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The story of medieval manuscripts

Before the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, books were made and written entirely by hand.

In Europe in the early Middle Ages, monks toiled away in monasteries, copying texts onto parchment. Important manuscripts were elaborately decorated with coloured inks, illuminated with gold leaf and illustrated with beautiful miniature paintings.

By the 13th century, as the demand for books rose, professional scribes and illustrators were employed. The illuminated manuscript reached its peak in the 15th century with the creation of lavish books of hours, or special prayer books, for wealthy patrons.

This discussion features:

  • Shane Carmody, the State Library of Victoria's director of Collections and Access
  • Margaret Manion AO, professorial fellow in Art History, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Bronwyn Stocks, senior lecturer in Theory of Art and Design, Monash University.

This discussion was held at the State Library of Victoria on Sunday 3 June 2007. It was part of All About Books week, celebrating books and showcasing the Library's permanent exhibition Mirror of the world.