which it
would be quite impossible adequately to deal with the matter from a
craftsman’s standpoint. To mention just one branch alone: Christmas
cards and calendars. It would be quite impossible to do all these by
hand, and yet it is certainly desirable that they should be done in
the best possible taste and in as efficient a manner as possible. It is
here that the opportunity for the properly trained artist arises, and,
if he gives of his best workmanship, the finished production should be
all the better through his influence.

This is surely a sufficient excuse for dealing with the various
developments of illumination commercially.

Book decoration, both in connection with MS. book and the printed
book, is, however, the thing most in keeping with the true spirit of
illumination. Illumination seems to be bound up with book production,
and, if the modern collector could only see that a fine illuminated
manuscript was a work of art as desirable as a picture for a permanent
possession, there ought to be a fair demand for the work of the modern

The illuminated MS. book is, without doubt, the ideal work for the
illuminator, and it seems a pity that there should not be a greater
demand than there is at the present time. Certainly an illuminated
manuscript book, specially written, would be much better for a
presentation than the average illuminated testimonial, and it would
probably meet with far more appreciation.

No one would be so foolish as to wish to do away with the printed book,
as this has now become a necessity, but surely the manuscript book
should not be altogether a thing of the past!

Some people are of the opinion that it is a waste of time producing
illuminated manuscripts in the present day. Still, is time ever wasted
in producing beautiful workmanship? Surely not. The time spent in the
production of any real work of art is never wasted.

Poetry, when mixed up with commercial matter and obviously printed
by commercial methods, loses considerably because the surroundings
are uncongenial. However, the illuminated manuscript enhances it by
presenting it in an artistic form.

Probably nothing offers a better opportunity for the illuminator, as
a subject for an illuminated volume, than poetry. The illuminated
rendering seems to give it an extra quality. The antiquity of the
illuminated book, and the fact that it was a means of presenting the
romances of the Middle Ages, makes it the natural vehicle for the
poetic message.

Its value for liturgical purposes is also of importance, and certainly
it has been more generally used for this purpose than any other in the
past. Probably the reason why it is so suited to this is owing to the
conservative nature of liturgy demanding antique associations.

No doubt, like most other hand methods of production, the demand for
this must necessarily be limited, as the modern craze for cheapness
renders the price impossible to any large extent. Therefore it can
never be expected to enter into competition with the printed book.
Also printing has now become a separate art--at least, the style of
lettering and decoration owes little or nothing to the illuminated
manuscript as was the case with the earliest European printed books.
The art of printing has, however, developed considerably since those
times, and, the character now being totally different, consequently
there is no reason why the printed book should be an imitation of the

Illumination and printing should both develop along their special
lines, the developments of both depending on the exigencies of the
materials employed. Thus, in relation to the printed book, the printing
process should be developed to get the best results possible.

Probably the ideal printed book would have the decoration printed from
wood-blocks engraved by the artist himself. If the decoration and
illustrations take the form of reproductions of drawings there can
never be the same life and vitality as when the whole is the direct
creation of the artist.

Of course, this is mentioned merely as an ideal of what the printed
book should be. In practice, however, one is not always able to work
up to this standard. Reproduction by means of line blocks is probably
one of the best forms of process work that can be employed in book

Any peculiar qualities that the form of press or machine used is
able to give should be used to advantage. The printer should seize
every opportunity which occurs that may help to render his work more

Although it is not desirable that the printer should imitate the work
of the illuminator, there is certainly no reason why they should
not work together as suggested in Chapter XXVII, the illuminator
adding illuminated initials, borders, and other decoration so that
the completed volume represents the work of the printer and the
illuminator. This was often done in the early days of printing, and
there is surely the possibility of good work being done in this way at
the present time.

There certainly ought to be plenty of opportunities for the illuminator
even in the present day. It is, however, of the utmost importance that
he should be able to produce high-class workmanship. Weak, amateurish
efforts have no commercial value. To attain perfection patient and
sincere effort is required.



In this the closing chapter of this book it may be as well to suggest a
few books that might be useful for further study. It is not intended,
by any means, to give anything like a complete bibliography on this
subject, but merely to refer to a few of the books that the writer has
found to be of service to him. Some of the books mentioned may possibly
be out of print, but copies may be seen in most of the larger public

The following books treat the subject of illumination broadly from
the historical standpoint: _English Illuminated MSS._, by Sir E. M.
Thompson, _Illuminated MSS. in Classical and Mediæval Times_, by J. H.
Middleton, and _Illuminated Manuscripts_, by J. A. Herbert. Another
most useful book for the student is the _Historical Introduction to
the Collection of Illuminated Letters and Borders in the National Art
Library_, by John W. Bradley.

Reproductions of some of the illuminated MSS. in the British Museum
have been published by the Museum authorities. _Illuminated Manuscripts
in the British Museum_, by G. F. Warner, contains a series of plates
beautifully reproduced in gold and colours. These give as nearly as
possible in a reproduction some idea of what the originals are like.
Three sets of fifty collotype plates, _Reproductions of Illuminated
Manuscripts_, are also published of the illuminated MSS. in the
British Museum. _A Guide to the Manuscripts_ in the British Museum
also contains a number of half-tone reproductions, and _The Catalogue
of Illuminated Manuscripts, Part 2, Miniatures, Leaves, and Cuttings_,
published by the authorities of the Victoria and Albert Museum, has
a good number of illustrations. The series of excellent photographic
facsimiles published by the Palæographical Society are also most useful
for reference.

For students who wish to give special attention to the work of any
particular schools of illumination, such as the Byzantine, Celtic, or
Winchester Schools, the following books are recommended:

BYZANTINE SCHOOL.--For a general history of Byzantine art, _Byzantine
Art_, by O. M. Dalton, and _Manuel d’Art Byzantine_, by Ch. Diehl.
Both of these writers deal with illuminated manuscripts as well as
other branches of Byzantine art. For a work dealing exclusively with
Byzantine MSS. the _Histoire de l’Art Byzantin considere ... dans le
Miniatures_, by M. Kondakoff, may be recommended.

CELTIC SCHOOL.--_Early Christian Art in Ireland_, by Margaret M.
Stokes, is a very useful book. Other helpful books are _The Fine Arts
and Civilization of Ancient Ireland_, by Henry O’Niell, and _Celtic Art
in Pagan and Christian Times_, by J. Romilly Allen. _An Enquiry into
the Art of the Illuminated Manuscripts of the Middle Ages. I. Celtic
Illuminated Manuscripts_, by Johann Adolf Bruun, deals with the Celtic
MSS. in a fairly comprehensive manner. This book is illustrated with
reproductions from some of the manuscripts referred to. _Facsimiles of
the Miniatures and Ornaments of Anglo-Saxon and Irish Manuscripts_, by
J. O. Westwood, contains a number of chromo-lithographic reproductions
of these manuscripts. _The Book of Kells_, recently published by the
publishers of _The Studio_, contains a large number of the pages and
initials from this well-known manuscript which have been reproduced by
means of the three-colour process. The Introduction to this volume has
been written by Sir Edward Sullivan.

WINCHESTER SCHOOL.--An account of one of the most important manuscripts
of this school, _viz._, the famous Benedictional of Æthelwold, is given
in Vol. I. of the _Bibliographical Decameron_, by Dr. Dibdin; also Dr.
Waagen gives a description of it in Vol. III. of _Treasures of Art in
Great Britain_. In Vol. XXIV. of the _Archælogia_, pages 1-117, there
is also _A Dissertation on St. Æthelwold’s Benedictional_, by John Gage
Rokewood. This is illustrated with thirty-two plates of reproductions
of the pages of this manuscript. The same writer gives, in pages
118-136, _A Description of a Benedictional or Pontifical, called
Benedictionarius Roberti Archiepiscopi_. Thus two of the most famous
of all the Winchester MSS. are here described in a most careful and
painstaking fashion.

Lettering, especially in its application to illumination, is dealt
with very thoroughly in _Writing and Illuminating and Lettering_, by
Edward Johnston. This book is well illustrated with diagrams, and
the instructions given on how to cut and use the reed and quill pen
are very clear. It is a very useful book for the student. Other books
on the subject of lettering that will be found to be of service are
_Lettering in Ornament_, and _Alphabets, Old and New_, by Lewis F.
Day, also _Alphabets_, by Edward F. Strange. For those who wish to
study lettering from the standpoint of palæography, _Greek and Latin
Palæography_, by Sir Edward Maunde Thompson, is a good introductory
work on this subject.

The following books may be of interest to the student who is desirous
of further information concerning the colours and methods of working
employed by the mediæval artist: Mrs. Merrifield’s _Ancient Practice
of Painting_, the _Schedula Diversarum Artium_ of Theophilus, and _The
Book of the Art of Cennino Cennini_. Mrs. Merrifield’s book contains
a number of translations of the early manuscripts that describe the
technical methods employed by the mediæval artists. The treatise of
Theophilus has been translated into English by R. Hendrie, and the best
translation of Cennini’s book is that by Mrs. Herringham. _Materials
of the Painter’s Craft_, and _Processes, Pigments, and Vehicles_, by
Dr. A. P. Laurie, are books that deal with this subject in a very
interesting and helpful manner.

As the study of Heraldry is very important to the illuminator, the
following books are mentioned: _Complete Guide to Heraldry_, by A. C.
Fox-Davies, _English Heraldry_, by Charles Boutell, and _Heraldry_, by
W. H. St. John Hope. _The Stall Plates of the Garter, 1348-1485_, also
by W. H. St. John Hope.

_Didron’s Iconography of Christian Art_, and _Emblems of the Saints_,
by F. C. Husenbeth, are books that are most useful to the illuminator
when doing work that is ecclesiastical in character.

       *       *       *       *       *

The list of books that is detailed here is necessarily incomplete, but
the student will find that by studying these he will be referred to
others, and so will be able to continue the study.



  Address, illuminated, 171-7

  Advertisement, design for, 192

  Advertisements, lettering for, 72, 192, 196-9

  Air bubbles in raising preparation, 158

  _Alcuin Bibles_, 89

  Alfred the Great, 90

  Alizarin crimson, 127

  Alphabet, its development, 32
    the Roman, 32, 70-83
    from the _Book of Kells_, 66

  Alphabets for study, 60-9

  Altar tablets, 169

  Aluminium leaf, 147
    paint, 147

  _Ambrosian Iliad_, 85

  Anglo-Celtic illumination, 87, 102

  Armenian Bole, 143-4

  Arsenic, sulphide of, 115

  Art paper, 232

  _Arzica_, 120, 121

  _Athelstan’s Psalter_, 90

  _Æthelwold, Benedictional of_, 91

  Aureolin, 124

  _Azurite_, 115

  _Azzuro della magna_, 121
    _oltre marino_, 121

  Babylonian characters, 25

  Backgrounds, diaper, 95

  Barium sulphate, 130

  Beauty, 222

  _Bedford Book of Hours_, 98

  _Benedictional of Æthelwold_, 91

  _Biacca_, 121, 142

  _Bianco Sangiovanni_, 121

  _Bible of Robert de Bello_, 95

  _Bible History, moralised_, 95

  Bichromate of potash, 208

  Binding MSS., a simple method of, 225-231

  Black pigments, 129

  Blocks, line, 178-9
    half-tone, 180
    three-colour, 180-1

  Blood, dragon’s, 116, 120

  Blue pigments, 127

  Body-colours, 135

  Bole, Armenian, 143, 144

  Book, the illuminated MS., 216-24
    printed, illumination of, 232-37
    printed, decoration of, 238-47

  Book-hands, the study of, 60-9

  Bookplate, 201

  Borders, 245

  Bridget, St., 87

  British Museum publications, 106

  Bronze gilding, 185-6
    powder, 146

  Brown pigments, 129

  Brushes, 154, 155

  Brush-formed lettering, 73, 110, 111, 208-12

  Bubbles in raising preparation, 158

  Building up letters, 71, 109-11

  Burnisher, agate, 148, 151

  Burnt sienna, 127

  Burnt umber, 129

  Byzantine illumination, 85-6

  Cadmium yellows, 124

  Calligraphy, its development, 23

  Cambrensis, Giraldus, 87

  Camel-hair mop, 148, 151

  Capitals, square, 33
    rustic, 33

  Capital letters, 65, 66, 67, 110

  Carbolic acid, 133

  Carlovingian illumination, 89
    writing, 40

  Carmine, 127

  Celtic and Anglo-Celtic illumination, 87, 102

  Cennino Cennini, 120, 142

  Cerulean Blue, 127

  Ceruse, 118

  Chalk, 115, 121

  Chapter headings, 245

  Charlemagne, 39, 89

  _Charta Pergamena_, 30

  _Charter, Golden_, 91

  China slab, 132

  Chinese vermilion, 126

  Christmas cards, 185-191

  Chrome yellows, 124, 125

  Chromium oxide, 128

  Chromo-lithography, 182

  _Cinabrese_, 120

  _Cinnabar_, 116, 120

  Classical illumination, 84

  Clay as writing material, 24

  Clothlet tints, 122

  Cobalt blue, 127

  Cobalt violet, 128

  Cobalt yellow, 124

  Cochineal, 127

  Cold tea for tinting paper, 153

  Colophon, the, 221

  Colours used by the mediæval illuminator, 115-122
    their composition and permanence, 123-30
    cake, 131
    tube, 131
    powder, 132
    body, 135
    their preparation and use, 131-7

  Columba, St., 88

  Commercial design, lettering for, 192-202

  Compass, proportional, 68

  Concluding remarks, 248-55

  Copper blues and greens, 115, 118, 121, 122

  Crimson, alizarin, 127
    lake, 127

  Cursive writing, 32

  Cutting the pen, 42, 43

  _Cyperus papyrus_, 28

  Decoration, 156, 161-6, 222, 234
    of printed book, 238-47

  Designs in two colours, 246

  Designing, 187

  Designing a magazine cover, 200-2

  Diagrams, lettering for, 195

  Diaper backgrounds, 95

  _Dioscorides, The_, 85

  Dividers, spring, 107

  Dragon’s blood, 116, 120

  _Durham Book_, 37, 88, 102

  _Durrow, Book of_, 88

  Dutch metal, 147

  Earth colours, 115

  _Edgar, Golden Charter of_, 91

  Egg, white of, 118-9
    used for gilding, 139, 140, 141, 143
    yolk, 119

  Egyptian hieroglyphics, 27
    writing materials, 27, 28

  Eighth-century writing, 38, 39

  Emerald green, 128

  Eraclius, 119

  Erasures, 152-3

  Eumenes II., king of Pergamus, 30

  Exercises in the use of the pen, 45

  Family trees, 170

  Fifteenth-century illumination, and later, 97-100
    writing, 41, 79, 80

  Fifth-century writing, 33-5

  Figures, pen-formed, 57

  Fish-glue for mixing with colours, 117

  Fixed inks, 206, 208

  Flake white, 130

  Forming words and sentences, 54-9

  Fourteenth-century illumination, 96
    writing, 65

  Fourth-century writing, 33

  Framing illuminated work, 174

  Gamboge, 125

  _Garcinia Cambogia_, 125

  _Genesis_ of Vienna Library, 85-6
    _Codex_ in British Museum, 86

  _Gesso Sottile_, 142-4

  _Giallorino_, 120-1

  Gilding methods of the Middle Ages, 138-145
    raised, 142, 147, 157-60
    bronze, 185-6

  Gilder’s cushion, 147-8
    knife, 148-50
    tip, 148, 150-1

  Giraldus Cambrensis, 87

  Glycerine in colours, 131

  Gold, the use of, 136-51
    leaf, 139, 146-7
      handling it, 148-9
    shell, 146
    paint, 146, 185
    grinding, 141, 144

  Gold size and raising preparation, 158-9

  Gold-beating, its antiquity, 139

  _Golden Charter of King Edgar_, 91

  _Gospels, The Lindisfarne_, 37, 88, 102

  Green pigments, 128

  Gum, for mixing colours, 133

  Half-tone blocks, 180

  Half-uncials, 36
    Irish, 36
    English, 37

  Handwriting, ordinary, 24

  Harleian Psalter, 91

  Heraldry, 175

  Hiberno-Saxon illumination, 102

  Hieroglyphic and hieratic characters, 27

  Holding the pen, 44-6

  Honey, mixed with colours, 131
    in raising preparation, 186


  Ichneumon brush, 158

  _Iliad, Ambrosian_, 85

  Illumination, the study of, 23, 166, 248-51
    classical and Byzantine, 84-6
    Celtic and Anglo-Celtic, 87-9, 102
    Carlovingian, 89
    Winchester, 89-92
    twelfth-century, 93-4
    thirteenth-century, 94-6
    fourteenth-century, 96-7
    fifteenth-century, 97-9
    Italian, 99
    in black and red, 107-14
    with gold and colours, 152-60
    the further development of, 161-70

  Illuminated MS. book, 216-24

  Illustrations, lettering under, 234

  _Indaco baccadeo_, 121

  Indian ink, 129

  Indigo, 116, 121

  Influence of the tool, 23-31

  Initial letter, 101-6

  Ink, 44
    classical, 117
    mediæval, 119

  Invitation cards, 190

  Isidore, St., 28

  Ivory black, 129


  Japanese brush, 208-9

  _Jehan le Bègue, MS. of_, 119

  _Joshua Rotulus_, 86

  _Kells, Book of_, 88, 101

  _Kermes_, 116

  _Kildare, Book of_, 87

  Kneaded rubber, 160

  Knife for cutting the pen, 46

  Labels, designs for, 198

  Lakes, 116, 119

  Lampblack, 129

  _Lapis Lazuli_, 127

  Laurie, Dr. A. P., 138

  Lead, white, 121, 130

  Leaf, gold, 139, 146-7

  Lens, magnifying, 68

  Letter, the initial, 101-6

  Letters, pen-formed, 48-53
    brush-formed, 73, 110-1, 208-9
    building up, 73, 110-1
    capital, 65-7, 110

  Lettering, Roman, 70-83
    for advertisements, 72, 192, 196-9
    for commercial design, 192-202

  _Leucophoron_, 139

  Lighting of work, 50

  _Lindisfarne Gospels_, 37, 88, 102

  Line blocks, 178-9

  Lithography, 181-2

  Liturgical purposes, the value of illumination for, 169-70, 253

  Lombardic writing, 38-9

  _Lucca MS._, 117, 139

  Machine, the, 251

  Madder, purple, 128
    rose, 127
    scarlet, 127

  Magazine covers, designing, 200-2

  Magnifying lens, 68

  Majuscule writing, 32

  Manuscript books, illuminated, 216-24

  _Mappæ Clavicula_, 117, 140

  Maps and diagrams, lettering for, 195

  _Marriage Service_, 170

  _Mary’s Psalter_, 96

  Mastery of the tool, 42

  Menu, design for, 210-11

  Merovingian writing, 39-40

  Merrifield, Mrs., 119

  _Metaphrastes, Simeon_, 86

  Method of setting out page, 107-8

  Miniature painting, 91, 100, 167-8, 222

  _Minium_, 118

  Minuscule writing, 38

  Mixed uncials, 35

  Muller for grinding colours, 133

  Murex, 116

  Ninth-century writing, 37

  Naples yellow, 125

  Natural History, Pliny’s, 115-6

  Nature study, 163-6

  New blue, 128

  Note-heading, 199

  Notices, 170

  Ochre, yellow, 125

  “Old English,” 65

  _Opus Anglicum_, 90

  Originality, 168-9

  Orpiment, 115, 119, 122

  Oxgall, 160


  Pad for writing upon, 48

  Page, method of setting out, 107-8

  Palæography, 33

  Palette knife, 133-4

  Paper, 44, 153
    art, 232
    stretching, 154

  Papyrus, 28

  Parchment, derivation of the word, 30
    tinting, 122
    size, 140

  Pattern, simple, 113-4

  Pedigrees, 170

  Pen, holding the, 44-6
    cutting the, 42-3
    exercises in the use of the, 45
    the reed, 27-8, 42
    the quill, first mention of, 28
    -strokes, 45
    -formed letters, 48-53
      figures, 57
    -wiper, 46

  Pencils, 107, 152-3

  _Pezzuole_ colours, 122

  _Philippo de Maizières, Epistle of_, 105

  Phœnician alphabet, 32

  Pigments, blue, 127
    brown, 129
    black, 129
    green, 128
    red, 125
    white, 129
    yellow, 124

  Planning out MS. book, 217-20

  Plant drawing, 163-5

  Plaster of Paris, 144

  Platinum leaf, 147

  Pliny, 115-6

  Plum-tree gum, 117-8

  Poetry, illumination of, 223, 253

  Posters, lettering for, 197
    hand-written, 203-13

  Potash, bichromate of, 208

  Pounce for vellum, 155

  Powder colours, 132

  Practise in writing, 52

  Preparing colours, 131-7

  Printed book, the ideal, 254
    the illumination of, 232-7
    the decoration of, 238-47

  Printing and illumination, 254

  Process blocks, 178-81
    work, white for, 130

  Proportional compass, 68

  _Psalter, Athelstan’s_, 90
    _Queen Mary’s_, 96
    _of Westminster Abbey_, 94
    _Harleian_, 91

  Pumice powder, 155

  _Queen Mary’s Psalter_, 96

  Quill pen, the earliest allusion to it, 28
    cutting it, 42-3

  _Rabula MS._, 86

  Raised gilding, 142, 147, 157-60

  Raising preparation, 158-9

  Raw sienna, 125
    umber, 129

  Red and black, the use of, 107-14, 250

  Red pigments, 125

  Reed pens, 27-8, 42

  Reproduction, the various methods of, 178-84

  _Risalgallo Realgar_, 121

  Roman bronze pens, 28
    lettering, 70-83
    made with simple pen-strokes, 73-4

  Rose madder, 127

  Rubber, kneaded, 160

  Rustic capitals, 33

  S, THE LETTER, 57-8

  Sable writer, 83, 212

  Saffron, 121-2

  St. Bridget, 87
    Columba, 88
    Isidore, 28
    Swithin, 90

  Salt green, 118

  Sap of Iris, 118

  Saucers for colour, 135

  Scarlet madder, 127

  _Schedula Diversarum Artium_, 117

  Scraper, 133, 135

  Scriptoria, the two Winchester, 90

  Sections for MS. books, 217

  Sepia, 129

  Service books, 169

  _Service, Marriage_, 170

  Set square, 107-8

  Setting out page, 107-8

  Seventh-century writing, 36

  Sewing sections, 226-7

  Show-cards, 214-5

  Sienna, burnt, 127
    raw, 125

  Silver leaf, 147

  _Simeon Metaphrastes_, 86

  _Sinopia_, 120

  Sixteenth-century writing, 83

  Size and raising preparation, 158-9
    parchment, 140

  Sketch book, the use of a, 166

  Skins of animals as writing material, 28

  Slope for writing, 49

  _Somme le Roi_, 95

  Spacing words and letters, 57

  Spanish green, 118

  Spring dividers, 107
    for pen, 43

  Square capitals, 33

  Stretching paper, 154
    vellum, 154

  Stylus, the use of the, 25-6

  Success in illumination, 248

  Tablets, writing, 28

  Tail-pieces, illuminated, 235
    printed, 244-5

  Tea, for tinting paper, 153

  Tee square, 107-8

  Tenth-century writing, 38, 62

  Texts for churches, 170

  Theophilus, 117

  Theophrastus, 115

  Thirteenth-century illumination, 94
    writing, 41, 64

  Three-colour blocks, 180-1

  Tinting parchment, 122

  Title-page, 234, 238-40

  Tool, the influence of the, 23-31
    the mastery of the, 42

  Trajan column, 76

  Tube colours, 131

  Turkey quill, 44

  Twelfth-century illumination, 93-4
    writing, 41, 63


  Ultramarine, 121, 127-8
    ash, 128
    French, 128

  Umber, burnt, 129
    raw, 129

  Uncials, 34
    mixed, 35
    half-, 36
    Irish, 36
    English, 37


  Vandyke brown, 129

  Vellum, 152-6, 216-7
    limp, binding MSS. with, 225-31
    reputed origin of, 28

  _Verde azzuro_, 121

  _Verde terra_, 115

  _Verderame_, 121

  Verdigris, 118, 121

  Vermilion, 117, 119, 125-7

  _Vienna Genesis_, 85-6

  Violet, cobalt, 128

  _Virgil MS._ in the Vatican, 85

  Viridian, 128

  Visigothic writing, 39

  Vitruvius, 115

  Wedge-shaped Characters, 25

  _Westminster Abbey, Psalter of_, 94

  White of egg, 118-9
    used for gilding, 139-41, 143

  White lead, 121, 130

  White pigments, 129-30

  Winchester School of Illumination, 90

  Window tickets, 213

  Wood-engraving, 238

  Words, forming, 54-9

  Workmanship, good, 255

  Writer, sable, 83, 212

  Writing, beautiful, the foundation of true illumination, 23-4, 248
    expression in the, 223
    majuscule, 32
    cursive, 32
    minuscule, 38
    Lombardic, 38-9
    Visigothic, 39
    Merovingian, 39-40
    Carlovingian, 40
    fourth-century, 33
    fifth-century, 33-5
    seventh-century, 36
    eighth and ninth-century, 38-9
    tenth-century, 38, 62
    twelfth-century, 41, 63
    thirteenth-century, 41, 64
    fourteenth-century, 65
    fifteenth-century, 41, 79-80
    sixteenth-century, 83

  Yellow pigments, 124

  Yolk of egg, 119

  _Zafferano_, 121

  Zinc white, 129-30


Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

Index not checked for proper alphabetization or correct page references.

All “facing” references in the List of Illustrations, and all “Facing
page” information in the captions of illustrations have been deleted.
The illustrations in this eBook have been placed between paragraphs
near their original locations.

“An Illuminated Address”, listed in the List of Illustrations, was not
found in this book.

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