Manuscripts: Turning the Pages at the Art Institute of Chicago

Before the invention of printing, books were written, illustrated, and copied by hand. The Art Institute owns over a hundred European illuminated manuscripts, and as many manuscript cuttings from the thirteenth into the sixteenth century. Listed below are two of our most unusual of these manuscripts.
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Enigmatic and extraordinary, James Castle was a self-taught artist who was deaf and mute from birth, but created his own visual language through his drawings, books and three-dimensional constructions. Like many of his artworks, Untitled (Book), reacts to the graphic elements of found paper advertisements, which he liberally augmented with his trademark soot and spit ink drawings of nearby buildings and landscapes, and tied together with shoelaces.
A Bavarian monastery librarian's love letter to printmaking and religious imagery, completed on February 14, 1798 and comprising almost 1000 separate prints and drawings, glued into an album with carefully-ruled margins following the manuscript tradition.


The large scale and legible text and music of choir books like graduals enabled a group to sing together from a single book.

While we encourage personal discovery and interpretation of works of art in our care, the commentaries associated with the works in My Collections have not been reviewed or approved for accuracy or content and are expressly not endorsed by the Art Institute of Chicago.

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