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manuscript cutting

  • Object:

    Manuscript cutting

  • Place of origin:


  • Date:

    15th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Water-based pigments on parchment.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E, case I, shelf 77

Cut-out decorated initial 'E' (an initial composed of non-figural, non-zoomorphic decorative elements) likely from a liturgical book used during the Christian Mass and made in Italy in the fifteenth century. Decorated with psuedo-Arabic script (decorative element designed to resemble Arabic) composed in mosaic gold (an artifical gold pigment containing tin disulphide), and geometric decorative designs.

Physical description

Cut-out decorated initial 'E' likely came from a larger liturgical book used during the celebration of the Christian Mass. Made in Italy in the fifteenth century. Double-sided (now pasted onto card). Colour pigments and mosaic gold.

Recto: one red initial 'E' with green inner border outline and psuedo-Arabid decorative elements. Geometric penwork.

Verso: Pasted onto card.

Place of Origin



15th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Water-based pigments on parchment.


Height: 75 mm whole cutting, Width: 80 mm whole cutting

Object history note

This cut-out decorated initial 'E' probably came from a larger liturgical book used during the Christian Mass. It was made in Italy in the fifteenth century.

The medium size of the initial suggests that it likely came from a book intended to be read by only a few people and from a closer distance.

Recto: Red initial 'E' decorated with mosaic gold psuedo-Arabic script. The interior border is highlighted with green and the upper and lower halves of the closed counter (fully enclosed interior space of an alphabetic letter) is composed of black and white geometric decorative patterns. The entire initial is set against a blue background.

Verso: The cutting is now pasted onto card thus rendering the reverse side inaccessible.

Text: Due to the close cropping of the initial no visible text remains. Due to the lack of iconography (the subject of an image) and lack of text, it is impossible to discern to what liturgical text or feast this initial once corresponded.

Historical context note

Data taken from notes compiled by Rowan Watson. The full text of the entry is as follows:

'2915 (MS 1000)
Cut-out decorated initial E (red letter-shape with pseudo-Arabic in brushed gold, outlined in green, blue ground, infill of plamette floral design reserved on purple ink ground)

Italy. Mid 15th century
75 x 75 mm.

Pub: 1908 cat, 87'

Descriptive line

Cutting from a liturgical book. Decorated initial 'E' with red ink on a blue border with green outlining the interior and arabic style floral decoration. Italy, 15th century. A duplicate number MS.1000 was assigned to this object in error and was subsequently cancelled.


Parchment; Pigments




Religion; Christianity; Manuscripts; Manuscript cutting; Medieval and renaissance


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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