Activity Ideas for Manuscripts?

January 3rd, 2010
The French navy sets sail for battle on a page from the Chronicles, a history book made in the 1400s

The French navy sets sail for battle on a page from the Chronicles, a history book made in the 1400s

We are gearing up for our next workshop for current Art & Language Art participants, which will focus on illuminated manuscripts and will take place on Saturday 1/23.

How have you incorporated illuminated manuscripts into your elementary curricula? Post your lesson ideas and student artwork to inspire your colleagues.

And be sure to check out our current exhibition Medieval Scriptorium, on view at the Getty Center through February 14, 2010. This exhibition, which focuses on the working method of artists in the Middle Ages (about A.D. 500–1500), is designed specifically for kids and families!

  1. Carla Buchanan
    January 11th, 2010 at 11:58 | #1

    I incorporate illuminated manuscripts in to my 3rd grade class during the study of fairy tales, myths, legends. What I do is similar to a lesson you have but I’ve changed some things. We begin by learning something about illuminated manuscripts – sort of an over-view and show the very cool video about making illuminated manuscripts.
    Then I focused on creating an historiated initial. I used the following criteria to create the piece:
    A letter at the beginning of a section of text that contains an identifiable scene or character relating to the text.
    There is often a small border and then a more elaborate border
    There is a simple palette of red, blue, black, green and gold.
    There is marginalia (my favorite part :))
    There are simple backgrounds composed of abstract patterns (think doodles)and shimmering gold (think metallic pens)

    I created a template with some basic borders and the words “Once upon a time” – relating back to the fairy tales. The “O” becomes the historiated initial, and makes for a fun, open place to create your illumination.

    When they’re done, we put them up and see if we can guess what fairy tale, based on what is in the historiated initial.

    Some of the Getty pieces I referenced:

    Decorated Initial D: Detail of acanthus motif
    Initial N: James I of Aragon overseeing a Court of Law
    Initial A: Two Men Before a King and a Man Speaking to his Family
    Alchandreus Presents his work to a King
    Feudal Customs of Aragon (great example of marginalia)

    I can email you the a picture of the template is you would like

  2. tsotto
    March 8th, 2010 at 11:14 | #2

    Great ideas! Thanks for sharing, and I’m so glad that you’re able to use the video about making illuminated manuscripts.

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