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On the Margins: Imagination in Gothic Illuminated Manuscripts

On the Margins: Imagination in Gothic Illuminated Manuscripts

By Dolly Jorgensen

Lustre: Spiritual Treasures and Sensory Pleasures (University of Houston, Texas, 2005)

Introduction: The Gothic Period (ca 1250 to 1375) in Northern Europe was one of the high points of medieval manuscript illumination. In that period, there was an increasing demand for books by the lay audience, which can be attributed to the rise of prosperous upper-middle-class merchants and growth of interest in personal books of hours. As a result, there was an increase in the number of professional illuminators, and book production was systematized. Along with these changes, an increase in marginalia is noticeable.

Marginalia are the “extra” images occupying the marginal space between the block of script and the page limits. They exist in conjunction with the more prominent decorated or historiated initials and miniature illustrations that often relate directly to the page’s text. The marginal figures can inhabit the borders, weave in and out of the text, or dance gleefully at the bottom of a page.

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