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Medieval Literature and Poetry Illuminated Manuscripts

The Middle Ages was a period of about one thousand years, between the collapse of the Roman Empire during the fifth century AD and the revival of classical art and learning known as the Renaissance around the fifteenth century. During this dark and chaotic period small groups of devout Christians could live with security and pursue a religious life. These people were doing something that almost no one else could do at the time- reading and writing. They were making something that almost no one else could make or have any use for- books.

The first of these books was the Bible, and as time passed, more forms of literature such as poetry and illuminated manuscripts were created. Christianity, like Judaism and Islam, is a written religion. The Bible is regarded as a sacred text for Christianity containing the revealed truth of G-d. The most important part of early monastic life was the preservation, reading, and copying of these texts. The connected to and interested in all types of literature. Up until the end of the twelfth century, nearly all books were produced by and for the church.

For many centuries, the church remained the center of all learning and literacy in Europe. In time, however, the art of reading, writing, and bookmaking passed outside the monastery and into the court and town. Books came to reflect nearly every aspect of medieval life. Books also began to be written in the vernacular. Books changed as the medieval world changed, but the tradition of making them as beautiful as possible continued into the Renaissance and into the age of the printing press. The Bible was the starting point which sparked the interest of creating ther forms of literature in the Middle Ages.

Another form of literature in the Middle Ages was poetry. One of the greatest poets of the middle ages was Geoffrey Chaucer (1342-1400. ) Chaucer was one of the most influential poets of the Middle Ages. He was one of the first poets to compose in English and was therefore called the Father of English poetry. He wrote in heroic couplets and iambic pentameter as many other poets of his day did. His famous medieval tale, The Canterbury Tales, left us a vivid picture of an age that existed thousands of years ago.

These accounts may be the only accurate description of everyday life in the Middle Ages Books produced during the Middle Ages, before the perfection of printing with moveable type by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid fifteenth century, were all handwritten and were therefore called manuscripts. Many of these manuscripts were decorated with small painted pictures. These small pictures were called miniatures. Actually, the miniatures may make up only a small proportion of the ornament in a manuscript, for usually the text also contains decorated letters and calligraphic writing and is surrounded y elaborated borders.

All of the elements are present in what is called an illuminated manuscript. In many medieval manuscripts, these illuminations make up a major part of the book, whether as symbolic ornament, representations of holy people, or accompanying and elaborating the text with illustrations. The amount of decoration and time spent on a manuscript was in proportion to the importance of the text. Some of the best-selling manuscripts were gospel books, Psalters, bibles, apocalypses, herbals, bestiaries, and classical manuscripts.

The creation of an illuminated manuscript was a long and tedious process that produced an astonishingly colorful and detailed manuscript that were There were many stages in the creation of these beautiful manuscripts that required the efforts of several skilled artisans: the vellum maker, the scribe, the illuminator, and the binder. The first stage in the productions of the manuscript was the preparation of pages, made of specially prepared animal skin called vellum. Usually the skins of sheep, goats, or calves were used.

The skins were cleaned in running water for a day or so, soaked in a olution of water and lime for several days to loosen the hair, scraped with knife to remove the hairs, then rinsed and stretched on wood frames to dry. While on the stretchers, the skins were scraped and rubbed to make them thin and even. The next stage in this process was the writing of the text by a scribe. Scribes trained for many years to develop graceful and uniform writing of the text by a scribe. Scribes trained for many years to develop graceful and uniform writing. The ink colors usually used by the scribe were black and red.

Next, the illuminator painted the decorations for the manuscripts. The term illumination derives from the frequent use of gold and silver, which reflected light and literally made the page appear to be lit from within. Now the manuscripts was ready for binding. The folded pages were stacked up and sewn together with thick thread, and the illuminated manuscript was now complete. The Middle Ages was a period where many renowned works of literature and art were created. The illuminated manuscripts from this period were well preserved and can still be viewed today under low artificial lighting.

The illuminated manuscripts are our best link with this long and fascinating period. They provide us with accurate depictions of battles and banquets, stag hunts and church services, weddings, and funerals. They tell us what people prayed for and feared, how they worked and what they did for fun, what kind of clothes they wore, what weapons they used, what they ate and drank- basically they tell us what life was like in the Middle Ages. Chaucers story The Canterbury Tales provides vivid description of the people and lives of those who lived in the Middle Ages.

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