In the battle of e-reader versus book, I will choose book every single time. In my eyes, nothing can beat the thrill of the turn of the page. Books are things of beauty and creators of worlds, and e-readers just cannot compete with the untangible magic that the written word possesses.
It is for the same reasons that I have always been a big fan of the medieval manuscript. The colours, the illumination, the weird and wonderful illustrations. I love to imagine the smell and the feel of the parchment and vellum, and think about the monks that would have spent a painstaking amount of hours creating these masterpieces. These books and manuscripts were actual treasures, rare and revered, chained in libraries in awe-inspiring catherdrals where only the privileged few could unlock their treasures.
There’s a surprising amount of Instagram accounts dedicated to medieval manuscripts and the wonders they contain – keep reading to discover my favourites.
(N.B. All the pictures in this post are taken from the respective Instagram accounts, and all copyright etc belongs to the account owners unless otherwise stated)
Pavia University Library (@biblioteca.universitaria.pavia)
The University of Pavia was founded in the 14th Century and is home to one of the most ancient public libraries in Italy. As you can imagine, it is full of rare and special manuscripts, as well as printed collections. This Instagram account provides a great insight into their treasures, such as this wonderfully illustrated ‘tree of inbreeding and affinity’ .
One of my fave medieval accounts on Instagram, this is all about the weird and wonderful pictorial marginalia (comments or doodles made in the margins of books or documents) that can often be found in medieval manuscripts. Puss in Boots playing a lyre? Check. Two legged manimal with a hand for a tail? Check. A breastfeeding centaur? Check.
Discarding Images (@discardingimages)
Another account dedicated to the weird and wonderful imagery that can be found in manuscripts – although this one chooses not to concentrate on marginalia. In amongst the hares riding lions and the weird wolf/fish hybrids, there are also some beautifully stunning medieval images, such as these animals staring at the stars. This image was taken from a manuscript known as the Rohan Hours, which was decorated by the anonymous illuminator they call Rohan Master!
A V Hudson (@a_v_Hudson)
A V Hudson is a curator of medieval manuscripts at the prestigious British Library – so you know that this account is going to be a good one! I really like it because of the variety of images we are treated to. As well as traditional manuscript illustrations and illuminations and the prerequisite marginalia, we are also treated to glimpses of other treasures from the British Library.
Louisa Torres (@louisatorres.bnf)
Louisa is a curator of medieval and renaissance manuscripts at the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal in Paris, a public library since 1797. The library houses over one million documents, including 15,000 historical and literary manuscripts. Apparently the library is also rich in ancient occult documents, which sounds like a horror movie just waiting to happen to me!
Manuscripta is run by an unnamed PhD student. I like this account because – whereas most similar accounts choose to concentrate on either the beautiful or the weird and wonderful imagery in manuscripts – this one features a lot of the wonderfully crafted text which is equally stunning in its own right. Warning – do not view this account if you are feeling a bit hungry, as the unnamed PhD student also likes baking!
Dr Johanna Green (@uofgcodicologist)
Joanna is a lecturer in book history and digital humanities at the University of Glasgow, and I simply love following her work on Instagram – her account provides a real behind-the-scenes insight into her day. She describes herself as a ‘codicologist/palaeographer/digital medievalist/Exeter Book enthusiast’, and the images she posts are second to none. Definitely a must-follow!
Medieval Art (@_medievalart)
Now, I must admit I cheated a bit with this one. As well as gorgeous illustrations and illuminations from medieval manuscripts, this account also features other medieval treasures and buildings. I couldn’t not include it though – its such a beautifully curated and informative account. I love this heraldic depiction of a lion – I find the history and meaning behind heraldic devices so interesting.
Folia Magazine (@foliamagazine)
This is the official Instagram account for the Italian Folia Magazine, which is all about illuminated manuscripts, ancient books and art history. The images picked to feature are absolutely stunning, and its one of the most aesthetically pleasing medieval accounts out there. The magazine website also has some great articles, if you are willing to translate them from Italian.
There was no way I could do a post about medieval manuscripts and not feature an account dedicated to the Book of Kells, probably one of the most famous manuscripts of them all. For those of you who don’t know, the book is a 9th Century Latin illuminated manuscript gospel book which is on permanent display in Trinity College Library, Dublin. It is generally agreed that the illustratations and illuminations of the book are incomparable – a true world-class treasure.
I hope you enjoyed my whistle-stop tour of these Instagram accounts that celebrate the beautiful medieval manuscript in all its glory. Please give them a follow and spread the love!