Wednesday, September 20, 2017

5 Fun Facts About Illuminated Manuscripts

An illuminated manuscript is a handcrafted book that contains not just text but also decorative elements such as initials, borders, and miniature illustrations—usually enhanced by the addition of gold or silver leaf. 

First created in the Middle Ages by specially-trained monks, illuminated manuscripts were religious in nature and included such works as the Bible, the Gospels, prayer books, etc. Eventually, however, as more people learned to read and the demand for books grew, the art of creating illuminated manuscripts was taken on by professional scribes and illuminators. Their works expanded to encompass a variety of secular subjects and included cookbooks, history books, travel books, stories, legends, and more.

Hidden Treasure
In My Daughter’s Legacy, an illuminated manuscript becomes an important part of the story, linking an unsolved murder with a search for a hidden treasure. In this excerpt, one of the characters is explaining what they’ve learned thus far about a man found murdered in an old hunting cabin in the woods: 

“We don’t know why he was in the cabin,” Maddee said, “but we do know why he was in Richmond. He was trying to track down a valuable heirloom stolen from his great-great-grandfather…an illuminated manuscript that had been passed down through his family for generations.”

Because that illuminated manuscript figures prominently in the tale, I’ve decided to share Five Fun Facts About Illuminated Manuscripts…

The most valuable illuminated manuscript, known as the Rothschild Prayerbook, sold at a Christie’s auction in 2014 for $13.6 million.    

The most well-known illuminated manuscript is most likely The Book of Kells, which was created around the year 800 and is currently on display at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.  (Note: Other famous works include Boccaccio's Decameron, the Vienna Genesis, and Dante's Divine Comedy.)

By Abbey of Kells [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The oldest surviving illuminated manuscript is believed to be an ancient Ethiopic Gospel Book known as Garima 2. It may have been created as early as the year 390.    

The largest existing medieval illuminated manuscript in the world is the Codex Gigas (Giant Book), which is 36 inches tall, 20 inches wide, 8.7 inches thick, and weighs165 pounds.
By Michal Maňas (User:snek01) (Own work)
[CC BY 2.5 (],
via Wikimedia Commons

In honor of the illuminated manuscript in My Daughter’s Legacy, I’m giving away one free copy of this fun Illuminated Manuscripts Coloring Book!

For More Info
That’s it for my five fun facts, though you may want to watch this video from the Getty Museum, which shows the process of how illuminated manuscripts were made. It’s fascinating!

And here are a few fun shopping links… 

Further Reading

Illuminated Manuscripts Masterpieces of Art

The Bible of Illuminated Letters: A Treasury of Decorative Calligraphy

Fine Art Print

Dante Alighieri Illumination : "Leaf From the Divine Comedy" 

Wall Calendar

Illuminations 2018 Wall Calendar


Parchment Silk Tie

Do It Yourself

Kolner Miniatum Gold Size Clear for Mirror Gloss Gilding on Paper

Genuine Parchment


  1. What an interesting post! I sure enjoyed it. I have seen books like that but, not the famous ones you showed.

  2. I really enjoyed the video and information about illuminated manuscripts.