Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts
Manuscripts are handwritten items. They were the main vehicles for the diffusion of knowledge prior to the introduction of the printing press in the middle of the fifteenth century. Until the eleventh or twelfth centuries, most manuscripts were made in religious communities for their own use; private ownership of books was rare. But by about 1100, with the growth in education and the increased demand for books, monasteries could not keep up and they began to employ secular scribes and illuminators to help produce the books. By 1200 most books were made outside monasteries. Most manuscripts contain decoration of some description, some more elaborate than others. This set shows some of the decorated pages from early manuscripts in the Alexander Turnbull Library Rare Book collection. All the featured manuscripts are copied onto vellum unless stated otherwise in the caption.
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