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Matenadaran: Miniatures Stand 3 side 1.

 How were manuscripts created and illuminated?
They required the coordinated efforts of a scribe and illuminator. Pupils at monastic schools studied calligraphy, learning methods of making parchment (vellum), inks and paints while making their first attempts as scribes. The process of making parchment required special skills and was difficult to master; they were traditionally made from sheepskin or calfskin. The largest Armenian manuscript, called the “Homilies of Mush” (1202) required the skins of 660 calves.

From the end of the 10th century manuscripts began to be made on paper (Armenian paper is the third oldest, after Chinese and Arab); however, parchment remained the most preferable material for painting, solid with a smooth surface.

The most important tools were made by the scribes and illuminators themselves in special workshops. More than 100 formulas for making paints are preserved in the manuscripts themselves. A great number of minerals and organic material (vegetable and animal sources) were used in paint to illustrate manuscripts. Artists often depicted the Evangelists surrounded by their writing tools (inks, pens and parchment) sometimes even writing the names of the tools next to the painting.


1. Entry into Jerusalem, “Homilies of
Mush”,1202, artist- Stepanos,
Matenadaran, MS 7729, 325b
2. Matthew the Evangelist
(withwriting tools), Matenadaran
MS 7643, pg 2b
3. Self –portrait of Tserun,
Matenadaran, MS 8772, pg 15b

Text and images provided by the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts.

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