Palaeographia sacra pictoria: being a Series of Illustrations of the Ancient Versions of the Bible Copied from Illuminated Manuscripts Executed between the Fourth and Sixteenth Centuries, by J.O. Westwood

Date of Publication:1843-1845
Publisher: William Smith, London (Great Britain)

The invention of chromolithography in the 1830s coincided with a growing interest in the Middle Ages. This intricate process which requires the creation of a separate "stone" for each shade of color, followed by careful superimposition of the impressions made with these "stones," was particularly suited to the reproduction of illuminated medieval manuscripts with their brilliant but flat pigments. The process was still in its infancy when several ambitious and lavish publications introduced the public to the range and splendor of medieval art by means of selected reproductions from medieval illuminated manuscripts: in France, the magnificent Peintures et Ornements des Manuscrits by the Comte de Bastard d'Estang (a set of over 160 plates begun in 1832), and the Palaeographie Universelle, in 4 volumes, comprising 300 plates, by J.B. Silvestre and Champollion (1842); in England, Henry Shaw's Illuminated Ornaments (1833).

In his introduction to the Palaeographia sacra pictoria (1843-1845), J.O. Westwood clearly sets himself in the same tradition, but with particular emphasis on illuminated manuscripts of the text of Scripture in all areas and throughout the Middle Ages.

This reproduction of the now famous Virgin and Child at the beginning of the Book of Kells would have provided the first opportunity for many an art lover or scholar to get a visual impression of the richness of this full-page illumination. Before the publication of this collection of facsimile reproductions (with commentary), it would have been necessary to travel to Dublin to see this image -- assuming that one were given permission to see the manuscript.

For contrast, the same image in the 1951 facsimile of the Book of Kells, based on a photographic process, is presented on the Book of Kells page.


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Chronik des
Constanzer Concils

Book of Kells (1951)

The Library of the Medieval Institute