Majesty of the Letter (2)
Religious texts were not the only ones avidly read in the early medieval West. Manuscripts transmitting the works of Virgil furnish evidence for a strong endorsement of pagan learning. In the early medieval world, Virgil was above all a magnet for information on ancient Rome.
VIRGIL AND THE PAGAN PAST
The ornamental letter T at the beginning of Virgil’s works focuses our attention. Gold, purple and red are used to lend prominence to the letter. The monumental character of the image dominates the page, which attests to the importance of Virgil, the most important pagan poet of Roman antiquity in the early medieval West.
LETTER AS MAGNIFICENT DISPLAY
Initials at the start of individual psalms sometimes received a lot of attention. Here the letter Q is singled out. It appears in gold, silver and red. As with the initial T above, this highly arresting image is furnished with a display page of its own. The letter is found at the start of Psalm 51: Quid gloriaris in malitia, qui potens es in iniquitate (Why do you glory in malice, you who are powerful in iniquity?).
LETTER AS SPLENDOUR
Here again the Q of Quid gloriaris is singled out for special attention. Interlace and animal imagery adorn the initial. The letter Q has an animal’s head, as well as the front and hind legs of an animal.
LETTER AS PUZZLE
This magnificent display page places the Q centre stage. The Q and opening words of Psalm 51 are written in gold against a purple backdrop. The Q is decorated with animal heads at various points. The other letters of the opening word Quid appear on either side of the Q . As for the word gloriaris , it is split into three parts: GLO RIA RIS