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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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15th C. Book Of Hours Illuminated Manuscript Leaf On Vellum, France
Dec 12, 7:00 PM EST
15th C. Book Of Hours Illuminated Manuscript Leaf On Vellum, France
by Kensington Estate Auctions
Est: $500- $800
$2752 Bids
AN EARLY MEDIEVAL CATHOLIC MANUSCRIPT, QUEEN, 13TH CEN.
Dec 04, 11:00 AM EST
AN EARLY MEDIEVAL CATHOLIC MANUSCRIPT, QUEEN, 13TH CEN.
by Helios Auctions
Est: $300- $400
$2502 Bids
Persian Illuminated Manuscript Painting
Dec 11, 11:00 AM EST
Persian Illuminated Manuscript Painting
by Auctions at Showplace
Est: $200- $400
$1001 Bid
AN ILLUMINATED QURAN, KASHMIRI, 18THC
Dec 14, 9:00 AM CST
AN ILLUMINATED QURAN, KASHMIRI, 18THC
by Jackson's International
Est: $800- $1,200
$7001 Bid
Circa 14th Century Illumination from the Koran
Dec 17, 9:00 AM CST
Circa 14th Century Illumination from the Koran
by Matthew Bullock Auctioneers
Est: $30- $300
$151 Bid
Illuminated manuscript ancient large
Dec 28, 6:00 PM EST
Illuminated manuscript ancient large
by Captain Ahab's Antiques
Est: $125- $275
$1000 Bids
Fine Co. Longford Illuminated Manuscript Co. Longford: Address of the Inhabitants of the Town and
Dec 06, 10:15 AM GMT
Fine Co. Longford Illuminated Manuscript Co. Longford: Address of the Inhabitants of the Town and
by Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers
Est: €600- €800
€6000 Bids
Indo Persian Miniature Painting Illuminated manuscript
Dec 18, 10:00 AM PST
Indo Persian Miniature Painting Illuminated manuscript
by Global Auctions Company
Est: $300- $400
$2500 Bids
Indian Illuminated Manuscripts On Parchment, H 8'' W 6'' 3 pcs
Dec 14, 11:00 AM EST
Indian Illuminated Manuscripts On Parchment, H 8'' W 6'' 3 pcs
by DuMouchelles
Est: $300- $500
$1500 Bids
Three Persian Illuminated Manuscript Pages
Dec 08, 10:00 AM EST
Three Persian Illuminated Manuscript Pages
by Nye & Company
Est: $300- $500
$1500 Bids
Group Of 3 Early Illuminated Pages
Dec 03, 11:00 AM EST
Group Of 3 Early Illuminated Pages
by Ancient Objects
Est: $400- $1,200
$2000 Bids
Group of Three Illuminated Manuscripts
Dec 15, 11:00 AM EST
Group of Three Illuminated Manuscripts
by Stair
Est: $600- $800
$3000 Bids
AN ILLUMINATED QURAN LEAF IN MAGHRIBI SCRIPT, ANDALUSIA, 12TH-13TH CENTURY
Dec 14, 12:00 PM CET
AN ILLUMINATED QURAN LEAF IN MAGHRIBI SCRIPT, ANDALUSIA, 12TH-13TH CENTURY
by Oriental Art Auctions
Est: €9,000- €12,000
€9,0000 Bids
AN ILLUMINATED QURAN, BAGHDAD, QARA QUYUNLU DYNASTY, DATED 870 AH/1465 AD
Dec 14, 12:00 PM CET
AN ILLUMINATED QURAN, BAGHDAD, QARA QUYUNLU DYNASTY, DATED 870 AH/1465 AD
by Oriental Art Auctions
Est: €20,000- €30,000
€20,0000 Bids
AN ILLUMINATED TIMURID QURAN, WRITTEN BY ABDULLAH IN 924 AH/1518 AD
Dec 14, 12:00 PM CET
AN ILLUMINATED TIMURID QURAN, WRITTEN BY ABDULLAH IN 924 AH/1518 AD
by Oriental Art Auctions
Est: €12,000- €15,000
€12,0000 Bids
TWELVE SAFAVID QURAN PAGES, PERSIA, 16TH CENTURY
Dec 14, 12:00 PM CET
TWELVE SAFAVID QURAN PAGES, PERSIA, 16TH CENTURY
by Oriental Art Auctions
Est: €800- €1,200
€8000 Bids
AN ILLUMINATED QURAN, YEMEN, BY AHMED QASEM IBN ISMAIL IN 1035 AH/1626 AD
Dec 14, 12:00 PM CET
AN ILLUMINATED QURAN, YEMEN, BY AHMED QASEM IBN ISMAIL IN 1035 AH/1626 AD
by Oriental Art Auctions
Est: €40,000- €60,000
€40,0000 Bids
AN ILLUMINATED OTTOMAN QURAN, 18TH CENTURY
Dec 14, 12:00 PM CET
AN ILLUMINATED OTTOMAN QURAN, 18TH CENTURY
by Oriental Art Auctions
Est: €10,000- €15,000
€10,0000 Bids
AN ILLUMINATED KASHMIRI QURAN JUZ, 19TH CENTURY
Dec 14, 12:00 PM CET
AN ILLUMINATED KASHMIRI QURAN JUZ, 19TH CENTURY
by Oriental Art Auctions
Est: €6,000- €8,000
€6,0000 Bids
AN ILLUMINATED KASHMIRI QURAN, 19TH CENTURY
Dec 14, 12:00 PM CET
AN ILLUMINATED KASHMIRI QURAN, 19TH CENTURY
by Oriental Art Auctions
Est: €20,000- €30,000
€20,0000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Illuminated Manuscripts


Oriental Art Auctions

Oriental Art Auctions

Millon & Associes

Millon & Associes

Sotheby's

Sotheby's

Bonhams

Bonhams