Nordenfalk 1976

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Nordenfalk, Carl. Color of the Middle Ages: A Survey of Book Illumination Based on Color Facsimiles of Medieval Manuscripts. Pittsburgh: University Art Gallery, 1976.

Early, “handmade facsimiles”

  • Codex grandior; Cassiodorus ordered to be written and illuminated for his monastery at Vivarium; Biscop’s successor Ceolfrid used it as a model for 3 copies, took them back as gift to the pope; only Codex Amiantus survives
  • Utrecht psalter shoe “the Carolingian artists were able to produce manuscripts looking like true copies from an ancient model without rallying being altogether so” (7)
  • Copy of 5th century Notitia dignitatum
  • Copies of drawings from Roman Calendar of 354, best of which commissioned by French antiquarian Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc in 1620
  • Cassianus dal Pozzo, suggesting that miniatures in Vatican Vergil should be reproduced and published; st of watercolors made in 1642

Engravings and woodcuts

  • More difficult to reproduce illuminated manuscripts]
  • “Earliest copper engravings from illuminated mss are those reproducing the Calendar of St. Willibrord … a ms written in Echternach around 700 AD with decorative initials heading each page” (9) — borrows in 1626 by P. Heribert Roswyde of the Bollandists for publication, but monks asked for it back; only first six pages were finished; plates still in Plantin-Moretus museum
  • 1701, Daniel Papebroch of the Bollandists included a set of engravings from miniatures in the Leges Palatinae Jacobi II regis Maioricarum; “This would seem to be the first complete cycle of miniatures in a Medieval manuscript reproduced in print.” (9)
  • Numerous examples, antiquarian interest in 18c
  • Line drawing from Oxford Caedmon ms by Edward Rowe Mores, published in 1754 separately

“As long as the miniatures and the ornaments in the ancient manuscripts were only rendered in the ordinary graphic techniques, the very translation of them into other media often made them look like paraphrases rather than true copies. The eighteenth century, however, in its book illustrations and the sophisticated methods of mezzotint, aquatint, stipple and crayon gravure, by which half-tones could also [11] be rendered, and some of them were even successfully combined with color printing. Undoubtedly, it would have been possible to reproduce miniatures and ornaments the same way. Yet, as far as we know, none of these new techniques were ever employed for such a purpose. There remained only one expedient, namely to have all the prints colored by hand. In point of labor this meant going back to the Medieval way of taking copies, adapted to the printing method only by a simplification of the coloring scheme through the use of stencils. It still put a limit to the number of copies to be taken, even if cheap labor, including that of children, were at hand.” (10-11)

1782, Abbe Jean-Joseph de la Rive, printed a prospectus in the form of a small pamphlet, promising to make 26 hand-colored plates to be engraved for Essay Sur l’art de verifier l’age des miniatures (11) — some specimens at British Library and Bibliotheque ?Nationale but publication never appeared


  • Senefelder himself first to apply to copying illuminated manuscripts; Johan Nepomuk Strixner copied and lithographs 43 marginal drawings made by Durer for the Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian in Munich (1807) — Durer used different inks but only one color at a time, so easily reproduced in lithography
  • Senefelder, reproduction of Mainz Psalter in Vollständiges Lehrbuch der Steindruckerey (1818) — in this, Senefelder claims to have solved problem of color printing
  • Joseph Lanzedelly the Elder, trying to reproduce Freeeydal codex, “the very ms whose miniatures happened to have been the first ones reproduced in print” (13) — but facsimile never appeared

“Lanzedellere’s failure to complete the Freeydal facsimile shows that the time was not yet ripe for switching to mechanical color printing.” (14)

Color lithography in France

  • Jean-Jacque Champollion, got Charles Motte to publish facsimile of illustrations in King Rene d’Anjou’s Book of Tournaments; printed in black and white, assistant’s colored by hand
  • Comte Jean-Francois-Auguste Bastard D’Estang, 1832 sets up workshop devoted to reproducing illuminated mss
    • First turned to Jean de eBerry, 1834 issued 30 plates in black and white
    • Later pursued his Peintures et ornaments des manuscrits etc
    • “It was Bastard’s intention to treat all the major schools of illumination, but the emphasis was more or less exclusively put on the French.” (14-5)
    • “Hardly any of the copies resembles the other as to their composition and state of complettion” (15)
    • King dethrone in 1848, project stopped, died in 1883
    • “Some plates show entire pages, others contain a collection of initials, excerpted from the manuscript as a whole.” (15)
    • Bastard’s working copy is most complete
    • Some printed in color plates, others hand-colored
    • International Exhibition in Paris, 1878, showing reproductions of miniatures in a picture book of late 12th century, Histories de Jesus-Christ, now at Morgan Library — Firmin Didot in prospectus says “les veritable archeologies” prefer reproduction in black and whit only to the “treacherous copies (in color) with which one is deluged)
  • J. Be. Silvestre, Paelographie universal (1839-41), explicatory texts by J.-J. Champollion-Figeac and his sone Aime; specimens of handwriting from all periods and countries; fewer stones, more hand-coloring
  • Godfrey Engelmann, January 1837 submitted experiments in color printing to the Societe industrielle, for a patent on “litho-color printing or lithographs in color, imitating painting” (qtd 17) — “main claim to priority” comes from “his side art use the principle of tri-chromatic printing, as described a hundred years earlier by J.C. LeBlon” (18)
    • Engelman himself did not apply his own recipe to Second ?Bible of Charles the Bald, which appeared in black and white
  • Jean Engelmann, 1852, color facsimile of Status de l’order du Saint-Esprit, made perhaps bc 500 years since order established
  • Engelmann and Graf, Heures du Moyen-Age (1862)
  • Henri Leon Curmer
    • “When at the World's Fair in Paris in 1855 the Imprimerie Impériale had published L'imitation de Jésus-Christ by Thomas a Kempis with the texts richly decorated by contemporary artists in order to give a spectacular proof of the high standard of French book production, Curmer conceived the plan of surpassing this very costly edition by a new one where each of its four hundred pages was surrounded by a border reproducing in color ornaments from different Medieval manuscripts. In accordance with the taste of the time, most of the borders were, however, taken from Late Gothic Books of Hours. The book appeared in 1857, and in his preface Curmer thanks Comte de Bastard for having been his guide in choosing the best models of the earlier centuries. He also gives a full description of his procedure, which meant a combination of trichromat. ique reproduction and the old method of having one stone for each color separately.” (18) — 900 stones used in publication — preface surrender by reproduction from marginal scenes in Calendar of Grandes Heures d’Anne de Bretagne
  • Curmer, subscription for full facsimile of Grandes Heures d’Anne de Bretagne (1861)
  • Two more volumes of miniatures by publisher — Les Evangiles des Dimanches et Fetess de l’annes (1864) and Hours of Etienne Chevalier (1866)

Color facsimiles in England

  • “The great publications by Comte de Bastard, Silvestre and Curmer had one thing in common: they were too grand and costly for ordinary book lovers. They owed their existence to the authors' patriotic ambitions, stimulated by royal support. In England, on the other hand, the government did not lend assistance in financing any similar works. Here the publishers, relying on a widespread interest in the Gothic revival movement, produced for the open market.” (20)
  • Henry Shaw, J. o. Westwood, H N Humphreys

Roxburghe Club, founded 1812, make a reproduction every year, not until 1876 was an illuminated manuscript chosen — The Apocalypse of St. John the Divine, 13c picture book at Bodleian


  • March 1840, J. B. Biot shows 4 photographs by Henry Fox Talbot at Academie des Inscriptoins of handwriting in mss and charters (24)
  • By middle of 1850s, reproductions of works of art appearing (firms like Alinari, Hanfstaegl)
  • Lithography still popular, but at least one Russian publication illustrated with photos printed separately and pasted into book, Copies photographiees des miniatures des manuscrits grecs, conserves a la Bibliotheque Synodale de Moscou (1862)
  • Difficult to transfer photograph to metal plate or stone, many experiments patented in 1840s and 1850s
  • 1855, A. L. Poitevin uses chromatid gelatin coating to transfer photo to lithographic stone, creating photo-lithographic printing, or collotype; first examples exhibited at Paris exhibition of 1855
  • Sir Henry James, exploited Poitevin’s patent; printed medieval charter using photo-zincography (1859) and made complete facsimile of Domesday Book tin black and red (1861-4)
   * “No attempt was made to imitate the parchment, but apart from this it has the right to be called the first photographically reproduced facsimile of a Medieval manuscript.” (25)
   * 1865-68, Facsimiles of National Manuscripts
   * 1874-76, Facsimiles of National Manuscripts of Ireland; color still done with chromo-lithography
  • Firmin-Didot, calotype of Geographie de Ptolemy (1867)
  • ‘Documenti degli Archivi Siciliani (1868)
  • 1870, Theodor Sickel’s Schrifttafeln aus em Nachlass von N. F. Von Kopp
  • 1875, complete facsimile of Utrecht Psalter, undertaken by Palaeographical Society, founded in 1873
  • 1885, Roxburghe Club, Les Miracles de Notre Dame
  • William Griggs, 1898, Illuminated manuscripts in the British Museum
  • 1905, Breviarium Grimani

“The superiority of the photographic reproduction from the piton of view of faithfulness was soon realized and caused a crisis for color facsimiles, since color could not yet successfully be rendered by the same [27] mechanical method. The more scholarly editions of illuminated manuscripts that came out in the 1880's-the miniatures in the Codex Egberti by Fr. X. Kraus (1884), the Aachener Gospels of Otto IlI by St. Beissel (1886), the publication of the Ada-Codex in Trier (1889), which laid the ground for the study of Carolingian illumination-they all have epro-ductions in collotype; only the last-mentioned publication has in addition a few plates with color supplied by chromo-lithography. In Munich the collotype printing process was improved by Joseph Albert, who called his patent Albertype. It was applied to the reproduction of illuminated manuscripts in Louis von Kobell, Kunstvolle Miniaturen und Initialen, chosen from the treasures of the Bavarian State Library, the first edition of which appeared in 1890.” (26-7)

Charles Mills Gayley, “The Reproduction of Manuscripts from the American Point of View”; argues that country’s lack of originals might be made up by facsimiles, wanted to creat a Central Bureau of Reproduction in NY (28)