|Dr Ramirez: look, no gloves!|
I'm sure I've seen art historian Dr Janina Ramirez on TV before - yes, I remember now. It was a few months ago, and she was talking about Icelandic sagas with an engaging earnestness that she also brings to the subject of illuminated manuscripts and the world in which they were created. Unashamedly academic and proud of her ability to recite poems with an authentic (we assume) Anglo-Saxon accent, she seemed genuinely thrilled to be let loose among the British Library's collection of Royal Manuscripts shortly before they went on show to the public last November.
|The Alphonso Psalter (click name for details), British Library|
The first episode was admirably simple. We saw books in the library. We saw the cathedrals, formerly monasteries, where they were made. We saw a few enthusiasts, also some cows (vellum on the hoof). The iPad, if that's what it was - other tablets are available - was put to good use, and on occasion text and pictures rose off the page and floated about in a pleasingly modern way. There was an assumption throughout that the viewer had a basic grasp of British history after the Fall of Rome - which may have been slightly over-generous - but in the main 'Illuminations' was as good as a Radio 4 documentary (something you can't say about many TV shows).
|King Edgar, New Winchester Charter (click name for details) BL|
Some of the decoration I've seen so far has been breathtaking, preserved (as the presenter noted) for centuries by having been hidden away within the covers of a book. I'm looking forward to watching more, and visiting the exhibition of Royal Manuscripts at the British Library (ends March 12, I think).