Sunday, November 19, 2017

Leaves of Gold - Making Illuminated Manuscripts

    "Today, books are everywhere! How many books do you have at your house? Probably quite a few. Now, here's a question for you: how many of them were made entirely by hand?  In the Middle Ages, books were as rare as jewels and as precious as gold because they were made by hand. Some of the books on the Leaves of Gold website cost as much as a luxury car and took as long as a year to make. Some of the books actually have both gold and jewels in them. The gold is used for illumination, to light up the pages. And some colors are made of ground-up jewels."as r


Since books are one of my favorite things on earth, I love learning and teaching about the early art of bookmaking and the amazing and beautifully detailed manuscripts created in the middle ages. 
As part of our study of the middle ages, we explored the art of illuminated manuscripts through an incredible resource -- an archived exhibit of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The above paragraph came from the introductory page.


We took an "online field trip" to this exhibition and were able to examine and read about original illuminated pages such as this one, featuring border illustrations of the story of David and Goliath: as well as many other gorgeous examples of medieval works. We also closely examined historiated initials, or decorated letters, like this one:, thinking about questions like: Why is the letter difficult to see? What kinds of designs are int he decoration? Why would the artist/illuminator decorate the letter so elaborately? IN books today, how do you know when you've come to a new chapter? IN what ways is the style of drawing and painting different than other images you have seen?

We then practiced making our own historiated initials and decorated letters using the letters of our names. Then we each chose a topic relating to the middle ages, did some research, wrote a paragraph about it, and then "illuminated" it. We burnished with gold leaf, and embellished using jewels, glitter, gold paint and markers to create a masterpiece of our own. Though ours was not a true book of days, which was filled with prayers for each hour, this project is a great example of the way we integrate our curriculum at Seabury - social studies, art, literacy, history, technology - all combined into one fun and "illuminating" learning experience.

The Feudal System 

Kings owned all the land.



The life of the peasants was hard.

Castles in the middle ages were made for protection.

Women in the middle ages

Joan of Arc

Jousts and Tournaments

Come to the feast!

 The Navigators even made an illuminated Seabury sign:


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An exciting week of learning culminated in a visit from the education department from the Slater Museum of Natural History at the University...