British Library to Display Medieval Alphabet Book

Posted on July 28, 2009

Photo of the Macclesfield Alphabet

The British Library has succeeded in keeping a national treasure in Great Britain after bidding $600,000 for a medieval alphabet book which displays a collection of both beautiful and bizarre fonts. The book was either a sample book to show to prospective customers or was a pattern book for use by monks or scholars who were in charge of illuminating luxury manuscripts and bibles. There are 46 parchment leaves in the small book, which contain 14 alphabets adorned with flowers, foliage, animals, as well as title pages and gold embellished borders.

The Guardian reports that the book went unrecognized for centuries because the 16th century book was hidden inside an 18th-century binding.

Library curator Kathleen Doyle told The Guardian, "It is the most complete set of designs for manuscript decoration known to have survived from late-medieval Britain. The 'abcs' are wonderfully illustrated - including letters formed using animals and people - and I hope that those who go to see it on display at the British Library will be captivated by its inventiveness, and that researchers will begin an interesting debate on its origin, models, and function."

It's an incredible find. Anyone interested in ancient manuscripts or even modern fonts will enjoy seeing the book, which will be on display at the British Library.

Image: British Library