Issue 14: Illuminations

This week I had an opportunity to visit the exhibition of Illuminated Manuscript at the British Library. The detail and freshness of the pictures was amazing, especially as many of the smaller works had been used frequently by their owners. One of the delights was a book of motets owned by Henry VIII; to see the original notation, looking as fresh as the day it was written was awe-inspiring. There is a folio society facsimile on display which you are allowed to touch, and turn the pages. One motet has been written out as a spiral border for a rose; I have found a picture of it on the website of the RSCM at http://www.rscmshop.com/index.php/antico-edition/renaissance-church-music/the-crowned-rose-motets-for-henry-viii-rcm30.html

The Crowned Rose: Motets for Henry VIII  (Anna Parsons and Nick Sandon) RCM30

Looking at the manuscript reminded me how hard it is for beginners to get to grips with modern music notation. The information label beside a handwritten 14th Century Bible, all in Latin, stated that this book was probably used to teach the Royal Princes to read – I am impressed that they ever managed to become literate at all.

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