Historiated ‘E’ at the beginning of I Maccabees, Le Puiset Bible, England, late 12th Century.
Durham Cathedral Library.



A larger image of this Historiated ‘E’ at the beginning of I Maccabees, Le Puiset Bible, England, 12th Century. Durham Cathedral Library.


Manuscript production was a costly and time-consuming process. The blue pigment used on this page is probably ground lapis lazuli, which could only be obtained from Afghanistan. Thus, the production of a book relied on an extensive trade network. The mental image of a monk sitting at a desk writing was just the tip of the iceberg.
This is a page from a Bible commissioned by Hugh Le Puiset, Bishop of Durham in the late 12th century.
The illumination is from the Le Puiset Bible, DCL MS A.II.1, vol.3, fol.131v, before 1196AD. A famous image of biblical soldiers dressed as Norman knights.
Over 50 illuminated letters were cut from the magnificent Le Puiset Bible at some point before the early C18th when Thomas Rud catalogued the books.
Sources: Durham Cathedral Library & Durham World Heritage Site



A historiated initial is a letter containing an identifiable scene or figures, sometimes relating to the text. It was a popular feature of medieval illumination. The historiated ‘E’ at the beginning of I Maccabees shows a man being executed for refusing to worship idols, and one of the many battles which occurred during the Maccabees’ reign. From the Le Puiset Bible, one of the masterpieces of 12th Century English book production.
Source: BBC. In pictures: What is an illuminated manuscript?



See also the Harley Roll Y.6. Life of Guthlac, England, 12th-13th century
Other 12th Century Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers