Armenian and Ethiopic Manuscripts

June 24th, 2011 § 3 comments § permalink

Two of the UCLA Library’s large manuscript collections, the Armenian manuscripts and the Ethiopian, have a strange and highly debated connection. Their scripts, although linguistically distant, have an apparent superficial resemblance – they even share several characters.

The countries and their languages grew independently of each other, separated by over two-thousand miles of land and sea. Many people propose that the script for the Ethiopian language Ge’ez, called Fidäl, came much earlier than the current Armenian script, and even more have built theories about how the relationship between the two came to be. One of the most popular theories is based in the countries’ long history of Christianity: Armenia was the very first Christian nation, made official in 301 AD, and Ethiopia quickly became the second in 316 AD.

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Books of Hours

June 9th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

The Middle Ages’ Most Popular Book

From a Middle Dutch Book of Hours

In the Middle Ages, Europeans became interested in taking on the routines of the Catholic clergy so that they would be closer to God, and this desire spawned what would be the most popular book of the Middle Ages – the Book of Hours. The Book of Hours was a private prayer book that allowed laypeople to structure their days around hours of prayer, in reflection of monastic life. Only the wealthy were able to afford a Book of Hours – and the truly wealthy were able to afford extraordinarily lavish ones. In the most common Books of Hours, embellishment was typically reserved for capital letters on the initial pages of psalms and prayers. As the price of the book rose, the decoration became more extravagant: simple borders were expanded into miniature scenes wrapped in painted flowers; letters were filled with ornamentation so intricate that it was often done with a pin. Many books were painstakingly gold leafed, sometimes to the point of gilded letters within the body of the text. » Read the rest of this entry «