Scribal Arts

Calligraphy, illumination, paper making, bookbinding, printing, and related sciences and arts

The frightening illuminations of the Getty

For Halloween 2014, Bryan C. Keene of the J. Paul Getty Museum blog Iris, chose to look at some of the frightening images of medieval, illuminated manuscripts in the museum's collection. The article is richly illustrated with examples. (photos)

Historical women's letters auctioned in Paris

The auction of around 1500 letters of famous women, including Catherine of Aragon's plea to Pope Clement VII to block her divorce from Henry VIII, took place in November 2014 in Paris. The auction, whose book was entitled Women: Letters and Signed Manuscripts, brought a total of EU 794,173. (photo)

Doodling the Middle Ages

Modern people doodle when bored. So too, apparently did medieval scribes, according to Dr Erik Kwakkel, a book historian at Leiden University, Holland, who posts "medieval eye candy" that he comes across during the course of his research on his blog. (photos)

St. Francis manuscripts displayed in the US

In November 2014, 19 manuscripts written by St. Francis of Assisi travelled outside Italy for the first time for exhibition at the United Nations and Brooklyn Borough Hall in New York. The manuscripts include several poems written by St. Francis, including the saint's Canticle of the Sun and his Canticle of Canticles.

Winchester Bible on display at the Met

The Winchester Bible is "magnificent, lavishly ornamented - a pivotal landmark of medieval art from around 1200," and pages from it will be on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York until March 8, 2015. (photos)

Precious manuscripts threatened by jihadists in Iraq

The fighting in Iraq continues to threaten, not just the populace, but historical treasures and manuscripts. Recently a Dominican Order of priests, known as the Order of Preachers, managed to rescue a number of these precious documents when Islamic State jihadists advanced into the region. (photos)

"Magical mud" of Novgorod reveals treasures

“Send me a shirt, towel, trousers, reins, and, for my sister, send fabric. If I am alive, I will pay for it,” wrote a 14th century father, Onus, to his son, Danilo, in the block letters of Old Novgorod language on a birch bark scroll. The note, among a dozen others, was discovered recently in the "magicial mud" of Veliky Novgorod, Russia.

Marco Polo in America

Most historian state that Christopher Columbus came to America in 1492, but new evidence, in the form of period parchments, may show that Marco Polo landed on the west coast nearly two centuries earlier.

Getty Museum to return Byzantine manuscript

In 1960, a rare, 12th century Byzantine manuscript was stolen from the Dionysiou Monastery in Mount Athos. The Getty Museum in California purchased the codex in 1983 and will now restore it to its rightful place in Greece. (photo)

Codex Chimalpahin to return to Mexico

The Museo Nacional de Antropologia in Mexico City is celebrating the return of the Codex Chimalpahin, a three-volume, hand-written, indigenous account vividly documenting the history of Aztec Mexico in Pre-Hispanic and 16th Century New Spain. Dan Colen of Art Daily has a feature story (photo)

The Crusader Bible on display at the Morgan Library

The Maciejowski Bible, better known as the Crusader Bible, is the star of a new exhibit at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City. The 13th century manuscript is considered one of the greatest illuminated manuscripts in the world. It will be on display through January 4, 2015.

"Nasta’liq: The Genius of Persian Calligraphy" at the Sackler

Islamic art does not depict the human form, but it often finds its greatest inspiration in calligraphy. A new exhibit at the Sackler Gallery in Washington D.C. is devoted to nasta’liq, Persian calligraphy developed from the 14th to 16th centuries. Nasta’liq: The Genius of Persian Calligraphy will be featured at the gallery from September 13, 2014 through March 22, 2015.

Early Christian charm found in Manchester library

A 6th century papyrus, identified as an early Christian charm, has been discovered among the documents in the University of Manchester's John Rylands Library. The charm is considered "the earliest surviving document to use the Christian Eucharist liturgy - which outlines the Last Supper - as a protective charm."

Oldest known siddur displayed in Jerusalem

Jerusalem’s Bible Lands Museum recently played host to the Book of Books exhibition which featured the world's oldest siddur, a 1,200-year-old Hebrew manuscript still in its original binding. (photo)

Mary, Queen of Scots letter sells for US$28,000

On September 18, 2014, RR Auction, in Boston, Massachusetts, auctioned a private letter from Mary Queen of Scots transferring control of her property, Wassy Castle, located in eastern Champagne, France, to her maitre d'hotel, Jacques de la Montaigne. The letter was sold to a private bidder for US$28,750 (UK£17,472). (photo)

SCA Calligraphy and Illumination Calendar Published

The Labours of the East, a 2015 calendar with artwork by scribes of the East Kingdom to benefit the Royal Travel Fund, goes on sale today from the East Kingdom Gazette.

First English book brings more than £1m

The Recuyell of the Histories of Troye is considered to be the first book ever to be printed in English. A translation of a French book by William Caxton, the 1474 English edition sold recently at auction for more than £1m. (photo)

New documents added to British Library's digitalization project

The British Library reports that it has released its latest list of digitized documents for summer 2014.

Medieval treasures among books of auctioned library

Heywood Bright, liberal British politician, was a collector of rare books. Recently his library, including several previously unknown or incomplete medieval treasures, was auctioned by Christie's.

Recall alert: QoR® Synthetic Ox Gall watercolour paint medium

Health Canada reports that Golden Artist Colours has issued a recall notice for "QoR® Synthetic Ox Gall which is designed to be used with artists' watercolour paints in small amounts to improve the flow and wetting. The product contains the preservative MIT which can cause skin rash or blistering."

Was the Black Prince really so evil?

British school children all know about the evil Black Prince Edward of Woodstock, who put to death 3,000 innocents after the siege of the French town of Limoges in September 1370. But the discovery of a letter written by Edward may change his image forever.

Sackler Gallery presents Persian Calligraphy exhibit

The Sackler Gallery in Washington D.C. will present Nasta'liq: The Genius of Persian Calligraphy beginning September 13, 2014. The exhibit will showcase Persian calligraphy from the 14th-16th centuries.

Securing the precious Magna Carta

Chris Woods, director of the  British National Conservation Service, has a daunting task: to assure the safety of the precious Lincoln Magna Carta during its tour through the United States in 2014.

New BM digitization includes medieval "comic book"

Among over 1000 new manuscripts placed online by the British Museum is The Guthlac Roll, a history of St. Guthlac told in graphic novel style "using a series of images in roundels with labels." Mark Strauss of i09 offers his views on the manuscript.

Hengwrt Chaucer online

The earliest known manuscript of Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, housed at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, has been digitized and is now available online. (photo)

15th century Torah sold at auction for US$3.87 million

“The volume represents the very first appearance in print of all five books of the Pentateuch as well as the first to which vocalization and cantillation marks have been added,” said the Christie's auction house catalogue about the sale of a Torah, printed in Hebrew in Bologna in January 1482. An anonymous buyer paid US$3.87 million for the book. (photo)

St. Sabas seal found in Jerusalem

St. Sabas, a leader of the monastic movement, was a very important person in Jerusalem during the Middle Ages. Recently a lead seal, bearing his image and dating to the 13th century, was discovered during an archaeological dig in the Bayit Vegan neighborhood of Jerusalem. (photo)

Getty art books for download

Silfren, from the Kingdom of Lochac, reports that the Getty Publications Archives is offering free digital backlist titles for download. Items available include exhibition catalogs and symposium papers as well as art books.

British books barred from leaving England

The British Library has been successful in acquiring the Catholicon Anglicum, a 15th-century English-Latin dictionary, and a printed traictise owned and annotated by John Ponet, thanks to the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest which barred the books from export.

Japanese IT company to digitize more Vatican documents

The Vatican Library processes many requests to use documents and manuscripts from its enormous collection, but the increased requests have led to fear that the fragile documents will be damaged. Enter NTT DATA, a Japanese IT company who has been contracted to digitize 3,000 manuscripts at a cost of 18 million euros (US $22.6 million).