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T h e  V i r t u a l  A b b e y : A  M e d i e v a l  T o u r
Abbey Entrance | Herb Garden | Scriptorium | Wine Cellar


Anthropomorphic Initial Hard Point Pen
Antiphonal Herbal Pigment
Bestiary Historiated Initial Pounce
Boards Hymnal Pricking
Books of Hours Illuminator Psalter
Breviary Initial Purple Pages
Carolingian Ink Rubricator
Colophon Insular Ruling
Diaper Knife Saints' Lives
Divine Office Lead Point Scribe
Drollery Marginalia Script
Evangelistic Portraits Miniature Scriptorium
Exemplar Mise-en-Page Underdrawing
Foliate Initial Oak Gall Vellum
Gesso Outline Drawing Vernacular
Gilding Palimpset Zoomorphic
Gloss Parchment  

historiated initial

Historiated Initial - an illuminated Initial containing a figure, a group of figures or a narrative scene that relates to the text. Also called figured initial.

Hymnal - a book containing hymns performed for the Divine Office and arranged according to saint's feast days and the liturgical calendar; sometimes incorporated into a Psalter or Antiphonal.

Illuminator - an artist who embellishes manuscripts with vibrant color. In the early medieval monasteries, the illuminator could also be the Scribe - a monk or nun with a sure hand and skilled in mixing Pigment.

Initial - a letter that begins a major division in a text. These can range from the major decorated initials, constituting miniature paintings that often opened a manuscript, to the minor initials penned in red ink by the Rubricator to highlight text and chapter headings. Also see Anthropomorphic, Foliate, Historiated, and Zoomorphic Initials.

Ink - an improvement over the ancient world's use of water-soluble, carbon ink was the medieval mix of pulverized Oak Gall, copperas and gum Arabic. The ingredients yielded a much more permanent, though if mixed improperly, highly acidic ink. One old recipe gives advice on the proper proportions:

"...a quarte of water two ounces of right gumme Arabick, five ounces of galles, and three of coperas. Let it stand in the warme sunne, and so it will the sooner prove good inke."

Mistakes were common, and evident in many old manuscripts slowly eaten through by medieval ink, from Lt., encaustum, or "burnt in."

Insular - manuscript style originating in 6th century Scotland and Northumbria, traveling southward across England and to Ireland. Typified by clearly spaced lettering with a minimum of flourish, offset by extremely intricate knotted and interlaced design. Examples include the Lindisfarne Gospels and Ireland's Book of Kells:

insular script

scribeKnife - a tool possibly of equal importance to the Pen and used to 1. steady the page; 2. as an eraser to scrape a mistake or offending mark from the parchment; or 3. to cut and recut the nib of the quill (ergo, a penknife) thereby maintaining a sharp point as the work continued. Self-portraits of scribes sometimes show them holding a knife in the left hand and a pen in the other.

Lead Point - a plummet or piece of lead alloy used much like a pencil to sketch in initials before inking. Lead point was also used for underdrawings, or for Ruling pages. Instructions in lead point that instruct the scribe on the placement of text and illustrations can still be found in many old manuscripts.

Marginalia - Lt. "things in the margin," describing the wealth of detail that can be found in manuscripts apart from the main text. This might include anything from instructions to the scribe (see Lead Point, above) to the often ornate Gloss that helped to interpret religious and scholarly texts.

Miniature - a stand-alone painting, inserted into the composition of a manuscript, separate and apart from the decorated Initial or highly ornate borders. A term which refers not to the painting's size but to the Latin minium, or red, the bright color favored in early medieval manuscripts.

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