Illuminated Manuscripts: Exhibiting the Written Word

February 5- May 28, 2014 | Current Exhibit


The embellishment of a handwritten manuscript with decorated initials, borders, or miniature illustrations arose as an important art form before the introduction of the printing press in the fifteenth century. Most illuminated manuscripts that survive today are associated with religious works of the Middle Ages. 


The small exhibit of illuminated manuscripts on view through May 28 was gathered from several local collections and include a 16th century Breviary and 13th century Bible from the John Wilson Special Collections, Multnomah County Library; a 15th century Book of Hours from the Mark O. Hatfield Library, Willamette University; a 13th century Bible from Mt. Angel Abby; and a 20th century example of Song of Songs, illustrated by Ze’ev Raban and courtesy of Kenneth Helphand. These works illustrate the relationship between language and art, a relationship that artist Sara Harwin draws upon in the adjoining exhibit, Illuminated Letters: Threads of Connection. Harwin articulates Hebrew letters and text through textures, colors and shapes so that her work seems to be literally illuminated. In the same way, medieval artists applied color, design, and precious metals to illuminate the written word. In both the contemporary and medieval art, text and illustration function in unison to communicate the meaning of the words.


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