29 January 2012


The latest exhibition at the British Library (till 13 March) has many, many wonderful illuminated manuscripts (about 150). Quite apart from the beautiful pages spread open for view, there is the intrigue of "what's in the rest of the book", and hints at its binding. Such riches - too much to take in at once.

The books on show belonged to kings and queens of England during the period from Alfred (871-899) to Elizabeth I (1558-1603). They offer, says the exhibition blurb, "unique insights into the lives and aspirations of those for whom they were made". 
Photos are from the exhibition website
At the start of the exhibition is a brightly lit section with some technical explanation - and samples of vellum and parchment that you can touch - the best way to understand the difference between them! Then you go down the stairs into a darkened room with red walls where the light shines into the vitrines and onto the books - so dramatic - the people leaning over the glass cases become silhouettes, ephemeral among these very old books that took so much time and skill to make.

1 comment:

magsramsay said...

Did you see the 3 part series on BBC4 about these manuscripts?
Seeing the details blown up on our 40" TV was awesome