Special Collections and University Archives

ENG 337 Introduction to English Literature to 1500

Special Collections Specialist Carolyn Shankle first showed students a selection of facsimiles, which included Roman de la quête du Graal, a thirteenth-century novel relating the tales of the Knights of the Round Table search for the Holy Grail, Le livre de la chasse, a fourteenth-century work on hunting written by Gaston III, Count of Foix, also known as Phoebus, that served as the standard text on medieval hunting techniques, and The Morgan Crusader Bible, created in the early thirteenth-century and known for the unprecedented naturalism and breadth of detail found in the miniatures.

With these texts as inspiration, the students did the following exercise:

For this assignment, you will be producing (obviously not in ink!) your own manuscript “leaves” – each leaf should include three elements:

1) It needs to be ruled, so that you can write a line or two of text. The exemplars for the types of writing are in Latin; don’t worry if you have no idea what it says, just try to replicate the letters of the style you’ve chosen!

2) It needs to have at least one decorative border – you can look at the books we have out on the tables on manuscripts plus all the examples we’ve printed. Feel free to adapt these to your own taste and ambition. Just remember to use bright colors and be creative. Do you want to include animals or weird little hybrid creatures in your border? Go for it.

3) It needs to have at least one illuminated initial – these are the large, highly decorated letters that often begin a line or a page. If you want to be super ambitious, you can try a historiated initial, which is often very large and includes a small picture within it that relates to the text.

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