Excerpt from The Hand Book of Mediaeval Alphabets and Devices
The greater number of our specimens having been taken from illuminated mss. A slight sketch of the origin and progress of that beautiful art, which prevailed in Europe from the fourth to the sixteenth century, is e... ntitled to precedence.
The art of applying colour to written documents seems to have had an eastern origin. The Egyptians were in the habit of rubricating their mss. And this practice may have passed to Greece and Rome, though no evidence of it exists in either country previous to the Christian era. In the rolls of Papyri, discovered at Herculaneum (written in the early half of the first cen tury), there is no trace of any ornament whatever, though we know from Ovid and Pliny that the Romans, long before the destruction of Pompeii, were ao customed to rubricate their mss. And adorn them with paintings.
The process of laying on and burnishing gold and silver appears to have been familiar to the oriental nations from a period of remote antiquity; and, although there are no instances of its use in the Egyptian Papyri, yet it is not unreasonable to believe that the Greeks acquired from Egypt, or India, the art of thus ornamenting manuscripts, and probably conveyed it to the Romans.
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