[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
April 6, 1970

Ornament and Symbolism in Early Medical Books

JAMA. 1970;212(1):109-114. doi:10.1001/jama.1970.03170140065011

A century before the discovery of printing with movable type the illuminated manuscripts of Europe reached a peak of beauty. To some critics, the rich coloring, and design and craftsmanship throughout, have not been exceeded since. It was logical that the printers of 1450 would turn to these hand-written and hand-decorated books for their models, and attempt to reproduce their main features by new mechanical means.

The first interchangeable letters were accordingly cut and cast in metal to resemble script. In general, the printed text began with a title high on the second leaf, each chapter began at the top of a new page, and the whole ended with a colophon or short paragraph which included the date and the printer's name. The spaces which remained at chapter ends were left empty.

In manuscripts, the illuminator added a picture and ornament to a scribe's first page which were far more