Paris at the time of Philippe Auguste

Everyday life

Medieval books

The text was laid out in columns. The number of columns varied according to the style of the text, the subject matter, or the capabilities of the copyist.

There were margins that became areas for graphical work. The use of these areas was important (notably to allow the book to be bound) and their proportions were rigorously respected. From the 14th century they served primarily for ornamentation.

Here is an extract from an original text

The page layout indicated the page sequence. Page numbering made it possible to pick up from where leaving off. At the top of each page (from the 13th century) there was a running title indicating where it was up to. The start and end of each column was indicated by the use of red ink. Labelling: at the bottom of each page, the first words of the following section ensured that the pages could be assembled in the correct order.

The medieval copyists "ruled" their parchment. A succession of small holes served as reference points for ruler lines to be drawn on the page before writing. The primary contribution of the Middles Ages to the written word is that of historical literature. It is a graphically illustrated literature inhabited by figures of characters or creatures, blending in with the text.

Illumination was also developed as an art during this period. The word originates from the Latin verb "illuminare", to illuminate. It is the use of coloured elements on the written page, by way of illustration. They are characterised in the 12th century by the finest of strokes, the most delicate of drawing, and the virtuosity with which the author was able to use a tiny palette. In the 14th century the first "signed" illuminated work starts to appear, that is to say, those claimed ownership by an artist or a workshop. The miniature scenes depicted inside the capital letter at the top of a section are also illuminations. Illustrations on a whole page of text served as markers between the main sections. One whole page was devoted completely to an illustration. A portrait of the author was often a favourite choice. Not until the 15th century did a "table of contents" appear.

After the appearance of printing in Gütenberg in 1450, pages were in black and white, although the first printed books were often illuminated by hand after printing.