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Illuminated Letters: An Illustrated Guide

FRONT COVER: Bury Bible, Beginning of. Book of Genesis. English Romanesque

ABOVE LEFT: The Hunterian Psalter (or York Psalter), 12th century ABOVE RIGHT: The Winchester Bible,1160-1175

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istory of Letterforms
Written language began with signs and symbols written on stone and ceramics. In the Mediterranean, hieroglyphics and cuneiform script were used. The Chinese used a combination of pictograms, ideograms, and signs that indicated sounds. Alphabets first appeared in the cosmopolitan Canaanite culture. It consisted of 20 signs combined into simplified forms of Egyptian Hieratic script with the principles of sound representation that were the basis of cuneiform syllabaries. Letters were assigned names as memory aids. The names assigned sounded as the letter was to be pronounced. The letter forms that we use today emerged as early as the Middle Ages.

ABOVE: The Winchester Bible, 1160-1175

THE FIRST CAPITALS The Roman inscriptional capitals have a geometric construction with a square base.

EVOLUTION OF LETTERS Three letters are shown to the left. This illustration functions as a quick reference from the beginnings of western type design, with Imperial Roman capitals, Bodoni and then to Linotype a journey spanning almost 2000 years of type design.

ABOVE: Pericopes of Henry II. Adoration Kings. Virgin Enthroned. Ottonian. 10th century

LOWERCASE LETTERS Lowercase letters did not exist during Roman times. The handwritten, ver tical square capitals and the r ustic capitals written with a slanting quill were the starting points for the development of the uncial, the half uncial and the Carolingian minuscule. The examples shown to the left illustrate that capitals are mostly heavier than lowercase letters.

BOWL | The fully closed, rounded part of a letter ASCENDER | An upward vertical stroke found on the part of lowercase letters that extends above the typefaces x-height EYE | Similar to the counter, the eye refers specifically to the enclosed space in a lowercase e SPINE | The main curved stroke of a lowercase or capital S STEM | Vertical, full-length stroke in upright characters

LOBE | A rounded projecting stoke attached to the main structure of a letter EAR | A small stroke extending from the upper-right side of the bowl of lowercase g; also appears in the angled or curved lowercase r SERIF | A stroke added as a stop to the beginning and end of the main strokes of a character SHOULDER | The curved stroke aiming downward from a stem. The curve at the beginning of a leg of a character, such as in an m
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See more anatomy at: www.typographydeconstructed.com/category/type-glossary/

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lluminated Letters
Illuminated manuscripts created and preserved a legacy of visual styles and iconography. Illuminated letters continued to appear in manuscripts into Medieval Europe and the Middle Ages. During the Middle Ages, illuminated manuscripts moved from being created in monasteries to being created by monks. Scribes were paid to illuminate manuscripts for the rich. Design changes of manuscripts were not limited to technological revolutions. In the 11th century, devotional reading was replaced with scholastic study. Scholars needed a way to navigate throughout manuscripts for reference purposes. The scholars wanted guideposts and a strong information hierarchical structure that called effectively to the eye. Illumination is an embellishment (or additional decoration) that enhances a page. Illumination is derived from the word illuminate/fill with light. For example, when the gold leaf was applied to letters and images, it reflects light and appears to glow on the page. Illuminated letters are the first letter of the page or the paragraph. The initial cap (illuminated letter) was enlarged and enhanced with gold. Imagery and symbols were used to adorn the letters.
ABOVE: The St Albans Psalter, created for St Albans Abbey in the 12th century

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LEFT: The Winchester Bible, 1160-1175

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RIGHT: The Hunterian Psalter (or York Psalter), 12th century

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LEFT: The Hunterian Psalter (or York Psalter), 12th century

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RIGHT: The Bible of Citeaux, Citeaux Abbey, Cote dOr, Burgundy

LEFT: Bury Bible, Beginning of. Book of Genesis. English Romanesque

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ABOVE: The Drogo Sacramentary, 850 AD

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ABOVE: The Hunterian Psalter (or York Psalter), 12th century

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ABOVE: Histoire dOutremer, William of Tyre, 1232

ABOVE: The Winchester Bible, 1160-1175

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ABOVE: The Hunterian Psalter (or York Psalter), 12th century

ABOVE: The St Albans Psalter, created for St Albans Abbey in the 12th century

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The scribe was in charge of copying words and stories onto pages to be made into a book. The scribe would sharpen his quill pen made from a birds feather. Then hed prepare his inks made from ashes, plant material, and egg whites. Then he was ready to start writing. Once all of the text was in place, the scribe would give the pages to the Illuminator who would begin to add the decorative imagery. The Illuminator would make a sketch, then outline that with pen. The gold leaf would go on first, followed by all of the other colors made from ground up stones and plants.

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ABOVE: Bury Bible, Beginning of. Book of Genesis. English Romanesque

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Many of the illuminated letters illustrated scenes that were being described in the text of the manuscripts. They depicted scenes from the Psalms (for use in Christian Church services), from everyday life, and from other religious documents.

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ABOVE: The St Albans Psalter, created for St Albans Abbey in the 12th century

ABOVE: Histoire dOutremer, William of Tyre, 1232

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irections
Based on what you learned in the previous chapters, follow the steps to make your own illuminated letters to tell a story of your own.

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ABOVE: The Drogo Sacramentary, 850 AD

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MATERIALS
- Piece of drawing paper - Pencil and eraser - Ruler - Sharpie (or black felt tip marker) - Gold leaf (or gold colored pencil, gold marker, gold paint) - Tool to add color (colored pencils or paint)

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ABOVE: Model book. 1150-1175

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STEP ONE
Choose a letter to draw. Practice drawing the letter in pencil until you come to a final sketch.

STEP TWO
Next, decide on a theme or story you want to incorporate within the ornaments adorning the letter. Practice drawing the adorning elements over original letter sketches then add the final version to the final letter.

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ABOVE: Model book. 1150-1175

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STEP FOUR
Begin to fill in color where the gold leaf (coloring) was not applied. You can add one color or multiple colors to create a vibrant scene that adorns your letter.

ABOVE: Bury Bible, Beginning of. Book of Genesis. English Romanesque

ABOVE: The Hunterian Psalter (or York Psalter), 12th century

ABOVE: The Hunterian Psalter (or York Psalter), 12th century

STEP THREE
Apply gold leaf or gold coloring to shapes you think are the primary shapes that need to stand out from the rest.

STEP FIVE
Add white for more finite detailing. Outline the entire piece in a black sharpie to emphasize the whole piece.

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ABOVE: The Winchester Bible, 1160-1175 ABOVE: Bury Bible, Beginning of. Book of Genesis. English Romanesque

ABOVE: Model book. 1150-1175

You should now be able to create illuminated letters like the examples shown here.

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ABOVE: The Hunterian Psalter (or York Psalter), 12th century

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dditional Resources
38 Pages, LLC. Typography Deconstructed. http://www.typographydeconstructed.com/category/anatomy-of-type/ Art of the Illuminated Letter. http://www.slideshare.net/meier106/art-of-the-illuminated-letter Drucker, Johanna. Graphic Design History: A Critical Guide. Pearson, New York, 2013. Brookfield, Karen. Eyewitness Books: Book. Dorling Kindersley Limited, London, 1993. Bruce, Amy E. Illuminations: A lesson in the art of Illuminated Letters. http://hrsbstaff.ednet.ns.ca/kmason/images/Illuminations1.pdf Finter, Kathryn. How-to Guide. http://illuminations.ca/how-to.html Letter Fountain. From Drawing to Font. http://www.letterfountain.com/drawingtofont.html
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ABOVE: Bury Bible, Beginning of. Book of Genesis. English Romanesque BACK COVER: The Drogo Sacramentary, 850 AD

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