Saturday, 9 December 2017

We Often Take Graphic Design In Books For Granted,

but way back in the Middle Ages,

 it was a time for experimentation for designers of books, like the one above, an almanac from Worcestershire in 1389, on sheets folded in different arrangements, and here is the problem, there are many ways of telling time and predicting the future: the church’s liturgy, the farming year, the omens in thunder, astrology, the maker of this almanac shows them all, experimenting with words and pictures in various arrangements, and he stitches the shapes and folds the edges of sheets into varied designs for this varied information, a long strip of zodiac signs or the saints’ days in one giant calendar, but was this the right way, if there is such a thing, to display all of this information?

 perhaps this was the answer, books with moving ‘volvelles’ like this: 3D disks revolving on string or a twist of parchment, that let readers make calculations (for the phases of the moon and time of night) for themselves, in more combinations than any one diagram could show,

 there were of course scientific books where samples went across the page, this one depicting flasks of urine for diagnosing disease, making the comparison of samples easy, this from The Twenty Jordans, MS. Ashmole, 1413), the pictures run across facing pages, so that you can compare samples easily,

another graphic designer went in another direction, looking more like a work of art the Macregol Gospel: “In the beginning was the word” (late-8th-century or early-9th-century), Latin Gospel, painted in Ireland by Macregol, perhaps abbot of Birr, County Offaly (d. 822), and glossed in the 10th century in English by two scribes, English translations were added to the original Latin text by medieval scholars,

and here is a very elegant design, The Canterbury Tales, many of us have heard of it, a few have read it, but extremely few have seen the original pages, this is a copy made around the third quarter of the 15th century of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (1390s); at the division between ‘The Tale of Sir Thopas’ and ‘The Tale of Melibee,’ the initial, border, running head and title help evidently was made to help the reader to navigate the text.” all of the pictures in this post courtesy Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, which we visited in May last year, now the good news all of these can be seen in the Bodleian Libraries which has one of the largest medieval collections in the UK, and the exhibition features over 60 manuscripts and objects, it’s installed at Oxford’s Weston Library, Designing English: Graphics on the Medieval Page, is on now and runs to April 22nd, so if you are in Oxford it is the exhibition if the history of the written word interests you.

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