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14 October 2012

Ye Olde Colours: A Guide to Resources on Pigments in Illuminated Manuscripts

Around this time last year I was working on a project for my Preservation class -- one of the most interesting and well-designed classes I had the pleasure of taking over the course of my MLIS studies (taught by Dr. Sheehan of the Archives and Rare Books department of the UNT Libraries).

The topic I chose for my major research paper was pigments in illuminated manuscripts and the preservation challenges faced by librarians/archivists dealing with them. I don't see the point in rehashing the paper here (the whole thing was fascinating, but nobody wants to read someone else's old grad school papers) BUT maybe someone will be interested in some of the resources I used for this project?

Some of these resources are more pigment-specific than others. And some are more "scholarly" than others. This list has no particular order. My hope is that you can find something on this list that helps or interests you!
Christ Enthroned from the Book of Kells
from Wikimedia Commons

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The Teaching Gutenberg primary source education module from the Harry Ransom Center of the University of Texas at Austin, particularly the Books Before Gutenberg section.

CAMEO (Conservation & Art Material Encyclopedia Online) by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, particularly the Forbes Pigment Database.

The Library of Congress Preservation Directorate, particularly the Preservation Science section.

AIC (the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works), particularly the Resource Center.

Il libro dell'arte [The craftsman's handbook] by Cennino Cennini, [ca. 1400] (as translated by Daniel V. Thompson, Jr.); the 1933 version can be found free online.

The Painted Word, a project by Julie C. Sparks.

Pigments through the ages, from the interactive museum WebExhibits.

Medieval Illuminators and Their Methods of Work by Jonathan J. G. Alexander (1992); you can find it in a library near you with WorldCat.

The British Library Guide to Manuscript Illumination: History and Techniques (2001) and A History of Illuminated Manuscripts (1986) both by Christopher De Hamel, and again you can find library copies via WorldCat (British Library Guide and History).

Northeast Document Conservation Center, particularly the NEDCC Preservation Leaflets.

A handbook of the art of illumination, as practised during the Middle Ages, with a description of the metals, pigments, and processes employed by the artists at different periods by Henry Shaw (1866) -- that first link takes you to the University of Toronto's contribution to the Internet Archive, but the University of California has also contributed a copy.

Restaurator, the International Journal for the Preservation of Library and Archival Material, which you'll have to access via a library's subscription databases.

Chi Rho from the Book of Kells
from Wikimedia Commons

Did you find these resources helpful? Are there any resources that you think should be added to this list?


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