Priscilla West’s ART 494 class visited the Special Collections & Archives Research Center during spring term to see the illuminated manuscript Gradual in our collections. Seeing and experiencing a real manuscript, bound in leather and metal and written with ink on parchment, inspired many students for their final projects.
The goal of their final project was to incorporate paleographic analysis into the production of their own illuminated manuscript. The assignment required a text of 2000 words produced in a medieval or Renaissance style. Each student selected their own stylistic approach. Several students composed their texts, and others chose especially meaningful excerpts from favorite authors.
The students’ final projects are boundlessly creative, using a variety of media in both traditional and new ways. Many used gold leaf or gold ink in their works to mimic the intricate gold detailing of many illuminated manuscripts. They found a multitude of ways to give an “old” look to paper and to duplicate the aged parchment of the Gradual and other manuscripts they saw: some stained the paper with tea, some burned the edges of the paper, some crumpled then flattened the sheets, some used a vellum-like paper. One student used actual sheep parchment! Several students were impressed at the metal studs used in the binding of the Gradual, and reproduced the look with upholstery tacks and gold thumb tacks. And though students were not required to bind their manuscripts, many chose to, and used an exciting spectrum of durable materials: denim, leather, faux leather, even rabbit fur!
Through this fantastic project, students got a glimpse of the immense artistry and intense effort of medieval monks and scribes, and created their own lasting illuminated wonders.
The display of the students’ projects will be available for viewing during normal library hours during September and October, just outside of the Special Collections & Archives Research Center on the 5th floor of the Library, near the elevators. You can also find a set on Flickr with more images for your viewing pleasure.
If you have any questions, contact History of Science Collections Librarian Anne Bahde at firstname.lastname@example.org.