The art of illuminated manuscripts has its origins in the Ancient Egypt, one of the more interesting being the “Book of the Dead”, dated 1310 B.C. Usually, an illuminated letter is the first letter of a page or paragraph, revealed by its golden color, the drawings that were fit inside its contours, or simply enhanced in the shape of a mythological creature, an animal, or a flower.
In Romania, the art of illuminated manuscripts appears quite late, according to every reliable evidence we have. It all started with “The Four Gospels” of Gavril Uric, which was calligraphed and illustrated with illuminations in 1429, at the Neamt Monastery. This masterpiece is of Byzantine inspiration, and it created the basis for a new form of Byzantine art, with a powerful Romanian specific, and was developed over the centuries. Today the manuscript can be seen at the Bodleian Library, in Oxford.
If during the Middle Ages this art was seen only in manuscripts created in monasteries by monks, today we can see examples of it in children books illustrated by Dionis Spataru and Gabriel Poenaru. Two of the books on which they collaborated, “Genesis” and “The Gospel for Children”, are packed full with illuminations – frontispieces, borders, letters, scenes, people – that are the original works of the illustrators, made in the Byzantine style.
During the last 15 years, the pair has reintroduced the illuminated manuscript style in the contemporary Romanian book illustration. Their struggle has materialized in dozens of published titles, culminating with The Dosoftei Award for “Bibliophilia” in 2015, at the Librex Book Fair, in Iasi.
The letters presented in this article have been created by Dionis Spataru, and are inspired from the Romanian illuminated gospels from the 15th and the 16th century.
For all the article, please see the Black Gryphon Magazine.