Royal Manuscripts: the genius of illumination.

On Monday I went to visit the illuminated manuscripts exhibition at the British Library. “Collected by the kings and queens of England over 800 years these treasures are outstanding examples of the decorative and figurative painting of the era.” (From the BL’s website)

The exhibition provided a free audio which explained in more depth about 20 items in the exhibition. This included sound bites from the curator Dr Scot McKendrick, and other manuscript historians as well as passages from some of the manuscripts read in the original Old English.

I enjoyed the exhibition up to a point. Not having any knowledge of the artists, techniques or symbolism that was incorporated, I felt that all I could really take from the exhib. was the pretty pictures. There were only one or two bindings that caught my eye, the others looked as if they were all rebinds, and since this was where my interest lies, the illuminations, as beautiful as they were, didn’t do too much for me.

Another unfortunate thing, was that the exhibition was massive, I managed to get though about 1/3 of it before I gave up reading the labels and listening to the audio guide and just walked around and glanced at the bindings that didn’t have a crowd around them. Had the exhibition been cheaper, and I’d been more interested in the illuminations, I would have come back again (and possibly again!) to really take it all in.

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