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Think picture books are just for kids? Think again.

Illuminated manuscripts are one of the oldest examples of illustrated writing and remain one of the most compelling. Brought into greater prominence when Johannes Gutenberg invented his movable type press, the earliest surviving pieces of these intricate works of art date back to approximately 400 AD.

If you’re like a lot of Paperblanks® users, your notebooks often do double-duty as both journal and sketchbook. What better way to fill in a page of type than with ornate marginalia, decorative initials and miniature illustrations à la the greatest illuminated manuscripts of all time? Here are four of our favourite examples of this artistic technique – a backbone of the publishing world that flourished in mediæval times and is still going strong today.

The Classic – Gutenberg Bible

We’re not being hyperbolic when we say we’re passionate about illuminated manuscripts. One of our oldest cover designs is the Gutenberg Bible, a series that has been in our collection for many years and is now offered in the Parabole design. And it’s not just the original, 15th-century Gutenberg printing we’re interested in, either. The covers we’ve featured in this collection over the years reproduce modern illustrations by the German artist Gisela Maschmann.
Gutenberg Bible - Parabole - Ultra - Front Cover
Gutenberg Bilble - Stack - (1)

The Fantastic – Edel-Silmarillion

We were blown away when we found this project by art student Benjamin Harff. For his art academy exam, Harff painstakingly hand-illuminated a deluxe edition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion story collection. Learn more by checking out the Tolkien Library’s interview with the artist!

Source: Makezine
Source: Makezine

The Medieval – Book of Kells

An archetypal example of mediæval-style illumination is Ireland’s Book of Kells. A Latin-language Gospel book, the Book of Kells is the inspiration behind one of our original journal series!
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The Epic – The Iliad

The only illustrated example of Homer’s poetry is this copy of The Iliad, known as the Ambrosian Iliad. Seen below is a depiction of Achilles making a sacrifice to Zeus. Learn more on The History of Information’s webpage.

ambrosian_illiad
Source: The History of Information

For a semi-complete chronological history of some of the greatest illuminated manuscripts of all time, check out the video below which was created and uploaded to YouTube by the user “dsmdgold.”

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