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Facsimile - Modern facsimile of two 15th-century illuminated initials
  • Modern facsimile of two 15th-century illuminated initials
    George Ashdown Audsley
  • Enlarge image

Modern facsimile of two 15th-century illuminated initials

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    c.1876 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    George Ashdown Audsley (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    illumination on parchment

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, room WS, case R, shelf 98, box L

These 19th-century illuminated initials 'R' and 'U' were exceptionally acquired together with the original initials they were modelled after (see Museum nos E.305-2017 and E.306-2017). They are the work of George Ashdown Audsley (1838-1925) and are copies of two initials cut out of a mid-15th-century Rhenish music manuscript, cuttings which belonged to George Audsley at the time.

He probably made these copies especially for the 1876 Exhibition of Illuminated Manuscripts in Liverpool, organised by the Liverpool Art Club Audsley was a member of. In the exhibition catalogue, the ensemble was described as a ‘FRAME, containing two initials cut from Choral Books of the 14th century . Alongside the ancient letters are modern restorations, showing the original state of the colours’ (Liverpool Art Club's Exhibition of Illuminated Manuscripts, no. 147). The initials were framed and exhibited together with the medieval manuscript cuttings, in a bid to restore the medieval initials to what Audsley perceived was their original state, devoid of fading, blemishes or staining incurred over time. While Audsley adhered faithfully to the size and pattern of his medieval models, he used brighter colours, gave the contours a crisper and more linear outline, and completely eliminated the text.

George Ashdown Audsley was a Scottish author-architect-calligrapher. He established with his brother William James (1833-1907) the architectural firm Audsley & Co., later known as W. & G. Audsley. The brothers were responsible for a great number of Gothic Revival and eclectic style public buildings mainly in the Liverpool area and London. George and William were leading ornamentists who played a key part in the revival of British design initiated by the Great Exhibition of 1851. They wrote extensively on design and architecture using chromolithography to great effect in their books. In 1892 they moved their practice to New York.

Physical description

A facsimile copy of two illuminated initials ‘R’ and ‘U’ on one parchment sheet. These initials came to the V&A Museum framed together with the original mid 15th-century Rhenish manuscript cuttings the artist used as models (see Museum nos E.305-2017 and E.306-2017). The modern initials adhere faithfully to the size and pattern of the medieval ones, but with brighter colours and crisper outlines. They are accompanied by a contemporary label reading ‘RESTORATIONS, EXECUTED ON VELLUM BY G.A. AUDSLEY.’

Place of Origin

England (made)


c.1876 (made)


George Ashdown Audsley (maker)

Materials and Techniques

illumination on parchment


Height: 26 cm, Width: 19 cm

Object history note

(1) Copies produced by George Ashdown Audsley (1838-1925) c.1876, probably for the Liverpool Art Club's Exhibition of Illuminated Manuscripts (see Liverpool Art Club, Exhibition of Illuminated Manuscripts, no. 147).
(2) Purchased by Les Enluminures Ltd from John Hellebrand (Palinurus Antiquarian Books), Pennsylvania.
(3) Purchased by the V&A from Les Enluminures Ltd in February 2017.

Descriptive line

Facsimile copy of two illuminated initials, England, c.1876.


Parchment; Pigments


Painted; Illumination


Copies and Facsimilies

Production Type



Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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