This new book – ‘Penned and Painted’ – by Lucy Freeman Sandler looks at books from many different aspects and provides a cornucopia of wonderful images of pages from manuscripts. If you like looking at manuscripts and finding out more about them, then this book is for you!
Lucy Freeman Sandler starts by considering the book as an object, and then books as images in books. Sometimes the pages or scrolls in miniatures are left blank and at other times actual words are depicted. Here, this wonderful image of a rather grumpy elderly St Mark peering through his spectacles, with his lion looking on with sympathy, has text shown simply as vertical lines.
But St Dunstan, in all his gilded glory is shown with his quill in his right hand and his quill knife in his left holding down the bumpy vellum and ready to trim his pen, and is writing out the beginning of the Rule of St Benedict. As St Dunstan was one of the three people responsible for bringing the church into the benedictine Rule in the tenth century, this seems very appropriate.
The rest of the book consists of two main sections: Books as Symbols and Books in Use. The Harley Golden Gospels were produced during the time of Charlemagne, possibly in Aachen, and lives up to its name. Written in gold throughout, mainly in Uncials the four evangelists are shown holding books or scrolls. Here St Mark, looked on rather menacingly (look at that smile!) by his lion, is writing out a section from his gospel. One would have thought that he would have arranged his writing position and the position of his ink well a little more conveniently so that he didn’t have to twist his wrist quite so much to fill his pen to fill it from an ink pot on top of a pillar, but there we are! His lion holds a scroll with letters in gold. It is truly a magnificent book.
This manuscript shows a miniature which is most unusual – a left-handed scribe! It is from a fifteenth-century breviary produced for John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy, and his wife Margaret of Bavaria. The detail is quite amazing as the fifth-century pope, Leo the Great, dictates to an amanuensis sitting at his feet. The scribe is turning to hear the words which he is writing into a book on his lap. The expressions on the faces are amazingly detailed.
And that left-handed scribe – when left-handedness was certainly not looked on favourably? Well, you’ll need to buy the book to read Lucy Freeman Sandler’s possible explanation! This is a book that is well worth buying and well worth reading!