IES - In this section

Professor Michelle Brown 
Maximum: 15 students
Venue: Senate House

Illuminated manuscripts are not just beautiful books, they provide a particularly rich source of exploration of the nature of individual projects and of the inter-relationship between word and image in both generation and reception. This course will introduce students to the components and vocabulary of illumination and to its techniques and will incorporate brief surveys of its development. However, the focus will be upon the functions that it performed within the manuscript book from late Antiquity until the Renaissance, going beyond decoration and illustration. Its use in navigation and articulation of the text and in penetration of its deeper meaning through multivalent reading will be explored via case studies, as will its potential for better understanding hypertextuality and intertextuality.

  1. Illumination, an introduction to vocabulary, techniques and issues
  2. Forms and functions of illumination, c.200-1200
  3. Forms and functions of illumination, c.1200-1500

Learning outcomes:

  1. A grasp of the vocabulary and forms of illumination
  2. A grasp of techniques and project structures
  3. An understanding of the functions fulfilled by illumination
  4. An insight into maker and reader experience of illumination
  5. A grasp of the implications of the above for an understanding ot visual literacy and its cognitive implications
  6. Insight into strategies of ‘reading’ images


Preliminary reading:

Alexander, J.J.G, The Decorated Letter (London: Chatto and Windus, 1978)

J. J. G. Alexander, Medieval Illuminators and Their Methods of Work (New Haven: Yale, 1992)

Brown, M. P., 1994

Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts: a Glossary of Technical Terms, London and Malibu

Brown, M. P., The Book and the Transformation of Britain, c.550-1050: a Study in Written and Visual Literacy and Orality, The Sandars Lectures in Bibliography, 2009 (BL &Chicago University Press: London & Chicago, 2011).

Camille, M., Image on the Edge: the margins of medieval art (London: Reaktion Books, 1992)

de Hamel, C., Scribes and Illuminators (London: British Museum, 1992)

De Hamel, C.,  A History of Illuminated Manuscripts, 2nd edn (London, 1994)

Pächt, O., Book Illumination in the Middle Ages: an Introduction (London: Harvey Miller, 1986)

Watson, R., Illuminated Manuscripts and their Makers (London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 2003)