Colour Your Own Medieval Alphabet
56pp., pbk., RRP $A22.99
Before the age of printing made books more accessible to the general populace, texts were painstakingly produced by hand in monasteries by monks who were among the few literate people in a community. Artists known as illuminators embellished a text made by a scribe with a colourful, highly decorative capital letter often gilded with gold leaf so it appeared to be filled with light. Such books were priceless and became treasured objects.
From its collection of texts, most of which are 500 years old, the British Library has selected 26 examples, each representing a letter of the alphabet and each annotated with the origin of the original, and transformed them into intricate outlines perfect for those who enjoy the challenge of colouring in. There are samples from medieval charters and seals, historical and literary manuscripts, from Virgil to Chaucer and Royal Statutes to the Book of Psalms and the endpapers have reproductions of the originals so there is a choice to try to duplicate the original or create something new.
While there are many benefits of colouring in for children that centre around the development of hand-eye co-ordination and spatial awareness, it is becoming a favoured occupation by those who are older for the therapeutic qualities particularly promoting mindfulness and reducing stress.
Although photocopying of the images for multiple use in a makerspace environment would be a breach of copyright, nevertheless each page could be given to individuals in need of a break, Printed on quality paper they would make a colourful display which could spark an investigation into the origin and history of the written word, the history and origin of the process of illuminations or even life in the Middle Ages generally, particularly the role of religion which is such a driving force for many, even today. The current anti-Islamic fervour which seems to be building around the world has very deep roots!
It could also become the ubiquitous alphabet chart found in primary libraries or even become the signage for the fiction section. Imagine the boost to a child’s self-esteem when they see their work put to such a useful purpose!
This books offers more than just a shoosh-and-colour activity to fill in time. It has the potential to take the students on a journey into our past.