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Illuminated Manuscripts

Illuminated manuscripts are some of the most fascinating works in the world for book collectors and scholars. These books combine text and art in a way that is revealing, aesthetically pleasing, and even shocking. Created mostly between the 12th and 14th centuries, illuminated manuscripts were created by monastic scribes who were the keepers of the bulk of art, literature, and knowledge during this period. Later, specialized artisans were commissioned by the wealthy to produce the manuscripts. These luxury items were ornately decorated, painted with gold and silver foils, and richly bound.

One of the most interesting facets of illuminated manuscripts is marginalia, the illustrated notes around the borders of the manuscripts. Not all marginalia is strictly informative or pious, despite the fact that most illuminated texts were religious. Marginalia often contains pictures and commentary featuring anthropomorphic figures, lewd acts, and religious leaders behaving badly. Scholars of marginalia believe these comedic commentaries are satires of society. Marginalia, even if strange, often highlights the contents of the text, or simply indicates artists from a repressed hierarchy letting off steam.

Illuminated manuscripts possess historical, aesthetic, literary, and comedic value and are very valuable on the market. As they were not mass produced, they are also very rare and highly sought after. Often, illuminated manuscripts are not owned by individual collectors, but rather displayed in museums and government or university libraries.


Quick Facts

  • "Selected Fables" by J. De La Fontaine sold for $149,211 at a 2015 Sotheby's auction
  • "The Great Hours of Galeazzo Maria Sforza," an Italian illuminated manuscript, realized a price of $1,950,035 at a 2011 Christie’s auction
  • "The Rothchild Prayerbook," an illuminated Middle Ages manuscript considered a masterpiece of Renaissance art sold for $13,605,000 at a 2014 Christie's auction

Recommended Items at Auction

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A RARE & EARLY ILLUMINATED 17TH CENTURY OTTOMAN QUR’AN DATED 1082AH/1671AD SIGNED BY AHMAD BIN AHMAD
Feb 28, 1:00 PM GMT
A RARE & EARLY ILLUMINATED 17TH CENTURY OTTOMAN QUR’AN DATED 1082AH/1671AD SIGNED BY AHMAD BIN AHMAD
by Plakas Auctions
Est: £4,000- £6,000
£3,0001 Bid
A LEAF FROM A SHAHNAMEH
Feb 28, 1:00 PM GMT
A LEAF FROM A SHAHNAMEH
by Plakas Auctions
Est: £200- £300
£1501 Bid
A COMPLETE ILLUMINATED OTTOMAN QURAN COPIED BY HAFIZ UTHMAN DATED 1083AH/1672AD, OTTOMAN TURKEY, 17T
Feb 28, 1:00 PM GMT
A COMPLETE ILLUMINATED OTTOMAN QURAN COPIED BY HAFIZ UTHMAN DATED 1083AH/1672AD, OTTOMAN TURKEY, 17T
by Plakas Auctions
Est: £4,000- £6,000
£2,6001 Bid
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Libro d'ore all'uso di Roma. XV secolo.
Mar 06, 10:00 AM CET
Libro d'ore all'uso di Roma. XV secolo.
by Gonnelli Casa d'Aste
Est: €2,400- €4,800
€2,4001 Bid
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Vesperale romanum. Datato 1773.
Mar 06, 10:00 AM CET
Vesperale romanum. Datato 1773.
by Gonnelli Casa d'Aste
Est: €480- €960
€4800 Bids
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Il sonno / di / Endimione / favola pastorale. XIX secolo.
Mar 06, 10:00 AM CET
Il sonno / di / Endimione / favola pastorale. XIX secolo.
by Gonnelli Casa d'Aste
Est: €280- €560
€2800 Bids
AN ILLUMINATED TIMURID QUR’AN SECTION 15TH /16TH CENTURY, HERAT, IRAN
Feb 28, 1:00 PM GMT
AN ILLUMINATED TIMURID QUR’AN SECTION 15TH /16TH CENTURY, HERAT, IRAN
by Plakas Auctions
Est: £4,000- £6,000
£3,0000 Bids
AN ILLUMINATED SAFAVID QUR’AN, 17TH CENTURY COPIED BY MIRZA BAYG MUHAMMAD NUR AL-DIN AL-RAZI, DATED
Feb 28, 1:00 PM GMT
AN ILLUMINATED SAFAVID QUR’AN, 17TH CENTURY COPIED BY MIRZA BAYG MUHAMMAD NUR AL-DIN AL-RAZI, DATED
by Plakas Auctions
Est: £8,000- £12,000
£6,0000 Bids
AN ILLUMINATED QAJAR DIWAN (POEM) MANUSCRIPT ON A LACQUER BINDING, 19TH CENTURY, PERSIA
Feb 28, 1:00 PM GMT
AN ILLUMINATED QAJAR DIWAN (POEM) MANUSCRIPT ON A LACQUER BINDING, 19TH CENTURY, PERSIA
by Plakas Auctions
Est: £2,000- £3,000
£1,6000 Bids
AN ILLUMINATED QAJAR MINIATURE QURAN, 18TH CENTURY, PERSIA WITH ORIGINAL LACQUER BINDING
Feb 28, 1:00 PM GMT
AN ILLUMINATED QAJAR MINIATURE QURAN, 18TH CENTURY, PERSIA WITH ORIGINAL LACQUER BINDING
by Plakas Auctions
Est: £4,000- £6,000
£3,0000 Bids
Indo Persian Illuminated Manuscript Page
Mar 02, 10:00 AM EST
Indo Persian Illuminated Manuscript Page
by Neue Auctions
Est: $100- $200
$500 Bids
Three Indo Persian Illuminated Manuscript Pages
Mar 02, 10:00 AM EST
Three Indo Persian Illuminated Manuscript Pages
by Neue Auctions
Est: $100- $300
$500 Bids
A 18TH CENTURY ILLUMINATED OTTOMAN MANUSCRIPT, DATED 1169/1755
Feb 28, 1:00 PM GMT
A 18TH CENTURY ILLUMINATED OTTOMAN MANUSCRIPT, DATED 1169/1755
by Plakas Auctions
Est: £500- £700
£3600 Bids
Indian / Persian School, Watercolour and gouache, An illuminated manuscript
Feb 26, 9:00 AM GMT
Indian / Persian School, Watercolour and gouache, An illuminated manuscript
by Claydon Auctioneers
Est: £50- £100
£500 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Illuminated Manuscripts


Plakas Auctions

Plakas Auctions

Il Ponte Auction House

Il Ponte Auction House

Gonnelli Casa d'Aste

Gonnelli Casa d'Aste

Claydon Auctioneers

Claydon Auctioneers