The truth of the matter is that I had NO IDEA what illumination was before I received this book. Quite honestly this book, Beginning Illumination: Learning the Ancient Art, Step by Step by Claire Travers, was one that I literally chose because of its cover (and the description) but the cover got me first.
Come on, admit it! You choose books by their covers sometimes. Everyone does. That is why on sites that offer pre-published books generally want you to judge the cover. As the old saying goes…You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Especially on a book cover!
When I read the description I was a bit intrigued. Being a book lover and an art lover, I did just enough research to find out that illumination is about the drawings at the beginning of paragraphs in old manuscripts. I also learned that the illuminations were to show the start of something new in a book because there were no periods or punctuation marks.
Books, which I love. Art, which I love. How much better could it get? The answer? A whole lot better!
This book is truly educational. It begins with a short very interesting history lesson about illumination and manuscripts. Not the movie kind… the earliest books that were hand-written by scribes.
As you move further in the book Travers explains the materials needed, how to mix the materials, and how to create your own illuminations. Not only does Travers show you how to mix your own pigments, Including using a muller (pictured above, right) to grind them, but also how parchment is made and how it should be fastened to a board. Trust me, people, this is not paint-by-numbers!
The illustrations are really good quality and quite helpful. That being said, the technique is not for the faint of heart.
As a testament to how much I enjoyed this book and how well I believe it is written, I will be purchasing the hardcover edition for my media center and for my school’s art teachers. I love the idea that this beautiful art form will continue hopefully at least in a small part because I have passed it along to someone who will enjoy it and has the talent to put it to great use.
Yes, I will try it out on a much smaller scale, but I just am not sure I am up for stretching parchment and mixing pigments just yet.