The Illuminated Manuscript Collection consists of six color illuminated manuscripts and one color informational guide. This
collection is arranged in one series: Series I: Illuminated Manuscripts, 1315 - c. 19th or 20th century.
The word "manuscript" comes from the Latin words "manus" (hand) and "scriptus," from scribere (to write). Today the word
"manuscript" is used to describe any hand written text. The word "illumination" derives from the Latin verb "illuminare"
(to adorn), which refers to hand-painted decorations on the manuscript. Many colors were used to decorate manuscripts, such
as silver, gold, and other precious metals. Illuminations also decorate letters, borders, and figurative scenes, which is
known as a miniature.
Although paper was abundant in Europe by the fourteenth century, manuscripts were typically written on vellum. Vellum is
a high-quality type of parchment made from specially prepared skins of calves, sheep, or goats. Vellum continued to be used
for many years in Europe for its texture, translucency, and for its durability. The text of a manuscript was typically written
in ink made from an extract of gallnuts mixed with iron sulfate and gum Arabic. When this ink was applied to vellum, its
iron content oxidized and the ink changed to a brownish color.
Miniatures were often painted with a variety of precious colors, such as vermilion and ultramarine blue. Vermilion was produced
from combining mercury and sulfur. Ultramarine blue was made by crushing lapis lazuli and is considered to be as expensive
as gold. Sometimes miniatures were decorated with gold leaf by applying it in thin sheets. However, in the later Middle
Ages, artists tended to substitute gold leaf with gold paint.
Traditionally, illuminations were devoted to religious works and were produced in monasteries, particularly in the "scriptorium,"
which was the center for scholarly studies and copying of texts. Later, as book illumination became more valued, lay artists
were hired to collaborate with monastic scribes. With the rise of universities in the twelfth century, scribes and illuminators
became professional laymen who made their living by producing fine manuscripts for noblemen, for the new middle class, and
for the emerging universities in cities such as Paris, Bologna, and Padua. Moreover, some religious communities also began
to copy manuscripts on a commercial basis.
Copyright is assigned to the San Jose State University Special Collections and Archives. All requests for permission to publish
or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Director of Special Collections. Permission for publication
is given on behalf of the Special Collections and Archives. Copyright restrictions may apply to digital reproductions of the
original materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.