The Middle Ages were a time when all books were written by hand, which meant that all of the illustrations were painted by hand as well. It was in the 12th century that illustrators began to use thin sheets of precious metals to add light, or illumination, to their paintings. Illuminated manuscripts became increasingly popular after that. To this day, constructing an illuminated manuscript is a fun way of paying tribute to a bygone era in which all books were made by hand, including the binding. Create a storey of your own using beautiful illustrations in the style of illuminated manuscripts and spend an afternoon being imaginative.
Part 1 Writing the Text
1. 15 to 20 sheets of parchment paper should be gathered. Classic manuscripts were created from thick, white parchment that was cut down to approximately 8 by 11 inches (20 by 28 cm). If you can, collect enough for your manuscript to be complete in its entirety for authenticity purposes.
Most craft and paper supply stores carry parchment paper, so look for it there.
A traditional method of roughening the surface of parchment and making it more receptive to ink and paint was to dust it with pumice powder before using it.
If you can’t find parchment, you can substitute thick, white cardstock for the same effect.
2. Trim the end of a quill so that it can be used to write with. Traditionally, feather quills from ducks, geese, or chickens were used to write in the illuminations of illuminated manuscripts. Use a pair of scissors or a knife to cut the tip of one of these dried quills into a fine point so you can use it as a writing instrument.
Quills can be found in most paper supply stores, as well as online.
Even if you don’t have access to a quill, a fountain pen with black ink will suffice in this situation.
3. Dip the pointed tip of the quill into a bowl of black ink. Using a small amount of black ink, place it in a bowl where you will have easy access to it. As soon as you’re ready to start writing, dip the very end of the quill into the black ink and shake off any excess.
However, you can use any ink that is readily available to you instead of soot or iron salts, as was customary in the past.
4. Select the bottom and top portions of pages on which you want to include text by highlighting them. The top, bottom, middle, and entire pages of your manuscript can be written in, depending on how you want it to look. You can also leave entire pages blank for illustrations. Also, you can draw a border around the outside edges of the paper and mark the areas on the paper where you’d like to draw pictures. Initially, decide how long you want your storey to be and then select the pages that you want to include.
It was customary in traditional manuscripts for images to be significantly larger than the words on the pages.
The first letter of each page was typically much larger and more detailed than the rest of the page in most illuminated manuscripts. You have the option of starting with that letter first or leaving room to finish it later.
5. Copy an adventure or storey from the Middle Ages, or come up with something entirely new. Traditionally, illuminated manuscripts depicted fantastical events, such as adventure stories and heroic knights, in order to attract attention. If you want to stay within these themes, you can either copy an existing storey, such as King Arthur and the Round Table, or make up your own storey.
Make a practise copy of the text on a scrap piece of paper before transferring it to your manuscript.
6. In order to give your manuscript an old-fashioned appearance, write it in calligraphy. When illuminated manuscripts were first created in the Middle Ages, calligraphy, or decorative handwriting, became extremely popular. When you are writing your letters, try to keep your handwriting as neat as possible and to make them as fancy-looking as possible.
If you are unable to write in calligraphy, that is also acceptable. Simply use your cleanest cursive handwriting to ensure that your letters are clean and sharp in appearance.
7. Allow approximately 15 minutes for the ink to dry. It takes a long time for black ink to dry, especially when working with parchment paper. Before continuing with your manuscript, spread the pages of text out on a flat surface and allow them to dry completely before moving forward.
In order to avoid smudging the ink as you write, keep your hand elevated above the paper when holding your quill.
Part 2 Adding Images and Designs
1. Using a quill and ink, you can create your own images and designs. Before you begin adding colour to your pages, use the same quill and black ink to outline the design you want to draw so you will know where to place the colour on the page when you begin adding colour. To add visual images to your manuscript, try drawing scenes from the storey you wrote out in calligraphy to illustrate your points. Allow approximately 10 minutes for the ink to dry before proceeding.
In the past, traditional illuminated manuscript designs were 2D images that depicted fanciful narratives.
Tigers, kings, and nature were all popular themes for classic manuscripts, but you can use any images that you want to create your own masterpiece.
2. If you’d like, you can draw a border around the text if you want. Many illuminated manuscripts had elaborate borders that encircled the entire page or the box containing the text of the manuscript. Create a border around the page with your quill and black ink by drawing vines, flowers, and leaves around the edges of the page.
3. Fill in any gaps between the gold leaf and the surface you’re working on. Take a small paint brush and dip it into a base coat for gold leaf to apply it. Choose the areas of your design where you’d like to press gold leaf and then lightly paint the base coat over those areas with a small paintbrush. Try not to get it outside of the lines, or it may dilute the paint you use later on in the process.
Base coats were traditionally made of plaster, but you can find base coats at most craft supply stores these days, as well as online.
4. Apply the gold leaf to your design by pressing it into place. Using tweezers, carefully press a sheet of gold leaf onto the areas of the canvas that have a base coat already applied to them. Remove any excess gold leaf from the page with a fluffy paint brush, and then press the remaining gold leaf into the page to ensure that it is firmly adhered.
Gold leaf is a thin sheet of real gold that can be worked with a paintbrush to create a variety of effects. It’s perfect for enhancing an image with a regal border or angelic lighting effects.
Adding gold leaf to your images provides the “illumination” that gives these manuscripts their unique name.
Traditionally, gold leaf was applied to window panes and fruits in the background of photographs to enhance their appearance.
If you’re making a craft with your children, you can substitute gold glitter paint for the regular paint.
5. Watercolor paint can be used to add colour to your designs. Choose the colours that you’d like to use for the rest of your image and write them down. Make an effort to use watercolours, as they are the most accurate representation of the traditional vegetable dyed colours of the Middle Ages. Apply colour with a small paintbrush to the areas of your design that need it to fill in the rest of the visual, and then allow the paint to dry for approximately 15 minutes.
You could do this as a craft project with your children and encourage them to use glitter glue or brightly coloured paint to fill in the blanks in their pictures.
Classic illuminated manuscripts were created using vegetable dyed paint, which resulted in a limited palette of colours. Light greens, purples, deep reds, and burnt oranges are good colours to use if you want to maintain the classic look.
Additionally, you can use white or tan paint to highlight the figures and objects in your painting.
Part 3 Binding the Pages
1. Collect the pages and arrange them in the proper order. Following the drying process, arrange your pages in the order that you wish them to be displayed. Check to see that they are all cut to the same size and that there isn’t anything missing from your text before printing.
You are not required to use gatherings, which are folded pieces of parchment used in classic manuscripts, but you can if you want to.
2. The spine of the pages should be pressed against three narrow leather thongs. The left side of the pages should be lined up against three narrow leather thongs, which should be spread lengthwise across the spine of the book. (Optional) They will be used to hold the pages of your manuscript together, so they should be slightly wider than the group of pages they are intended to hold together.
Leather thongs are readily available at most craft supply stores.
If you are unable to locate any leather thongs, you can substitute synthetic thongs.
3. Sew the pages to the thongs with linen thread to keep them in place. Thread a needle with a thick linen thread and tie the end in a knot to finish the project. Use the linen thread to go in through the top of the pages and out through the top of one leather thong, then repeat the process on the other side. Continue until you’ve attached all of the pages to all three of the thongs in a straight line with no gaps between them.
This can be difficult to accomplish if your manuscript contains a large number of pages. To ensure that all of the pages are attached in the same manner, try working in sections.
4. Leather thongs are looped through wooden boards to form a ring. Take two wooden boards that are slightly larger in size than the pages of your manuscript and glue them together. Line up the boards on your pages and then make a mark on the boards where the ends of the leather thongs come to rest. Make three holes in each board for the thongs with a chisel, then pull the thongs through the holes and tie them off with a piece of twine.
If there is any excess leather protruding from the book, you can cut it away with scissors or a knife.
You can use any type of wood for the boards that you want, as long as it’s mostly flat and doesn’t have any knots in it.
Creative Commons License