Although precious stones constitute one of the most important ornamental elements of sacred scripture during the Middle Ages, their close association has never been systematically analyzed. As three-dimensional material entities mounted on the outer surfaces of codices, stones contribute to a transformation of the layers of written parchment into an object with sculptural qualities. WithContinue reading “PRECIOUS STONES”


Precious manuscripts with purple-colored parchment skins and texts written in gold and silver are known to have been made since antiquity. Christian sacred scriptures thus embellished are first mentioned by Jerome, who harshly condemned the practice as unnecessary luxury. Regardless of this critique, purple manuscripts flourished. The embellishment of parchment with purple colorants is aContinue reading “PURPLE SKINS”


Throughout the Middle Ages, precious metals were a crucial part of “high-profile” book ornament: they defined the “gold-standard”, so to speak, of a certain level of book decoration. Yet the way in which this standard was conceived of varied greatly in different periods and regions. In fact, no other component of book ornament could beContinue reading “GOLDEN BOOKS”


The research project is located at a central interface between art history, book history, and the study of material religion. By focusing on the ornament of medieval books as a material practice, the aim of this project is to remove barriers that have stood in the way of a new understanding of the arts ofContinue reading “RELEVANCE”


A working basis for all subprojects is the growing number of precious manuscripts that have been closely analyzed with regard to the material components used by medieval artists and scribes to produce these splendid objects. In cooperation with the Conservation Research Department of the Swiss National Museum, we will conduct our own technical analyses ofContinue reading “METHODS”


To investigate the precious surface landscapes of medieval manuscripts, we have chosen four exemplary subcategories: gold and silver, purple, precious stones, and textiles. In all subcategories, we combine a close-up look at selected individual examples with a perspective that creates an overview of different geographic regions and time periods. Six questions common to the fourContinue reading “AIMS”

INTRODUCTION The arts of the book are of central importance for the art history of the Latin-speaking world of medieval Europe. This project aims to establish a new approach to this field of research. In the early and high Middle Ages, decorated books were created not as neutral storage devices to secure texts meant forContinue reading