The medieval era was the heyday of illuminated manuscripts. This episode looks at the Luttrell Psalter, a remarkable devotional book, and Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.
The medieval era was the heyday of illuminated manuscripts. In the 14th and 15th centuries, there was a flowering of religious texts set into beautifully decorated pages. Among these devotional books were psalters, or books of psalms. Hundreds of these were produced, but the Luttrell Psalter is remarkable for its whimsical, humorous and vivid pictures of rural life and a demonic world that is terrifying and grotesque.
This period also saw the development of literature in English. The great Geoffrey Chaucer, often called the father of English literature, took the bold decision to reject literary convention and write in English. His brilliant, bawdy satire the Canterbury Tales became a medieval bestseller and, as a result, when William Caxton set up his first printing press in London, he chose Chaucer's tales as his first major English publication.
These wonderful books contain clever, often mysterious references for their readers and are crucial milestones in the story of the book, charting the last phase of the manuscript and the arrival of the printed book.