"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 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]
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.