Quill Books before print mediamediamediamediamediamedia
choosing a writing support
making quires and sheets
preparing the page
copying the text
correcting the text
decorating the book
binding the book
using the book
> Decorating the Book > Historiated Initial

One-letter stories

Normally, letters work together to form words that present a story. From time to time, however, we encounter a letter that contains a narrative all by itself. This giant P initiates the name Paulus (Paul), who was the author of the following Bible text. To mark the beginning of the text the decorator extended the P and applied color and gold to it, turning the letter into a visual aid. Contained in the letter is St Paul himself, presented as the soldier of Christ. In his hand there is a large sword, his standard attribute in medieval decoration, and his head is clearly bald, which also aided in his identification.

While in this case the intensions of the decorator are clear, the meaning of some such historiated initials can only be understood by reading the story they initiate. Miniatures contained even more extensive narratives.