All over the world, in cultural archives and in private collections, there are precious witnesses of what can be placed at the dawn of modern publishing: manuscripts. In Italy, some of these can also be consulted online through the Digitalized Historical Catalogs projects of the Central Institute for the Single Catalog of Italian Libraries and Bibliographic Information, the New Manuscript Library promoted by the Veneto Region and Ca 'Foscari University, as well as the most recent Cultura Italia and Internet Culturale of the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities.
The manuscript, long before the Renaissance or the invention of printing, in medieval times represents any document written by hand, using a kind of pen or similar instrument, on paper or parchment. Among these, the so-called illuminated manuscripts stand out for their enlightening beauty, created with patience, dedication and impeccable precision by the illuminating monks, where the letters are flanked by decorations and drawings that have nothing to envy to the frescoes created centuries later.
Creating a manuscript is the result of a great team effort between various disciplines and talents including miniatures, decorators, calligraphers, bookbinders, goldsmiths.
Until the twelfth century, the packaging of a manuscript took place in a different way between the Latin West and the Greek and Byzantine East: in the West, scriptoria were set up within convents or bishops' seats in which the various necessary workers operate. to the complete production of the manuscript. In the East, on the contrary, the creation of the code does not take place in a specific scriptorium but the various processes are carried out in different and distant places. In the East, therefore, often the scribe is not also the illuminator of the work. Subsequently, a similar production technique will also be applied in the West.
This mastery is today collected and carried out by skilled restorers and by the makers of what are called facsimiles, or facsimilar works. They are authentic works with the dual purpose of safeguarding the original works and thus allowing the production of multiple copies of the work, to facilitate consultation without affecting the original work and in any case returning the complexity of the original work effectively and in all its completeness. 'original, in the physical, material and content dimension.
To immerse ourselves in the realization of these magnificent works, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles - gives us a splendid video in which a modern craftsman illustrates the phases of realization of an illuminated manuscript following all the phases used in medieval times: we start with the preparation of the parchment sheet made from animal skins that involves washing, drying, drawing and finally smoothing. Once the base is ready, we move on to the preparation of the colors necessary to write and illustrate the volume whose pigments, strictly natural, come from animals and minerals, the creation of the nib created by a bird pen made pointed according to the needs and the use of gold in the decorations. The final phase is represented by binding with threads, wood and other precious materials such as silk, velvet and in some cases even gold and silver.
Not only that, the Getty Museum has also created a free online in-depth course on the subject.