In medieval times, penwork flourishing was the quickest
and easiest way to add some color to the page. This style
of decoration typically involves thin lines, usually in red
and blue, drawn with a pen rather than a brush. The
swirly lines form lively patterns with unexpected twists
and turns, creating miniature mazes in which your eye
gets lost easily. If you look carefully you may recognize
familiar objects: a tree, the moon, pearls, a smiling face.
The central figure attracting all of this artistic attention
is the capital letter that needed decorating, in this case
the letter "M" (for "Marcus"). The penwork decoration
supported an important function of this letter, navigating
the reader to the beginning of a new section of text.
The specific flourishing patterns can often be pinpointed
to a certain city or region, which turns these happy
lines into a useful tool for the book historian.