Arts and Crafts in the Middle Ages eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 268 pages of information about Arts and Crafts in the Middle Ages.
examine the cupolas of St. Mark’s five hundred years hence say, ’This was the work of a conscientious artist.’” A description follows of the scene of the mosaic workers pursuing their calling.  “Here was heard abusive language, there the joyous song; further on, the jest; above, the hammer:  below, the trowel:  now the dull and continuous thud of the tampon on the mosaics, and anon the clear and crystal like clicking of the glassware rolling from the baskets on to the pavement, in waves of rubies and emeralds.  Then the fearful grating of the scraper on the cornice, and finally the sharp rasping cry of the saw in the marble, to say nothing of the low masses said at the end of the chapel in spite of the racket.”

[Illustration:  MOSAIC IN BAS-RELIEF, NAPLES]

The Zuccati were very independent skilled workmen, as well as being able to design their own subjects.  They were, in the judgment of Georges Sand, superior to another of the masters in charge of the works, Bozza, who was less of a man, although an artist of some merit.  Later than these men, there were few mosaic workers of high standing; in Florence the art degenerated into a mere decorative inlay of semi-precious material, heraldic in feeling, costly and decorative, but an entirely different art from that of the Greeks and Romans.  Lapis-lazuli with gold veinings, malachite, coral, alabaster, and rare marbles superseded the smalts and gold of an elder day.

CHAPTER XI

ILLUMINATION OF BOOKS

One cannot enter a book shop or a library to-day without realizing how many thousands of books are in constant circulation.  There was an age when books were laboriously but most beautifully written, instead of being thus quickly manufactured by the aid of the type-setting machine; the material on which the glossy text was executed was vellum instead of the cheap paper of to-day, the illustrations, instead of being easily reproduced by photographic processes, were veritable miniature paintings, most decorative, ablaze with colour and fine gold,—­in these times it is easy to forget that there was ever a period when the making of a single book occupied years, and sometimes the life-time of one or two men.

In those days, when the transcription of books was one of the chief occupations in religious houses, the recluse monk, in the quiet of the scriptorium, was, in spite of his seclusion, and indeed, by reason of it, the chief link between the world of letters and the world of men.

The earliest known example of work by a European monk dates from the year 517; but shortly after this there was a great increase in book making, and monasteries were founded especially for the purpose of perpetuating literature.  The first establishment of this sort was the monastery of Vivaria, in Southern Italy, founded by Cassiodorus, a Greek who lived between the years 479 and 575, and who had been the scribe (or “private secretary”) of Theodoric the Goth.  About the same time, St. Columba in Ireland founded a house with the intention of multiplying books, so that in the sixth century, in both the extreme North and in the South, the religious orders had commenced the great work of preserving for future ages the literature of the past and of their own times.

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Arts and Crafts in the Middle Ages from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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