Every stage of creating the lavishly designed books of the middle ages required hours of labor and meticulous craftsmanship. Many manuscripts took years to complete and were cherished works of art. Some were made even more precious with the addition of illuminated illustrations highlighted by thin strips of gold or silver leaf.
A study of the middle ages would not be complete without a look at the time-consuming and costly process of creating the beautiful pages of medieval books.(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.)
Before creating your own illumination, be sure to read a few living books and watch this exceptional video which details the step-by-tedious-step process of making a medieval manuscript from start to finish.
Illuminations by Jonathan Hunt
Marguerite Makes a Book by Bruce Robertson
Magic in the Margins: A Medieval Tale of Bookmaking by W. Nikola-Lisa
You will need:
piece of paper
black permanent marker
gold paint pen (a gold Sharpie will work fine)
With a pencil, write one large letter in the center of a vertical piece of paper.
Now, carefully outline the letter adding serifs and/or flourish at each end or point.
Erase the original "lined" letter. This should create a "blocked" letter that has dimension.
Add a border and simple designs around the letter. At this point, you can darken each of the penciled lines with a back permanent marker. Or, you can skip this step.
Paint the entire illumination with bright colors.
Using a gold paint pen, add highlights to certain sections of the letter and its border.
Finally, trace over every line with a black permanent marker.
And your illumination is complete.
Now imagine putting in all of that same effort hundreds of more times in order to create a completed manuscript!
It's no wonder that books and literacy were a rare commodity during the middle ages.