Tuesday, June 19, 2012

First-ever medieval manuscript facsimile printed on vellum

(detail of Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel)
The Folio Society's latest limited edition, Leaves from a Psalter by William de Brailes, is a stunning facsimile of the seven surviving leaves of an illuminated medieval psalter created by one of the great artists of the age. The technical expertise involved in producing the edition is staggering, as you'll see if you can take the time to view their podcast, which is full of gorgeous closeups. Thanks to patented systems developed by Grafiche Damiani of Italy, de Brailes' exquisite creations have been painstakingly restored to their former glory and printed on the original material he used, treated sheepskin. Six of the paintings—marvelous depictions of The Last Judgment, The Wheel of Fortune, Fall of the Rebel Angels, Christ and David, the Tree of Jesse, and Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel—come from the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, and the seventh (the Early Life of Christ) from the Morgan Library in New York. Limited to 450 copies, the set will set you back a mere $2,000. Ah, the luxury of it!
Scenes from Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel
Christ and David
Detail of above
Early Life of Christ, from Morgan Library; detail below.
The Wise Men
Detail from the Last Judgment showing the artist (with tonsure) being rescued from hell by St. Michael
Detail of the Wheel of Fortune


  1. Michael is such a badass in Paradise Lost.
    If i had 2 grand lying around I might gobble these up and make a themed room. Stained glass windows...hay...filth...a tree with forbidden fruit...The Fountain with dreamy Hugh Jackman...

    a copy of the Da Vinci Code.
    a King James.
    Dore's woodcuts for Paradise Lost.

  2. These are breathtaking but I couldn't quite scrape together two grand:) I'd imagine the originals are still in the possession of Professor Indiana Jones!!

  3. *counting all my change to see if I have $2000 to buy one of these*

  4. I simply can't match the technical acuity of the artificers responsible for both the originals and these luxurious repro's. I've experimented with gold-leafing in my basement and had the misfortune of needing to melt-down every. single. time. I have great respect for these virtuosi of vellum-craft.

  5. I'm a little light of pocket right now. Is there somewhere I can see the entire Wheel of Fortune, closer than Cambridge?
    Thanks for the fascinating post!

    1. I want to see it also. The images on Folio's website are very small and 72 dpi, so I couldn't blow it up big enough to see very well. What I pulled was a detail they showed. I could do some digging around to see if there are higher resolution images at Cambridge.

    2. http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/gallery/cambridgeilluminations/themes/4.html
      This link gets you a good sized view of the Last Judgment.
      A google image search will get you a few ok views of the Wheel, but nothing where you can see really close up, and all 72 dpi

  6. Replies
    1. The images are relatively small, so it's amazing how detailed the images in the little roundels are when they're blown up!!

  7. Bathilda BagshotJune 20, 2012 at 8:55 AM

    As beautiful as illuminated manuscripts are in photographs, they are that much more beautiful in person, when the gold picks up the light and the images seem to glimmer. That's why this is such a great idea, since your average Joe usually can't own or even see that many manuscripts such as this in his lifetime. Now if only I had some extra money lying around.

    1. You're so right ... what you're talking about is especially visible in the podcast.
      Me too about the $$$