Segments in this Video

Monks Preserve Knowledge (03:27)


Other than churchmen, most people in the Middle Ages are illiterate. Fighting the devil with pen and ink, monastic scribes labor to preserve knowledge and chronicle the events of their times.

Making a Book (01:36)

Illustrations in an old manuscript show the steps in creating a book from scraping the animal skin to making the hasp for the book, and finally teaching from the completed book.

Hardships of Monastic Scribes (05:31)

Scribes work in harsh conditions from bad weather to difficult texts, aching hands, weary bodies, and demanding abbots. Believing, however, that their labor expiates a lifetime of sins, monks are willing copyists.

Cultural Changes Increase Book Trade (02:42)

In the 13th century, sweeping changes spread throughout Europe. Flourishing cities and trade makes reading a requirement for business. Universities spring up, surrounded by a thriving book trade.

Middle Ages: Luxury Book Trade (04:14)

Near the end of the Middle Ages, the luxury book trade flourished, from large Psalters to tiny prayer books and from histories to romances. In the margins remain “All sorts of mayhem” such as personal commentary and instructions for artists.

Printing Press Replaces Scribes (02:22)

The advent of the printing press marks the end of the era of scribes and illuminators, yet the work, devotion, ill temper, and personalities of these mostly anonymous artists has endured.

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A World Inscribed: The Illuminated Manuscript

DVD Price: $99.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $149.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $99.95



“Writers write so that the future may learn,” a 5th-century French monk once inscribed in a diligent hand. This program is a concise history of the illuminated manuscript and book production. The everyday lives of the writers, scribes, and illustrators are revealed, and honor is paid to the best known: Einhard, biographer of Charlemagne; Gerald of Wales; the Abbot of Wearmouth Jarrow; the poor miscreant scribe, Raulinus; and Jean Mielot, scribe of the court of Philip the Good of Burgundy. The work of husband-and-wife illuminators Richart and Jeanne de Montbaston is shown and discussed, along with the operation of Florentine bookseller Vespasiano da Bisticci—book agent to kings and nobles. The program ends with the arrival of the printing press and movable type. (24 minutes)

Length: 25 minutes

Item#: BVL7619

ISBN: 978-0-7365-6354-3

Copyright date: ©1996

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

CINE Golden Eagle

Gold Apple—National Educational Media Network

John O’Connor Film Award—American Historical Association

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Not available to Home Video customers.

Only available in USA and Canada.