How were early manuscripts made?


In contrast to everything printed, the word manuscript (from Latin manu factum) describes all those texts that were written by hand, in particular the works and documents preserved from ancient times and the Middle Ages before the invention of printing.

Very few manuscripts have survived from antiquity, most of which only exist as fragments. The most common writing material was papyrus, and increasingly parchment since the Roman Empire. Paper manuscripts have been in use since the 13th century. Important text passages, columns or headings were often highlighted in red or occasionally in blue, especially in elaborate manuscripts the first letters (Lombards) are also highlighted in color. Large initials highlighted by decorations or illustrations can be found at the beginning of a chapter or other passages with delimited content. Extensive texts were structured in a reader-friendly manner using various initials and made it easier to find specific passages more quickly, especially since page or page numbers were not common in early manuscripts. The illustrators of this book illumination are also called miniators. In the early and high Middle Ages, these magnificent manuscripts were mainly produced in the scriptoria of the monasteries (mainly among the Benedictines and Cistercians). This is how regional writing schools emerged, including Sankt Gallen, Reichenau, Fulda, Regensburg and others. In the Renaissance period, valuable manuscripts were mainly made at the royal courts. Large libraries still have extensive collections of manuscripts, such as Codex Vaticanus, Codex argenteus, Codex aureus and the Manessian song manuscript. - The peoples and cultures of the Middle East also have a rich and in some cases highly developed manuscript tradition. Arabic, Persian, Greek, Hebrew, Coptic and Indian manuscripts were mostly the predominant form of publication until the late modern period.

The manuscripts offered at our auctions are often medieval manuscripts with precious miniatures and initials. Mostly they are texts of religious or liturgical content, including the books of hours popular with collectors (Livres d'heures, Books of Hours). They achieve high, sometimes exorbitant prices in our auctions and are mostly acquired for important private or public collections.

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