[Table of Contents] [Search]


[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: [BKARTS] Telling of the Book Arts World



I have looked over the posts on this subject, and I have the following thoughts:


On Jan 17, 2006, at 5:27 PM, jessica syme wrote:


it is the intent of the artist that must be the most important factor.

I disagree. I think some question of quality, however subjective that may be, has to enter into the equation at some point, regardless of the intent of the person who created the item in question. Koko the gorilla paints. Is that art? Chimpanzees, given paint and brushes, will paint rocks and other things in their environment. Art? These are our closest relatives, and it is certainly possible that they have an aesthetic sense, so perhaps I can't say that their efforts aren't art. Somehow, though, I balk at regarding a painted rock as art.


The more examples the world has of religious passion translated into art, the more chance it has of redirecting its current channels of revenge and rage.

Maybe. But as I look at the evidence of written history I find that almost every conflict was generated by or justified by religion. The most ghastly atrocities have been visited upon mankind in the name of religion. Are not prayers said on both sides in Iraq or in any other arena in which there is conflict? I don't think a paint brush or a book press or a boad nib pen would erase conflict. Maybe. But I personally don't believe it would.

James Pepper wrote

You can see this in the book of Kells when they tried to finish the unfinished pages and they never matched the work of the chief scribe, because the vision was with him.

The Book of Kells was the work of many hands, not just one scribe or illuminator, cf. Francoise Henry among others.

The Saint John's bible was first laid out on a computer with a font scrolled throughout the layout program

What is wrong with making layouts on a computer? If you believe that scribes in the 4th century wouldn't have availed themselves of modern technology, had it been available to them, you should do some more research. This was absolutely not an ivory tower life. Frequently, it wasn't very comfortable. I would commend to you _Medieval Calligraphy_ by Marc Drogin. It is easy to read and informative. It might give you a different concept of medieval scribes and their lives.

And if you look at other illuminated manuscripts of the Bible made in
the past few centuries, you will find the passion of the artist as they made
their works, usually by themselves, as an expression of their faith in the
calligraphy and the illuminations as they did both.


Actually, scribes and rubricators and illuminators were different individuals. These books were not the work of single individuals. You have only to look at some of the half finished manuscripts to realize that. Look at some of the examples in Donald Jackson's History of Calligraphy or Chris De Hamel's History of Illuminated Manuscripts. You will see finished lettering, half finished gilding or finished drawing with finished gilding and half finished painting. After the scribe had finished his or her work the pages were given to the rubricators then to the gilders and finally to the painters. There was definitely a division of labor.

So Sally if someone took a Midsummer Nights Dream and used
calligraphy and illustrated it, that would not be art, because Shakespeare already
printed it?


I don't understand why this copying would not be art when your copying is. Can you explain? Or have I misunderstood?

During the middle ages a master scribe would make a Bible book that
would be unique, their expression of their faith. It took a while, the Bible is a
big thing and they would not do it unless they were inspired.


This is quite simply untrue. Again, I recommend _Medieval Calligraphy - or perhaps several of David Diringer's books.

What is wrong with people being motivated by faith to make art?

Absolutely nothing at all. However, all art is _not_ produced by faith. And all objects produced by faith based actions are not art, nor are they beautiful. There is a saying in Texas, you can put your boots in the oven, but that doesn't make them biscuits!

The idea that monks were bored out of their minds and stupid is just a
part of this same type of sentiment. Go over to the Morgan and take a good look at the
manuscripts there and then tell me you think they were dumb and mindless and
incapable of knowing what is Art.



Nobody - absolutely nobody - has said that the monastic scribes were stupid, dumb or mindless! Certainly they were literate as most of the populace was not.


These are not Bibles they are small books made by individuals for the art market, sound familiar?

No, they weren't made for the "art market" for that didn't exist. And here I think you shot down your own argument that illuminated manuscripts were produced from the passion of the maker(s). Patron = employer = work for hire, not a standalone creation made out of "artistic passion."


By at least the time of the Renaissance the book production by monasteries was a dead or dying practice. By that period in history the vast majority of books, illuminated or not, were produced by commercial scribes. These itinerant scribes traveled from place to place to produce their products, i.e., books. Eventually they settled down and became stationery, giving rise to our word "stationer." Books, even illuminated manuscripts, have been commercial products for hundreds of years. (c.f. _The Book before Printing_ by David Diringer)

As an aside, the earliest illuminated book I am aware of is a first century copy of, I believe, Virgil in the Vatican Library. There are a few decorated letters but no borders. That was a later development.

A friend of mine, a noted calligrapher himself, said in an email to me today,

I'm not going to let you lure me into a deliberation about art and craft. It's like trying to nail a pie to the wall. All you'll get me to say is that the nomenclature is rightly the problem of the onlooker, not the calligrapher.

In other words, if John Smith looks at a book or a calligraphic work and declares it to be of very poor quality, and Jane Smith, alternatively, judges the same work to be exceptionally beautiful, each is correct. Or so it would seem, according to my friend, whose judgment is generally sound. Note that, if my friend is correct, it is not for the maker of the object in question, to judge his or her work as beautiful not as art.

I think, in considering my work over the past 30 years, the most I would be willing to say of it was that some of it was decent. The nicest compliment anyone ever paid me was the time Dick Beasley looked at a piece of my calligraphy which had a painting accompanying it and said, breathlessly, "Wow!." That will delight me forever.

Sally Jackson









***********************************************
Now Online - The Bonefolder, Vol. 2, No. 1 at <http://www.philobiblon.com/bonefolder>
For all your subscription questions, go to the
Book_Arts-L FAQ and Archive.
See <http://www.philobiblon.com> for full information
***********************************************



[Subject index] [Index for current month] [Table of Contents] [Search]