It wasn't just that I was surrounded by books about the Middle Ages when I was growing up, both fiction and nonfiction. And it wasn't just because my parents were into it and we listened to records of medieval music and records of actors reciting the Canterbury Tales in Middle English. I started on this road mostly because of illuminated manuscripts, those hand-lettered and hand-drawn books done painstakingly on parchment all those centuries ago.
We had books about it, and what we didn't have at home I found in the local or school library. And it's not just that they are beautifully done with gold-leaf and ground up lapis lazuli for their stunning blues and that they were created using a quill and tiny brushes. It's also that they depict a life long gone. And the colors are as striking today as when they were made because they were closed inside books and protected from the damages of sunlight.
For me, they gave me two careers. The first was in graphic design. I found illuminated manuscripts so interesting that I taught myself calligraphy, learning the nuances of turning the pen and allowing various nibs to do the work. I learned about inks and type styles and I learned to design my own. I didn't know at the time--a time before computers--that people made a living doing that as well as using different fonts to design logos and all the rest.
So I had my fifteen year career as a graphic artist in Los Angeles and much later, turned that interest in all things medieval to writing about that era.
This was my introduction to letting you know that there has been a wonderful exhibition on illuminated manuscripts in London at the British Library, now through March 13: "Discover the British Library’s unique collection of medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts. Collected by the kings and queens of England over 800 years these treasures are outstanding examples of the decorative and figurative painting of the era. Together they are our most vivid source for understanding royal identity, moral and religious beliefs, learning, faith artistic trends and the international politics of the period."
Watch the little video on the home page of the library and be as amazed as I was all those years ago.