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With the kind permission of the author and publishers, the following glossary has been reproduced (with some revisions) from:

Michelle P. Brown, Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts: A Guide to Technical Terms (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum in association with The British Library, 1994)

This glossary was first published in electronic form on the British Library's Digital Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts (DigCIM) site.

Click on a letter below to go to that section of the glossary.

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A stitch at or near the HEAD and TAIL of a manuscript that links a QUIRE to the preceding one during sewing.


A pen knife was used by SCRIBES for a number of purposes, including PRICKING, cutting the nib of a quill PEN, and CORRECTION by scraping out errors. Medieval depictions of SCRIBES often show them holding a quill in one hand and a knife in the other. The counterbalance of tools was not only convenient, but it helped to achieve an even pressure of SCRIPT and to secure the writing surface.


The portion of a GRADUAL containing the ordinary chants (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus dei) of the MASS, that is, the chants whose texts remain unchanged throughout the ecclesiastical year. In the late Middle Ages, the kyriale sometimes formed a separate volume.

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