Letters have a mysterious and cabbalistic quality that has been recognized at least since Roman times. The illuminated initials of medieval manuscripts, ranging from Romanesque exuberance to Gothic excess, paved the way. Here were not only biblical scenes, but mythical beasts and human figures that were the direct precursors of the zoomorphic and anthropomorphic alphabets of the Renaissance and later. The invention of printing led to ornamented letters presenting historical and mythical events, romantic landscapes, trees, flowers, buildings, clowns, devils, naked figures, children and animals. This book examines the history of the decorated letter using examples from the 8th to the 20th century which include sacred illuminated manuscripts and mass-produced postcards.
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