Handwritten book decorated with gold or silver, brilliant colours, elaborate designs, or miniature paintings. Illumination originally denoted embellishment of text with gold or silver, which gave the impression that the page had been literally illuminated. In the Middle Ages those who historiated (illustrated texts with paintings) were differentiated from those who illuminated (embellished the initial capital letters with gold leaf or powder). Today the term denotes the illustration and decoration of early manuscripts in general, whether or not with gold. With the development of printing in Europe in the 15th century, illumination was superseded by printed illustrations.
Illuminated initial U for Uerba (i.e., Verba) in
—By permission of the Dean and Chapter of Winchester; copyright The Warburg Institute, the University of London
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