Medieval Book Curtains


Now you see it, now you don’t. That’s what these medieval curtains do: they hide things from our eyes when they are closed – from a stern-looking Henry VIII (a beautiful green velvet curtain) to a shiny letter P (plain cloth, appropriate for a Cistercian book). They were added to the page for a different reason, however, namely to protect the illumination from wear-and-tear. It seems overprotective to have a curtain draped over golden letters or portraits. After all, if you close the book they are safe from harm – even a portrait depicting a bold-looking, excommunicated English king. One wonders whether there was also an element of surprise involved in the “revealing” of the image. The anticipation can almost be felt. What will that letter look like? Will Henry be scary? First you don’t see it, then you do.


(via Erik Kwakkel)


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