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Illuminated Manuscript Collection
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Preferred Citation
  • Biographical / Historical
  • Scope and Contents
  • Arrangement

  • Contributing Institution: SJSU Special Collections & Archives
    Title: Illuminated Manuscript Collection
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS.2015.01.20
    Physical Description: 7 items
    Physical Description: 1 flat file drawers
    Date (inclusive): 1315 - c. 19th or 20th century
    Abstract: 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.
    Language of Material: Latin, Farsi, English

    Conditions Governing Access

    The collection is open for research.

    Conditions Governing Use

    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.

    Preferred Citation

    Illuminated Manuscript Collection, MSS-2015-01-20, San Jose State University Library Special Collections and Archives.

    Biographical / Historical

    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.

    Scope and Contents

    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.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Illumination of books and manuscripts.
    Incunabula -- Facsimiles.