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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Illuminated and Royal

As the admin person of the CBAS blog, I thought I would post a small report from London (I am away with my spouse leading a Study Abroad program) where a wonderful exhibit of Royal Illuminated Manuscripts is on display at the British Library. I always go to exhibits with my camera in hand however, in this case, there was no photography allowed and several guards keeping watch. Hmmm…take pictures, get thrown out and not see the exhibit….or… Unfortunately, I am unable to provide few images to go along with my explanation of the exhibit. The ones that are here are from a few postcards I bought! And one of the entry sign. I have posted below a link to the exhibit web site too.

The exhibit was spectacular and exhausting, my eyes burning after a while looking at such small and intriguing details. It had over 150 manuscripts as part of it as well as a few paintings and is drawn primarily from the Old Royal Library that was given to the “Nation” by George II. The works on exhibit spanned from religious texts, prayer books, historical genealogical works that confirmed respective Monarchs their status and authority to rule to French literary texts, books on how to be a king as well as bestiaries, early encyclopedias, atlases, books on health and a small book written in the hand of Queen Elizabeth I that she made for her dad, Henry VIII. All from the 8th to 16th centuries. 
Margaret of York and the Resurrected Christ
The marginalia was really great, fascinating, along with the usual floral and plant like scrolls and line designs were margins decorated with an abundance of fruit and flowers, including the thistle, butterflies, birds of all kinds, snails and bees. Dragons waving flags and little people moved along the edges. I can’t say that I had an absolute favorite but I am partial to maps and spent quite a bit time looking over the books that had various versions of the world from a 14th or 16th century viewpoint. One large atlas (18x24”) with a page that was open to a view of Brazil showed the coast line and had intricate, colorful drawings of people at work in the fields and clear views of the crops and the houses. I wanted to see more of course!
Lions breathing life into their new born cubs
It appeared that Bruges was a center for book illustration, binding and illumination as well as St. Albans in England. A fun little detail is that the collection, while contributed to by many kings over the centuries, had the largest number of texts added during Henry VIII’s rule, as he collected many religious and philosophical texts hoping to find evidence and reason to support his desire for divorce!
From the Psalter of Henry VIII
 The British Library has an engaging and wonderful permanent display too, AND an exhibit on Dickens, who is celebrating his 200th this year… I decided all that had to be for another day, as I my mind was swimming with plenty of little squiggles and beautiful illustrations for one day.

Click on the link and it will take you to the exhibit web site. You can view a few of the images and texts from the exhibit. Click on the “Turning the Pages” link (left hand side bar) and choose your application (I choose SilverLight, which my laptop has for Windows 7) and you can view a few texts almost in their entirety. 

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