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

Additional Information

Course Fees 2024

The fee for the London Rare Books School is £750 for one week, which includes the provision of documentary material and refreshments.

There is a further charge of £180 per course for students who wish to be assessed for credit offered by the University of London. 

LRBS Rates 2024

  Rate per course
Standard  £750
Concession*  £580


  • Bookings cannot be made for individual days of the courses.
  • Attendance is for the full five days. 
  • A discount is available if you book a course on both LRBS Week 1 and 2. Details will be sent once a place on LRBS Week 1 is confirmed.
  • The fee does not include accommodation.
  • Please note that some of the courses will involve travel to offsite locations. Travel costs are not included in the course fees and students are responsible for organising and covering their own travel costs to any offsite classes.

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
  • Alexander, J.J.G., The Decorated Letter (London: Chatto and Windus, 1978)
  • Alexander, J. J. G., Medieval Illuminators and Their Methods of Work (New Haven: Yale, 1992)
  • Brown, M.P., Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts: A Guide to Technical Terms, rev. edn (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2018)
  • 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 ( London & Chicago: BL &Chicago University Press, 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)
  • Brown, M.P., I. Garipzanov, and B.C. Tilghman (eds), Graphic Devices and the Early Decorated Book (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2018)
  • Brown, M.P., ‘The Image in its Place: Forms and Functions of Illumination’, in La Fisonomía del Libro Medieval y Moderno, ed. M.J.P. Gracia, C.S. Oliveira and A.G. Gonzalo (Zaragoza: Zaragoza University Press, 2019), pp. 39-58.


This course will take place in Senate House with a visit to Lambeth Palace.

Course Tutor