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Working with Illuminated Manuscripts

Ben Wright (Religion Studies) and Ann Priester (Art History, Art & Architecture):

In the Special Collections of Lehigh's library are a number of late 14th-16th century Books of Hours or prayerbooks. During the course of the semester you will be assigned to a group and each group will be examining and analyzing an entire Book of Hours or a portion of one. These books, as you will see, are often rich in illustrations that connect with the text of the scriptural readings or the prayers to be said. In a separate document we will give you the basic guidelines for the project and we will discuss it in greater detail as the semester progresses.

View Selected Images for course assignment.

Project assignment.

Each group should write a paper analyzing the images of their Book of Hours in the context of the book.

Format of your group paper:

  1. Physical Description of book.
    1. Size
    2. Script
    3. Size & decoration of margins
    4. How initial letters are decorated
  2. Text and miniatures (pictures)
    1. A catalogue of the texts & accompanying miniatures
      1. What is the subject matter of the miniatures accompanying each section of text?
    2. An analysis of each of the major miniatures in your book (similar to what you did in your first set of papers)
      1. Describe the miniature:
        1. Figures
        2. Setting
        3. What is happening
      2. Identify the textual sources relevant to each miniature
      3. Discuss how the artist uses (or perhaps ignores) the textual sources
        1. What elements in the picture can be explained by which text, which elements in the picture cannot be explained by the text, which parts of the text does the artist not use?
      4. Discuss the stylistic characteristics of the miniatures.
        1. Are they all by the same artist?
        2. In comparing your Book of Hours with others you see in your reading and from the Book of Hours links (under External Links), can you venture an approximate date and place of origin for your book?

Format of in-class presentation

We will be looking at the same sections of text and their illustrations for all the Books of Hours together, according to the schedule below:

Nov. 18. Calendars, Gospel lessons, Prayers to the BVM

Nov. 23. Office of the BVM

Nov. 30. Penitential Psalms, Hours of HS, Hours of Cross, Office of Dead

Be able to talk about and answer questions about your miniatures.

Given that in any one class, there may be a lot of images to look at, you should NOT prepare a long presentation, but be prepared to point out any unusual features and answer any questions that might come up. In addition to being able to talk about your miniatures, each group will be responsible for a 5-minute explanation of one of the standard sections of text.

Group 1: Calendars

Group 2: Gospel lessons

Group 3: Obsecro te & o intemerata

Group 4: Office of the Virgin

Group 5: Penitential Psalms

Group 6: Hours of the Holy Spirit

Group 7: Hours of the Cross

Group 8: Office of the Dead

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