I have written several posts regarding initials in medieval manuscripts (here, here, here, and here), and here’s yet another. This week’s post is about historiated initials, the most elaborate initials one can find in manuscripts. Historiated initials are letters which contain “an identifiable scene or figures, sometimes relating to the text.”
Two weeks ago we examined the lovely dentelle initial on folio 1r of 10a 189. On that same page are the Duke of Ferrara’s coat of arms, also painted. The coat of arms consists of a dark red carnation and green leaves on either side, inside a gold-leafed ring set with a blue stone.
Last week we went back in time to read about a researcher’s experience with 10a 189, de Argenta’s De fructibus. Mentioned briefly were the illuminations on folio 1r; this week we’ll look at the decorated initial in more detail, and later this month, talk about the inks used in the coat of arms.
10a 249 is nearly the only illuminated manuscript we have in the Library. As I mentioned last week, 6 out of the 7 original illuminations are still extant. All 6 are initials, and the one pictured below signifies the beginning of Book IV and features 3 human heads.