Illuminated Manuscripts in the Middle Ages (Commentary)

This commentary is based on the classroom activity: Illuminated Manuscripts in the Middle Ages

Q1: What evidence is there in these sources that some of the illustrators were women?

A1: In source 2, Christine de Pisan points out that some manuscript artists were women. Source 3 also provides support for this view.

Q2: Why is the Luttrell psalter so important to historians writing about everyday life in the Middle Ages? Why would historians need to check the information contained in the Luttrell psalter with other sources?

A2: The Luttrell psalter is important to historians as it contains detailed visual evidence of everyday life in the Middle Ages. Historians would need to check this information because they would want to find out if the pictures in the book were reliable. For example, it is possible that the Luttrell estate used farming methods that were different from estates in other parts of Britain. It is always necessary to consult a wide variety of sources before making firm judgements about what happened in the past.

Q3: Read source 6. This source was produced over 700 years after the death of Matthew Paris. What kind of sources would Janet Blackhouse have looked at before making these comments about the illustrations of Matthew Paris? How would she have checked this information?

A3: Janet Backhouse in source 6 claims that Matthew Paris (source 7) was "an accomplished artist, adding with his own hand the coloured drawings that embellish most of his original manuscripts." Blackhouse's judgement was obviously based on looking at the original manuscripts. However, Blackhouse would have also wanted evidence that Paris was the man who actually did these drawings. In source 4, Thomas Walsingham provides evidence that Matthew Paris did his own illustrations. This appears to be fairly reliable information as Walsingham worked in the same monastery as Matthew Paris. Although Paris was dead by the time Walsingham wrote his book, he was in a good position to check whether this information was accurate.