Illuminated Manuscripts are manuscripts that feature not only text but a variety of decoration elements like borders, illustrations, paintings, etc. In some cases, it is also found that these manuscripts have been decorated with precious metals like gold and silver. However, when the term ‘illuminated manuscripts’ is used in literature or casual usage, it refers to manuscripts that are decorated; it may be with anything, and not necessary precious metals.
These kinds of manuscripts were in use many centuries ago. It is not yet known when the culture of making illuminated manuscripts started. However, the ones that are still found in the museums date back to between 400 AD and 600 AD. These manuscripts were known not only known for the artistic prominence, but also the knowledge and information imparted by the rich text inscribed on it. However, more than providing messages for common purposes, these kinds of manuscripts were mostly used for religious purposes. These artworks continued to be made till the Medieval era. However, until Renaissance, the culture of producing illuminated manuscripts started fading away.
What is more interesting is the knowledge of the people who used to make such manuscripts. Most of these were developed as codices, which replaced the ancient scroll. Besides, most of these manuscripts were made on parchment and vellum, which last for a really long time. Only a few of these manuscripts were found to be inscribed on papyrus that lasts not as long as the former two types.
Until the near-end of illuminated manuscripts, these were being written on parchment, usually on goat or calf skin. They were also written on vellum, a different kind of parchment. However, during the early middle ages and towards the end of usage of illuminated manuscripts, these were made on paper. Many museums still accommodate ancient books which have ancient text with illuminated initials, decorative margins, and blank spaces left for paintings and illustrations. However, with the introduction of printing technology, these manuscripts disappeared suddenly. These were being produced until the 16th Century. However, the quantity was very low as these were produced only for extremely wealthy people.