Beginning Illumination, Learn the Ancient Art, Step by Step, book review

This isn’t my usual type of book, but I love art and I thought about my dad when seeing this.  He was an artist of sorts and without a doubt illumination is a beautiful thing.  The author Clair Travers is a leading illuminator and she shares the history of illumination and offers the materials and basic techniques to create your own illuminations.

“The first function of illumination was to clarify the text it accompanied:  indeed, medieval scripts had no punctuation, page numbers, chapters, or paragraphs.  therefore to make reading easier, a certain number of visual marks were put on the pages,” Travers explains in the discussion of the history.

The first letters of the text were large and adorned to help bring the eye to a paragraph.  In one example she shows the initial S made from the body of a man with a scythe.  The beautiful illumination decorated text to highlight its meaning and gold or silver leaf represented oftentimes took on a religious meaning portraying the “Divine Light.” Travers explains the, “Religion was the dominating characteristic; the large majority of illuminated manuscripts were created by and for monks (carried by secular clergymen attached to Episcopal churches.) Following this, the second general period was called ‘naturalistic'”.

Travers goes on to describe periods and shares that even today, illumination isn’t outdated, but still practiced with limners creating reproductions for museums, or ideas for clients, weddings etc.

For those with a modicum of artistic talent, this is a great book for creating illuminations on parchment. The illuminations are truly beautiful and would be, at least in my eyes, a piece of art once completed.  My favorite part of the book was the explanation of the history of illumination and the gallery at the end that shows lovely illuminations from the past. Travers takes the time to offer step, by step details on how to create your very own illumination and this is an important art book that serves double duty as a coffee table book because of the beauty of the book.

This book is available on Amazon  Published by Schiffer Books, you can find more details at





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