"As anyone who is familiar with 13th and 14th century illuminated manuscripts can attest, images of armed knights fighting snails are common, especially in marginalia. But the ubiquity of these depictions doesn’t make them any less strange, and we had a long discussion about what such pictures might mean."
Weird, funny, surreal, fun, silly, bawdy, macabre, cool and strangely beautiful. The Discarded Image is a Tumblr collection of Medieval illustrations gleaned from various illuminated manuscripts, bestiaries, books describing the cosmology of the Middle Ages, ordered and maintained by a celestial hierarchy. The Discarded Image is also the name of CS Lewis' last book, about the fascinating Medieval mindset and world picture. [more inside]
The beautiful library of the Abbey of St. Gall in Switzerland contains over 2000 manuscripts, including hundreds from the Abbey's glory days of the 9th and 10th centuries. The library is open to the public and to scholars, and the Codices Electronici Sangallenses project is making selected codices - 436 so far - available online.
"The British Library holds one of the world's most important collections of Hebrew manuscripts, of which about 300 have some decoration. All of the illuminated manuscripts and those with significant decoration are now in our Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts." [more inside]
The Illuminated Mixtapes — a running series of playlists for streaming, with hand illustrated covers for each one. Some nice background music while enjoying your MeFi.
Mathematics Illuminated is a set of thirteen surveys in varied topics in mathematics, nicely produced with video, text, and interactive Flash gadgets for each of the topics.
Tokyo/Glow A time-lapse photographic narration of an illuminated traffic light man who leaves his light and walks around Tokyo. [Direct link to video on YouTube - more info here than on actual site]
The manuscripts of David Kaufmann, Jewish scholar extraordinaire. Wonderful illuminations, inventive typography and even a little bit of naughtiness.
The Prague Bible (1489) is a splendid three-volume MS of the Tanakh, once in the possession of Enlightenment luminary Moses Mendelssohn. There are several other beautiful examples of medieval and early modern Hebrew MSS online, including the Illuminated Hebrew Manuscripts collection (New York Public Library), the Illuminated Haggadah Exhibit (Klau University), selections from Moses Maimonides' Moreh Nevukim (Leiden University), and the Prato Haggadah (Jewish Theological Seminary). See also the introduction to the Hebraic Collections at the Library of Congress.
The University of South Carolina recently completed an ambitious survey of all medieval texts in the state for an exhibit at the university library. All the works were scanned and archived electronically. However, not only can you view the texts online, you can hear the university's chorus sing (MP3) the musical manuscripts. [more inside]
Masterpieces of Persian Painting "The atrocity of raging wars, the fainting of Leili (the beloved) and Majnoun (the lover) and the Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) ascension to the celestial sphere while floating in light—all reflect the reality and image of the pure heart of the artists who viewed the world, its Creator and creatures with love." [via]
The Book of Kells is one of the most beautiful illuminated manuscripts ever made, a fusion of Celtic motifs, Germanic forms and Christian themes. We can view the image gallerys, or even visit in person, but it's a soulfully thin experience compared to actually holding its weight and turning the pages. Enter the world of Facsimile Books, a faithful re-creation of the original to the extent that it is virtually indistinguishable from the original, where price is no concern, editions are limited, and can cost $20,000 or more and often sell-out quickly. Finns Fine Books is a leading distributor. A list of publishers, mostly European fine arts craftsmen.
Scattered Leaves In the early decades of the 20th century, a Cleveland book collector named Otto Ege removed the pages from 50 medieval manuscript books, divided the pages among 40 boxes, and sold the boxes around the world. Now the University of Saskatchewan plans to digitally remake the book.
Illuminated manuscripts are truly a joy to behold. And there are a remarkable number of them available on the web for your viewing pleasure. The most famous illuminated MS is the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. For galleries with multiple images, try the resources at DScriptorium, Web Gallery of Art, and the Leaves of Gold exhibition. Elyse Boucher's page is a work-in-progress detailing the history and methods of illuminating books, with both images and secondary sources; see also Sue Wood's Art and Books page.