…and some visual splendour.
But first an explanation.
I meant to write this post a few months back after seeing a lovely exhibition on illuminated manuscripts at the British Library in London. Somehow, I never quite got round to it and might have forgotten about it entirely if it weren’t for the fact that, just yesterday, the subject came up in conversation with my colleagues, Mark and Richard.
We were talking about design for on-line and off-line and the inspiration that can be drawn from illuminated manuscripts.
Yes, I realise that sounds a little obscure, but the techniques used in illuminated manuscripts are more relevant than you might think and go beyond the exquisite lettering that draws your eye to the opening sentence. Or so I found out at the British Library exhibition.
On display were illuminated manuscripts like these made for English Kings and Queens through the ages.
Look at the amazing layout of this page.
Even with several artists at work on one manuscript it could take months – or even years – to complete one. I like to think about what happened the moment an illuminated manuscript was put it to the hands of its new owner.
Remember, ‘illuminate’ means to ‘light up’ – and that’s exactly what these amazing artists did to their texts.
When, say, King Henry VIII looked at his new book what did he see?
He saw his crest on each page, he saw his name in the text, his face in the pictures. It showed him he was the most important person in the world.
King Henry VIII opens his psalter to see himself (on the left) pictured reading his new book (an early example of postmodern self-reference?)
The Alfonso Psalter was made for Prince Alphonso. Had he lived to see it, he’d have seen his crests on the page of his manuscript.
There were some great examples in the exhibition where the personalization in the text had to be hastily adjusted when a King, Queen or heir died some sort of unpleasant medieval death during the creation of the manuscript. Their name would have to be hastily scratched out and written over.
I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. Obviously, this is a wonderful opportunity to share some incredibly beautiful images with you. But it is also about technique.
If your donors are the most important people in your world, show them.
The same techniques apply.
- Show them an appeal that is for them and them alone.
- Let them see themselves in the appeal that you send them.
- Put them at the centre of the action that is taking place.
- Illuminate – ‘light up’ – your appeal.
If you’re interested in reading more about illuminated manuscripts, here are a few links.