My Process – Choosing Inspiration

When I get a scroll assignment, the first thing I do is find out who the person is. More than likely, I have never met them before.  I always try to match the inspiration for my scroll to the recipient’s persona.  In this post, I’ll talk about how I go about finding a period illumination to base a scroll on.

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Pinning Illuminations

I really, really like Pinterest 1. For lots of reasons.

I may or may not stalk people’s Pinterests boards so that I get to see when someone goes on an illumination-pinning splurge.  If I did do this, I would follow these boards:

Scribal Scribinations
Medieval Illuminaria
Illuminated Manuscripts

Lastly, I own a collaborative board for people to pin to.  If I re-pin illuminations, it is always to this board: SCA Scroll Inspiration/Sources

But one of the easiest ways for me to get frustrated with Pinterest is when people do not pin responsibly.  Thankfully, when looking at pins related to manuscripts and illumination, most pinners are pretty responsible and actually pin the image where it lives in a library’s digital collection, or at the very least include a title and folio citation in their description.

Let’s look at some examples!

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  1. If you don’t know what Pinterest is, here is an explanation in plain English.

Searching for Digitized Manuscripts: The Bodleian Library

One of my all-time favorite places to browse for illuminated manuscripts to use either as a resource or just inspiration is what I call Bodley’s Luna, or the Luna.  This is just my own title for a collaboration between ARTstor (more on them later) and the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford.

My first piece of advice is to bookmark this website.  It’s not an easy URL to remember. You could just do a Google search for “bodley luna” whenever you want to pull it up, but it’s worth just bookmarking.  I’m not going to go over how to “search” the Luna, but I will highlight some of my favorite features.  I highly encourage you to poke around with it. It’s just too fun!

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Searching for Digitized Manuscripts: The British Library, Part 2

(Psst! You can find part 1 here.)

So the British Library is in the process of phasing out one database of digitized manuscripts,  Digitized Manuscripts site (DM), in favor of another,  Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts (CIM).  This post is going to focus on searching the DM.

Before we get too far in here, remember that you’re not going to find everything in the DM.  The only things that can be found here reliably are the Cotton manuscripts – that is, any manuscript with the word “Cotton” in the shelfmark. So, the Lindisfarne Gospels, AKA Cotton MS Nero D.IV, are going to be in the DM.  Also note that the DM is being tinkered with because it is going away, so don’t be surprised if things don’t load correctly or you get an error.

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What’s that thing called?

Did you know that the British Library has a glossary specific to illuminated manuscripts? If you’re like me, you’ve been reading metadata on a record and come across a term that made your eyebrows spike and your head get itchy.  Or maybe it was in one of those big coffee table books filled with beautiful glossy scans of manuscript pages.  Well, now you know where to go to find out what it means.

The Glossary for the British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts!

Or you could Google it, I guess. But I like going directly to a source that I know will give me a good definition.  Now then, let’s look at some fun terms!

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Searching for Digitized Manuscripts: The British Library, Part 1

For whatever reason, there are two ways to search the British Library’s vast collection of digitized manuscripts. One is via their Digitized Manuscripts site (DM), and the other is via their Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts (CIM).  There are some items that are in one site, but not the other.  For example, the Cotton Manuscripts (the library compiled by Sir Robert Bruce Cotton, 1571-1631, which includes the Lindisfarne Gospels) is only available in DM, whereas the Harleian manuscripts are in the CIM.  I have run into issues in the past with searching the DM – I often get an error page, which may mean that the DM is getting phased out in favor of the CIM.  I think this is the case, given the wording on the CIM’s “About” page:

Manuscripts included in the Catalogue:

The illuminated manuscripts in the following collections are included in the Catalogue:Additional, Arundel; Burney; Egerton; Hargrave; Harley; Henry Davis; Hirsch; King’s;Lansdowne; Sloane; Royal; Stowe and Yates Thompson (Oriental, for Hebrew illuminated manuscripts).

Manuscripts in the Additional collection are currently being added to the Catalogue. At the moment they consist primarily of around 675 illuminated miniatures cuttings and Hebrew manuscripts (see Italian illuminated cuttings and Hebrew illuminated manuscripts), Anglo-Norman and Anglo-Saxon manuscripts.

PLEASE NOTE: manuscripts in the Cotton collection are not yet included in the Catalogue.

My rule of thumb is this: if I can’t find it in CIM, I look for it in DM. If I can’t find it in DM, I look elsewhere.  THIS post is going to focus on searching the CIM.

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