contributor.author: James W. Halporn

title.none: Brown, Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts

identifier.other: baj9928.9505.005 95.05.05

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: James W. Halporn, Indiana Univeristy/Harvard University

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1995

identifier.citation: Brown, Michelle P. Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts: A Guide to Technical Terms. Malibu: The J. Paul Getty Museum in association with the British Library, 1994. $10.95 (pb). ISBN: ISBN 0-89236-217-0.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: Bryn Mawr Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 95.05.05

Brown, Michelle P. Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts: A Guide to Technical Terms. Malibu: The J. Paul Getty Museum in association with the British Library, 1994. $10.95 (pb). ISBN: ISBN 0-89236-217-0.

Reviewed by:

James W. Halporn
Indiana Univeristy/Harvard University

This handbook, illustrated with 56 color and 31 black-and-white illustrations, is much more than the title of the book suggests. The author, a curator in the manuscript department of the British Library, has produced a thorough glossary of the terms that anyone who works with medieval books will find valuable. Excellent reproductions from MSS in the J. Paul Getty Museum and the British Library are used to make the definitions offered even more clear and understandable.

The subjects covered include "the contexts of production and the people involved...; the physical processes and techniques employed (codicology); the types of text encountered...; and the terminology applied to the elements, styles, and forms of illumination" (5). Under production, the glossary offers terms like "scribe," "scriptorium," "stationer"; the types of texts run from liturgical books and related works (e.g., Books of Hours), to literary, legal, and scientific texts. It deals with works created in the West from late antiquity until the establishment of printing, with the majority of the illustrations referring to Latin codices.

Two valuable sections precede the alphabetical list of terms. First, illustrations of the external and internal binding structure of the medieval book, show the various elements of the book covers with their technical names. This is followed by an example from a Book of Hours showing the elements of illumination and terms used in discussing the illuminated page.

Some of the definitions are brief (e.g., "Attribute"), others (e.g., "Bestiary" and "Calendar") run to several pages. In all cases cross-references are clearly marked by setting the item in capitals. General terms, like "Byzantine" and "Carolingian," are also considered.

The portable format (128 pages, 23.3 X 15.5 cm.) will make it a valuable book for consultation by museum-goers (for whom it was originally intended), students, and scholars interested in manuscript production. It will also prove a useful supplement to the author's recent palaeographical handbook, A Guide to Western Manuscripts from Antiquity to 1600 Toronto, 1990.

1 I offer here a few suggestions for correction and amplification.In the "Selected Bibliography" for "Barras, E." read "Baras, E." This item is now in a second edition of 1981. Under "Needham, P." for Five read Twelve. In the illustration to "Carolingian" (35) note that the script is not Caroline minuscule, but half-uncial, commonly used for prefaces in these Tours Bibles. Although there is an entry for "Diurnal" (50), there is no corresponding entry for "Nocturnale." The definition of "Evangelary/Evangelistary" (54) does not sufficiently distinguish between these two types of books. According to Virgil Fiala and Wolfgang Irtenkauf, "Versuch einer liturgischen Nomenklatur," Zur Katalogisierung mittelalterlicher und neurer Handschriften, Frankfurt, 1963, 109, the Evangelistary contains the Gospel pericopes fully written out and is to be distinguished from the Evangelary (or Gospel Book) which contains the four Gospels in continuous order.