||Before the invention of printing
in the 15th century,
||books were painstakingly copied by hand.
||The finest were illuminated with
brilliant colors and real gold.
||Illuminated text wasn’t just for show.
||Gilded illustrations decorated important passages
||to highlight their significance.
||Gold was used in many medieval manuscripts
in early days because it was very expensive
||and it indicated that the manuscript
itself was valuable.
||The light would reflect from candles
or from the sunlight
||and so it looked as though
the book itself was illuminated.
||In medieval manuscripts, it looks as
though this is solid gold.
||In fact, it’s not. The gold itself
is tissue thin.
||The solid appearance is achieved
by laying the gold on a
||a cushion of plaster mixed
with glue called gesso.
||By raising the gold from the surface of the skin,
|| that means that it catches the light even more.
||The glue in the gesso is softened by breathing on it.
||We then have three seconds to get the gold on,
||and I’m using a burnisher, which is a polished stone,
|| just to make sure that the gold sticks.
||Then the burnisher is used to polish the gold up.
||See, it’s coming up now.
It’s coming nice and shiny.
||Next, the miniature is painted.
||The base color will be done first, then the
tints and the shades will be added.
||And finally, the white highlights and the outline,
which lifts it and brings the whole thing to life.
||The medieval paint box contained
pigments from across the world,
||such as ultramarine from Afghanistan, and
orpiment gathered from volcanic craters.
||It often took a long time to complete these medieval miniatures.
||This one between a month and six weeks, from start to finish.
||An entire book could take a team of illuminators
several years to complete.
||Many medieval manuscripts still survive today, fully preserved,
||with their colors just as vivid as the day they were illustrated.