Miniatures from the Middle Ages

Did you know:

  • that a Medieval copyist could finish 4-6 pages in one day?
  • that real gold was used to decorate the pages? 
  • that paint could be made from plants or by grinding up precious stones?
  • that red ink was used for initials and titles, to help the reader navigate the text? 
  • that at Court a worldy story like that of King Arthur was read aloud to a group of listeners? 
  • that this is the reason some of the books are so large, all listeners had to be able to see the illustrations. 
  • that books were meant to last years, if not generations? 

These are all little fun facts I learned when I was at the exhibition of Magical Miniatures in Utrecht. Here many medieval text could be seen, each one beautifully decorated. The colours were fresh, just like the drawings were made yesterday, instead of 600 years ago!

There were religious books like psalmbooks and Bibles and wordly books like the tales of King Arthur or historical stories, and most of them were decorated beautifully. There are of course the illustrations to complete the story, but also little drawings and fun little things next to the texts. Flowers, but also animals like birds or even monkeys decorated the pages!
The illustrations give us a little insight into the Middle Ages, they show us the farmers at work, the siege of a town or the nobelmen hunting.

I absolutely loved the exhibition and I knew again why I studied Medieval History in the first place!
Of course I did not photograph at the exhibition, all the manuscripts had to be shielded from light, but these are the postcards I bought there.


  1. I love that books were meant to last for years, even generations back then. I wish more things were made like that now.

    1. Books in those days were real treasures, and had a completely different meaning than they have now. But in those days so much more was made to last a very long time. It is a good thing since we can still admire the craftsmanschip!

      Kind regards,

    2. I agree with that, they had a different meaning. Books were status symbols to a certain extent. And they were so expensive that only the very rich and privileged could afford them - so they had to 'last' for a while. They were not necessarily meant to be read, though... a lot of people who could afford buying books couldn't even read!

  2. Oh, I love, love, love exhibitions like that! It's a mix of professional and private interest for me, and I could spend hours wandering around, looking at miniatures, old books and manuscripts. I have a facsimile edition of pictures from the 'Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry' that I love to bits. It's lovely!

    1. Oh, I can imagine how beautiful that book is! When I heard this exhibition would open, I knew I had to visit it. I love the Middle Ages (studied Medieval history), so it was a lovely day for me there!

      Kind regards,


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