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The Development of Penflourishing in Manuscripts Produced in England between 1180 and 1280

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The Development of Penflourishing in Manuscripts Produced in England between 1180 and 1280


The development of penflourishing in manuscripts produced in the thirteenth century is a significant factor in the design and aesthetic of the central and late medieval book. The rise of commercial production, undertaken by lay professionals in urban centres, is associated with the emergence of penflourished decoration to books in a broad range of genres, sometimes as a cheaper alternative to painted embellishment, but sometimes also as an aesthetic choice by the patron. This dissertation examines the development of penflourishing in English manuscripts from c. 1180-c. 1280. Firstly the historiography of art-historical criticism on the subject of penflourishing is examined. Both the specific components of the flourishes and consideration of their heuristic function are discussed. A consolidation of diverse vocabulary from European critics is proposed. Discussion of the development of penflourishing in English manuscripts in the twelfth century follows and it is proposed that the techniques that will be developed in thirteenthcentury flourishing are already present within the design vocabulary of the decorated twelfth-century letter. The influence of Italian flourishing technique, developed in tandem with the production of books associated with the study of law at Bologna and other northern Italian centres, is identified with regard to specific components. This process of identification makes it possible to recognize Italian technique in the context of books produced in both Paris and Oxford. The circle of Oxford’s most prolific illuminator, William de Brailes, is investigated to evaluate the influence of Italian penflourishing techniques. The use of these techniques, and others, notably the use of filigree puzzle initials, is examined with regard to the type of book produced and the implied financial expenditure by the patron. Finally the use of flourishing in the work of two contemporaneous circles, those of the Sarum Master and William of Devon, are analysed and the role of penflourishing in the de Brailes corpus is compared. It is concluded that Italian penflourishing technique had a significant impact on the development of penflourished embellishment in England in the thirteenth century, and that de Brailes’ use of this type of flourishing was an early and influential part of the development of this style.

Johnston, Cynthia (2014) The Development of Penflourishing in Manuscripts Produced in England between 1180 and 1280. PhD thesis, University of London.


Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: English
Divisions: Institute of English Studies
Collections: Theses and Dissertations > Thesis
Depositing User:
URI: http://sas-space.sas.ac.uk/id/eprint/6260
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