An overview of the art of the historicized initial over 9 centuries in a collection of single sheets

The Golden Writing

Tours (France); Lindisfarne (United Kingdom) and others — 7th-15th cemtury

The Golden Writing

The Golden Writing

Tours (France); Lindisfarne (United Kingdom) and others — 7th-15th cemtury

  1. Historiated initials first emerged in the early 8th century and are an invention of Insular illuminators

  2. The miniature scenes contained in these initials often, but not always, have a connection to the text

  3. The ten folios in this selection represent a fine survey of the art of the historiated initial across nine centuries

The Golden Writing

Alternative Titles:
  • Kassette Die Goldene Schrift
The Golden Writing – Several Owners
The Golden Writing – Several Owners
The Golden Writing – Several Owners
The Golden Writing – Several Owners
The Golden Writing – Several Owners
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

One of the most prominent and distinctive features of a medieval manuscript is the so-called historiated initial – a large decorative initial that additionally contains a picture. They consistently appeared in manuscripts throughout the Middle Ages and continued to be reproduced in engraved form after the invention of the book press. Historiated initials had both practical purposes as well as being decorative – some historiated initials have been created with a level of refinement and artistry rivaling that of miniatures.

The Golden Writing

In the strictest sense, a historiated initial depicts an identifiable figure or specific scene, while in an inhabited initial, the people or animals depicted lack a specific subject and are sometimes purely decorative. Historiated initials first emerged in the early 8th century and are an invention of Insular illuminators. The miniature scenes contained in these initials often, but not always, have a connection to the text and were created with the same quality of material and artistry as full-page miniatures, even employing silver and gold at times. Aside from their illustrative purposes, these elaborate initials serve as sign posts in the text and indicate the beginning of a new section. Due to the high cost of parchment, they could not always begin on a new page. In this way, historiated initials also served a functional purpose in addition to their aesthetic value. That being said, some luxury manuscripts will devote an entire page to a historiated initial, giving the artists full range to explore the creative potential of these decorative elements.
The ten folios in this selection represent a fine survey of the art of the historiated initial throughout the Middle Ages, and are presented here along with other decorative pages.
1. Ornamental Page, Gospel of John
Book of Lindisfarne, Lindisfarne before 698
London, British Library

  1. Initial Page, Gospel of Matthew
    Ebo Evangeliary, Reims 816/835
    Epernay, Bibliothèque Municipale

  2. Canon Table
    Gospels of Lothair, Tours ca. 849/851
    Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale

  3. “B” Initial from Psalm 1
    Harley Psalter, Winchester ca. 980
    London, British Library

  4. “Q” Initial
    Bohun Psalter, England ca. 1370
    Oxford, Exeter College

  5. King and Queen Playing Chess
    Timeline of Christianity, Utrecht ca. 1410
    New York, Piermont Morgan Library

  6. Haggadah Ornamental Page
    Darmstadt Pesach Haggadah, Upper Rhine ca. 1430
    Darmstadt, Hessische Landes- und Hochschulbibliothek

  7. Adoration of the Magi
    Stephan Lochner Prayer Book, Cologne 1451
    Darmstadt, Hessische Landes- und Hochschulbibliothek

  8. “D” Initial with Presentation of Jesus at the Temple
    Hours of Mary of Burgundy, Ghent 1470/80
    Vienna, Österreichische National-Bibliothek

  9. “D” Initial
    Sforza Hours, Milan ca. 1490
    London, British Library

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Kassette Die Goldene Schrift
Date
7th-15th cemtury
Language
Illustrations
10 miniatures
Content
Ten leaves from important manuscripts
Artist / School

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „The Golden Writing“

Kassette Die Goldene Schrift
The Golden Writing – Several Owners
The Golden Writing – Several Owners
The Golden Writing – Several Owners
The Golden Writing – Several Owners
The Golden Writing – Several Owners
Imageof

Kassette Die Goldene Schrift

1 volume: 10 leaves under passe-partouts: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Coron Verlag – Gütersloh, 1983
Limited Edition
1495
Binding
Box
Commentary
1 volume
Language: German
Details
1 volume: 10 leaves under passe-partouts: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
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