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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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THREE PERSIAN MANUSCRIPTS OF POETIC CONTENT Iran, 19th century
Oct 29, 1:00 PM BST
THREE PERSIAN MANUSCRIPTS OF POETIC CONTENT Iran, 19th century
by Chiswick Auctions
Est: £150- £200
£804 Bids
5 neume sheets, Spain, 15th / 16th century, single
Oct 30, 10:00 AM CEST
5 neume sheets, Spain, 15th / 16th century, single
by Henry's Auktionshaus AG
Est: €350- €600
€3200 Bids
An illuminated Qur'an
Nov 11, 10:30 AM GMT
An illuminated Qur'an
by Dreweatts 1759 Fine Sales
Est: £600- £800
£5000 Bids
Officium Beate Marie Virginis "di Barbara D'Austria"
Nov 06, 5:30 PM CET
Officium Beate Marie Virginis "di Barbara D'Austria"
by Aste Brina
Est: €400- €450
€3000 Bids
Opus Est
Nov 06, 5:30 PM CET
Opus Est
by Aste Brina
Est: €400- €450
€3000 Bids
GOUACHE & GOLD LEAF PERSIAN ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPTS, 3, H 10", W 5 1/2"
Nov 12, 11:00 AM EST
GOUACHE & GOLD LEAF PERSIAN ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPTS, 3, H 10", W 5 1/2"
by DuMouchelles
Est: $200- $400
$1000 Bids
A ROBUST NOBLEMAN HOLDING A SACRIFICIAL LAMB Zand Iran, 18th century
Oct 29, 1:00 PM BST
A ROBUST NOBLEMAN HOLDING A SACRIFICIAL LAMB Zand Iran, 18th century
by Chiswick Auctions
Est: £400- £600
£400 Bids
A FINE QURAN MANUSCRIPT
Nov 10, 9:30 AM CET
A FINE QURAN MANUSCRIPT
by Nagel Auction
Est: €4,000- €6,000
€4,0000 Bids
Illuminated Leaves. Illuminated musical score on single vellum leaf, c.1500 & another
Nov 10, 10:00 AM GMT
Illuminated Leaves. Illuminated musical score on single vellum leaf, c.1500 & another
by Dominic Winter Auctions
Est: £150- £200
£1500 Bids
Medieval French Manuscript Page
Nov 30, 10:00 AM GMT
Medieval French Manuscript Page
by TimeLine Auctions
Est: £400- £600
£3600 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Illuminated Manuscripts


Chiswick Auctions

Chiswick Auctions

Kedem Public Auction House Ltd

Kedem Public Auction House Ltd

Aste Brina

Aste Brina

DuMouchelles

DuMouchelles