During King Alfred’s day, books were written by hand. The printing press had not been invented quite yet. It would take a dedicated monk many, many quiet hours to copy or write a book with the utmost care.
During this era, books were made with ink and parchment – a thin, stiff material. Many of these hand-copied books contained beautifully decorated and painted pages. Today, we call them “illuminated manuscripts.”
These illuminated manuscripts contained large, decorated letters, beautiful gold and silver accents, and colorful scenes within the margins. This made each medieval book a one-of-a-kind, real piece of art.
Make Your Own Illuminated Manuscript
• Paper (watercolor paper is best)
• Glitter glue – in gold or silver
• Watercolor paint
• Paint brushes
1. Choose a word, saying, or phrase you would like to use for this project. A favorite bible verse is a great idea. Young children may want to use their own name.
2. Use a pencil to write the chosen word or phrase and design your manuscript. You may want to use fancy, accentuated letters, or cursive script. Younger children can use print and just add in any decorative elements they want. The first letter in the sentence or word is usually very elaborate in an illuminated manuscript. (See the example at the top of this page.) This initial letter is often the most decorated piece of the entire page.
3. Continue to add personal elements to the page, such as pictures and decorated borders and corners.
4. Apply the glitter glue to highlight special parts of your manuscript. This will “illuminate” your page. The first letter, for instance, should be accented with the glue, and perhaps the corners or other special parts of the page where you want to draw the reader’s attention. This may be a bit tricky for small children, so provide ideas and assistance as needed.
5. Allow the glitter glue to dry completely. Overnight is best.
6. Now it is time to paint your manuscript! Using watercolor paints, continue to accent your page however you like. The watercolors will make the glitter glue on the page stand out and shine. You can paint over the glitter glue and it should retain its shine. (If not, you can apply a second coat of glitter glue after it dries.)
7. Allow it to dry once more.
8. Sign and date your manuscript. You can create a special book, frame it for display, or give it as a gift.
Happy Manuscript Making!