Hi! I’m a bb!scribe and I was wondering if you knew anywhere to find reference pictures for buildings in manuscripts. I got challenged to do a scroll with a tower on it, and my usual haunts for this weren’t turning anything up (my google fu is weak). I tend to spend more time in later period French, but any time frame is good for the challenge (except for the hyper-realistic Dutch that I cannot draw and paint to save my life). Thank you so much!

Ohmygosh tell me about it. Trompe-l’œil makes me cry. It’s beautiful, but I am a paste-eating child when I’m asked to attempt it. Tasty, tasty paste.

BTW, I’m totally doing the mental super-sekrit-scribal-handshake. Rock on, scribes! And welcome! (Also, bb!scribe makes me giggle. <3)

First of, Google is weird when it comes to finding specific images in illuminated manuscripts. My two absolute favorite resources are the British Library and the Bodleian Library. There are, of course, plenty of other libraries and institutions that have digitized cataloges that you can search, but BL and Bodl are my go-tos.

I have written about how to search these two resources – you can find those blog posts here: [British Library 1] [British Library 2] [Bodleian Library]

Okay – Towers.

BableStone: 72 Views of the Tower of Babel – This blog has a cool run-down of various images of the Tower of Babel in manuscripts, along with citations (yea citations!) and links. If the links don’t work, use the shelf/manuscript number to search the collection (those links should work) and find it. (I’m having some issues with it, so if you run into problems, let me know and I will help you track down individual images.

I really like this one.

illustration by Michiel van der Borch to Jacob van Maerlant’s Rhimebible
MMW, 10 B 21 folio 9v
Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, Netherlands
Netherlands (Utrecht), 1332

“Tower of Babel” or “Babel” would be good search terms to use in Bodley and BL. “Building” and “architecture” aren’t bad, but you will get less.

A lot of 12th and 13th century portraiture use architectural elements for framing, like this portrait of King Solomon:


Additional 11639  f. 116
Miscellany of biblical and other texts (‘The Northern French Miscellany’ or earlier ‘the British Museum Miscellany’): including the Pentateuch, Haftarot, Tiqqun Sofrim, Five Scrolls, prayer book for the entire year with Haggadah, legal texts, poetry, calendars, Book of Tobit in Hebrew, etc.
France, N.

The Visconti Hours also has some cool architectural elements to it, but it’s a later period. It’s not tromp, but it’s still more realistic than earlier stuff. It’s not fully digitized online, but you can pick up a facsimile copy (with notes) for fairly cheap.


LF 155, Visconti Hours – The Gates of Gaza
National Library, Florence
Facsimile to purchase: [Abebooks]Facsimile in libraries: [Worldcat]

I hope that helps! Let me know if you need more. 🙂

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