D – Decorated Initial


If, like me, you enjoy looking at illuminated manuscripts, you have probably noticed that the first letter of a passage is often (a) larger than the rest of the text, (b) decorated in some way, and (c) truly beautiful.

The word for this first, larger letter is ‘Initial’.  Initials come in three types:

Decorated (the most basic type), Inhabited (incorporating a picture) or Historiated, which has a scene from the story or subject of the text, incorporated in it.

The design or embellishment of a Decorated Initial generally has nothing to do with the subject of the text and is, as they say, ‘just for pretty.’

The scribe appears to have liked Morning Glories…

9 comments on “D – Decorated Initial

  1. Cherdo says:

    I love illuminated texts – when I taught about the Middle Ages, I passed out parchment and made all the kids do an illuminated “saying” project…and it had to be in Latin. Believe it or not, they loved it. Geeks rule!

  2. Beth says:

    I had no idea there were three types of Decorated Initials. I love illuminated manuscripts too, and you've found some wonderful examples. Every time I stop by your blog, I learn something. Happy Easter.

  3. Diana Wilder says:

    You know, I'd have loved to have you as a teacher. Hands-on, allowing us to see how things worked, and how nifty they were. I had two of them. They were great!

  4. Diana Wilder says:

    You're too nice, Beth! The thing is, do you learn anything USEFUL when you drop by? I do try…

  5. I love illuminated manuscripts. It was always my favorite part of the British Museum when I was in London.

  6. A lot of work went into these old manuscripts. Truly a lost art!

  7. Hi Diana .. I love looking at illuminated texts and having them explained .. I saw lots when I visited Durham and saw the Lindisfarne Gospels … incredible workmanship and saw how they made up the parchment etc .. I really should write up more on that visit .. cheers Hilary

  8. Yvette Carol says:

    Gorgeous aren't they? Love these texts too. Interesting to know a little more about them, thanks, Diana! 🙂

  9. I love looking at them. 😀

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