Saturday, February 3, 2018

Illuminated Manuscripts (Janice Anderson)

Illuminated Manuscripts
Janice Anderson
Nonfiction, Art/History
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: Since the earliest days of civilization, writing has been prized as a treasure. Even as far back as Egypt, illustrations and embellishments often accompanied the written word, evolving into the great illuminated manuscripts of Europe... a tradition that survives to this day. Explore the history of the illuminated manuscript from its ancient roots to its heyday in the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

REVIEW: Yes, this was yet another bargain bin grab. For what I paid, it's not bad. Anderson reproduces many images from various books and manuscripts, often quite large enough to appreciate the incredible details... and also, unfortunately, large enough to break through whatever train of thought the text had established. She doesn't do a great job matching the images to the text, a problem that seems to grow more persistent as the book goes on. But part of that may be my problem; the book assumes a deep knowledge of Christian writings and iconography that this secular agnostic lacks, so connections that may have seemed obvious to a student and believer were lost on me. (On a similar note, Anderson persistently - and somewhat dismissively - classifies all non-Christians as "barbarians", while generally ignoring the fact that many other cultures had their own illumination and artistic traditions... but, I digress.) I also had hoped for a little more on the fascinating, in-depth process of creating such fine works of art on such a small scale. After tracking the history of European illumination and its rise and fall, she concludes by mentioning that illuminated manuscripts are still being produced today, if in far more limited contexts... without offering a single modern example of illumination to compare with the old masters. In any event, while the illustrations would've merited four stars easily, I trimmed it for the dry and sometimes uninformative text.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Paint Your Own Illuminated Letters (Stephan Oliver) - My Review
The Secret of Kells- Amazon DVD link

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