100 books like The Illuminated Alphabet

By Timothy Noad, Patricia Seligman,

Here are 100 books that The Illuminated Alphabet fans have personally recommended if you like The Illuminated Alphabet. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Illuminated Manuscript

Joyce DiPastena Author Of Illuminations of the Heart

From my list on medieval illumination.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been in love with the Middle Ages ever since my mother handed me a copy of The Conquering Family, by Thomas B. Costain, when I was in the 7th grade. Eventually, I went on to earn a degree in history from the University of Arizona. In addition to the many colorful characters who impacted the medieval world, I became entranced with the art of the time period, particularly manuscript paintings. Their beauty, reverence, whimsy, even their occasional naughtiness, are, to me, simply enchanting! It was impossible not to share my love of this artform in at least one of my novels. Below are some of the books that helped me on my writing journey.

Joyce's book list on medieval illumination

Joyce DiPastena Why did Joyce love this book?

Any time you pick up a book with Illuminated Manuscript anywhere in the title, you know you’re in for a visual feast. If you’re just starting out with this unique medieval art form, this book is an excellent introduction. It’s not too long, so it won’t overwhelm you. This book provided the foundation for my first steps into researching medieval illumination for my historical romantic novel. What is illumination? Why were books illuminated and what types of books were considered worthy of illumination? Who were some of the most famous medieval illuminators? (Perhaps my heroine’s father had studied with one.) What kind of patrons might my heroine have encountered in her father’s workshop?

This book ignited my imagination while helping me discover the best answers for my story. (NOTE: So much of this art has been digitized that most of the B&W photos are now easy to find in color…

By Janet Backhouse,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Illuminated Manuscript as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The British Library houses one of the world's great collections of illuminated manuscripts, and Janet Backhouse has drawn on this resource to make a selection of examples that span over 800 years of medieval book production.


Book cover of Time Sanctified: The Book of Hours in Medieval Art and Life

Joyce DiPastena Author Of Illuminations of the Heart

From my list on medieval illumination.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been in love with the Middle Ages ever since my mother handed me a copy of The Conquering Family, by Thomas B. Costain, when I was in the 7th grade. Eventually, I went on to earn a degree in history from the University of Arizona. In addition to the many colorful characters who impacted the medieval world, I became entranced with the art of the time period, particularly manuscript paintings. Their beauty, reverence, whimsy, even their occasional naughtiness, are, to me, simply enchanting! It was impossible not to share my love of this artform in at least one of my novels. Below are some of the books that helped me on my writing journey.

Joyce's book list on medieval illumination

Joyce DiPastena Why did Joyce love this book?

One cannot dismiss the importance of religion during the Middle Ages. It was intertwined with nearly every aspect of people’s lives, so it was natural that medieval illuminators like my heroine and her father would spend a tremendous amount of their time and talent on creating artwork for religious books. The Book of Hours was one of the most important sources of religious teaching and inspiration during the Middle Ages and indispensable to that inspiration and teaching were the exquisite illuminations that filled their pages.

Time Sanctified places the Book of Hours in its medieval social and religious context and demonstrates through countless visual examples the way illuminated paintings helped bring these religious lessons to life for their medieval owners.

By Roger S. Wieck,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Time Sanctified as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The illuminated manuscript was the primary vehicle of learning, religion, and art during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Within the pages of these hand-painted treasures, medieval civilisation flourished. Of all the illuminated manuscripts from this period, the Book of Hours was, by far, the most popular and among the most exquisitely made. In the words of scholar L. M. J. Delaisse, it was the "best seller" of its time - the most frequently commissioned book by both the aristocracy and the middle classes. A selection of these splendid pages is presented in Time Sanctified, along with a detailed discussion of…


Book cover of The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting

Joyce DiPastena Author Of Illuminations of the Heart

From my list on medieval illumination.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been in love with the Middle Ages ever since my mother handed me a copy of The Conquering Family, by Thomas B. Costain, when I was in the 7th grade. Eventually, I went on to earn a degree in history from the University of Arizona. In addition to the many colorful characters who impacted the medieval world, I became entranced with the art of the time period, particularly manuscript paintings. Their beauty, reverence, whimsy, even their occasional naughtiness, are, to me, simply enchanting! It was impossible not to share my love of this artform in at least one of my novels. Below are some of the books that helped me on my writing journey.

Joyce's book list on medieval illumination

Joyce DiPastena Why did Joyce love this book?

It’s hard to express the depths of my excitement when I discovered this book. This title allowed me to take research for my novel’s heroine to a whole new level. Should she use parchment or vellum, what was the difference, and when should she use one over the other? (Did you know the most sumptuous parchments were died purple? I didn’t until I read this book!) What was the difference between natural and artificial pigments as understood by medieval artists? And how did they create all those brilliant reds, blues, greens, yellows, purples, and more in their paintings? How did they make paint out of gold or apply gold leaf to their art? All these details and much, much more are laid out here. Everything a medieval artist, in life or in fiction, could possibly need to know! (This book also touches on other forms of medieval painting, like painting…

By Daniel V. Thompson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Medieval painters built up a tremendous range of technical resources for obtaining brilliance and permanence. In this volume, an internationally known authority on medieval paint technology describes these often jealously guarded recipes, lists of materials, and processes. Based upon years of study of medieval manuscripts and enlarged by laboratory analysis of medieval paintings, this book discusses carriers and grounds, binding media, pigments, coloring materials, and metals used in painting.
It describes the surfaces that the medieval artist painted upon, detailing their preparation. It analyzes binding media, discussing relative merits of glair versus gums, oil glazes, and other matters. It tells…


Book cover of Marguerite Makes a Book

Joyce DiPastena Author Of Illuminations of the Heart

From my list on medieval illumination.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been in love with the Middle Ages ever since my mother handed me a copy of The Conquering Family, by Thomas B. Costain, when I was in the 7th grade. Eventually, I went on to earn a degree in history from the University of Arizona. In addition to the many colorful characters who impacted the medieval world, I became entranced with the art of the time period, particularly manuscript paintings. Their beauty, reverence, whimsy, even their occasional naughtiness, are, to me, simply enchanting! It was impossible not to share my love of this artform in at least one of my novels. Below are some of the books that helped me on my writing journey.

Joyce's book list on medieval illumination

Joyce DiPastena Why did Joyce love this book?

I added this book simply because I think it’s charming. Although written for children, grownups will love it, too! In 15th century Paris, Marguerite, the young daughter of a manuscript illuminator, has to help her aging father illuminate a Book of Hours for a very important lady or her father will lose both his commission and his reputation. This beautifully illustrated book joins Marguerite through each step of her illuminated book’s creation. You will be transported to medieval Paris and Marguerite’s workshop as you read and gaze at the pictures! This book was inspired by a rare collection of illuminated manuscripts held by the J. Paul Getty Museum.

By Bruce Robertson, Kathryn Hewitt (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Marguerite Makes a Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It is Paris in the 1400s. A young girl named Marguerite delights in assisting her father, Jacques, in his craft: illuminating manuscripts for the nobility of France. His current commission is a splendid book of hours for his patron, Lady Isabelle, but will he be able to finish it in time for Lady Isabelle's name day? In this richly illustrated tale, Marguerite comes to her father's aid by secretly completing his commission. She journeys all over Paris buying goose feathers for quills, eggs for mixing paints, dried plants and ground minerals for pigments, and gold leaf; then she expertly finishes…


Book cover of Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts: Twelve Journeys into the Medieval World

David Horspool Author Of Richard III: A Ruler and his Reputation

From my list on to show you why medieval isn’t an insult.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been fascinated by medieval history ever since I played hide and seek around Welsh castles as a boy. At university – a medieval invention, of course – I was able to sit at the feet of some of the finest historians of the Middle Ages, experts like Maurice Keen and Patrick Wormald. As a writer, I have tackled medieval subjects like Alfred the Great and Richard III, as well as the history of English rebellion. I have come to realise that the Middle Ages could be cruel and violent, just like our own time, but that they were also a time of extraordinary achievements that form the foundations of the world we live in.

David's book list on to show you why medieval isn’t an insult

David Horspool Why did David love this book?

One of the great thrills of researching medieval history is getting the chance to handle original documents up close, as I have had the good fortune to do a few times. Christophe de Hamel is a palaeographer, a manuscripts expert who has travelled the world to examine some of the most precious handwritten works that still survive. As his title hints, De Hamel treats these artefacts as personalities, and his no-nonsense decipherment of priceless treasures is like listening in on a wise and witty conversation.

By Christopher De Hamel,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An extraordinary and beautifully illustrated exploration of the medieval world through twelve manuscripts, from one of the world's leading experts.

Winner of The Wolfson History Prize and The Duff Cooper Prize.

A San Francisco Chronicle Holiday Book Gift Guide Pick!

Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts is a captivating examination of twelve illuminated manuscripts from the medieval period. Noted authority Christopher de Hamel invites the reader into intimate conversations with these texts to explore what they tell us about nearly a thousand years of medieval history - and about the modern world, too.

In so doing, de Hamel introduces us to kings,…


Book cover of Autumntide of the Middle Ages

Larry Silver Author Of Europe Views the World, 1500-1700

From my list on values in European historical periods.

Why am I passionate about this?

A retired professor, an art historian who taught at Berkeley, Northwestern, and the University of Pennsylvania. Since my main interest is the emergence of Europe from the late Middle Ages and into the Early Modern period around 1500, I naturally gravitate to non-fiction books that engage with the shifting interests and values of that era, and my own books include similar efforts to discuss visual art in relation to religion, literature, politics, and wider contemporary cultural movements. Among my own books I would cite: Rubens, Velázquez, and the King of Spain (with Aneta Georgievska-Shine); Europe Views the World, 1500-1700; and the forthcoming Art and Dis-Illusion in the Long Sixteenth Century.

Larry's book list on values in European historical periods

Larry Silver Why did Larry love this book?

One of the great works of historical recreation, which reads like a novel but is based on a voluminous study of texts, art, and history. Huizinga recreates the violent tenor and pervasive Christian spirituality of late medieval life, as well as a corresponding chivalric secular side, lived out by French and Burgundian nobility.

By Johan Huizinga, Diane Webb (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Autumntide of the Middle Ages as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This new English translation of Huizinga’s Autumntide of the Middle Ages (Herfsttij der Middeleeuwen) celebrates the centenary of a book that still ranks as one of the most perceptive and in¿uential analyses of the late medieval period. Its wide-ranging discussion of fourteenth and ¿fteenth century France and the Low Countries makes it a classic study of life, culture, and thought in medieval society. The new and now unabridged translation of the original text captures the impact of Huizinga’s deep scholarship and powerful language. The translation is based on the Dutch edition of 1941 – the last edition Huizinga worked on.…


Book cover of The World of the Crusades

Alfred Andrea Author Of Seven Myths of the Crusades

From my list on the medieval crusades by world-class historians.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was fated to become a crusade historian. Research for my doctoral dissertation on medieval relations between the Churches of Rome and Constantinople inevitably led me to the Fourth Crusade. I was hooked, and for the past fifty-plus years the crusades have been a passion—I hope a healthy one.  Although I have published two books on the Fourth Crusade, my crusading interests have now gone global, and I am currently studying sixteenth-century crusading in the eastern Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, Ethiopia, and the Americas. Perhaps someday I shall turn to more modern crusades. Sad to say, the crusades are still with us.

Alfred's book list on the medieval crusades by world-class historians

Alfred Andrea Why did Alfred love this book?

This lavishly illustrated book focuses on the crusades’ material objects: sculptures, paintings, manuscripts, architecture, coinage, and even jewelry. As historical evidence, artifacts are as important as documents, and these carefully chosen items provide privileged insights into the largely-shared crusader worldview and sense of mission. They further illuminate the complex relationships that developed between crusaders and the many foreign cultures with which they came into contact.  

By Christopher Tyerman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The World of the Crusades as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A lively reimagining of how the distant medieval world of war functioned, drawing on the objects used and made by crusaders

Throughout the Middle Ages crusading was justified by religious ideology, but the resulting military campaigns were fueled by concrete objectives: land, resources, power, reputation. Crusaders amassed possessions of all sorts, from castles to reliquaries. Campaigns required material funds and equipment, while conquests produced bureaucracies, taxation, economic exploitation, and commercial regulation. Wealth sustained the Crusades while material objects, from weaponry and military technology to carpentry and shipping, conditioned them.

This lavishly illustrated volume considers the material trappings of crusading wars…


Book cover of Romanesque

Nick Inman Author Of A Guide to Mystical France: Secrets, Mysteries, Sacred Sites

From my list on seeing what isn’t there (or is it?).

Why am I passionate about this?

A while ago I lived with the extraordinary spiritual Findhorn community in Scotland and that experience opened my eyes to the mysteries that we are and that surround us. Subsequently, I became a professional travel guide writer and as I visited churches and megaliths, it gradually occurred to me that the ancients may have recorded information useful to us if only we could work out how to interpret it. Twenty years ago I settled in France, a country densely packed with extraordinary places. Here, I have been able to deepen my understanding of the universal, greater reality of which we are part.  

Nick's book list on seeing what isn’t there (or is it?)

Nick Inman Why did Nick love this book?

If you want to be pleasingly perplexed for the rest of your life, start looking closely at Romanesque sculpture from the middle ages (preceding the more famous Gothic style). This doorstopper of a book covering all of Romanesque art and architecture is one place to begin. It’s a collection of essays by experts in the field but even if you don't read the text you can just enjoy the lavish photos that point to the most interesting churches to visit in Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Britain, Scandinavia, and central Europe. There is also an excellent pictorial feature explaining the basics of Romanesque building and decoration. 

By Rolf Toman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Romanesque as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Romanesque was the first period in medieval art to include all of Europe. It began around 1000 and did not end with the Staufen late Romanesque in Germany and Italy until about the middle of the thirteenth century. The borrowing of particular elements from Roman architecture, including the round arch, which is considered the hallmark of the Romanesque, led to the coining of the term "Romanesque.'? The majority of the works of architecture, sculpture and painting discussed in this volume can be properly understood only in the context of a Christian view of the world, and Christian way of…


Book cover of The Name of the Rose

Mary Lawrence Author Of The Alchemist's Daughter

From my list on Medieval-Tudor mysteries time travel.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a biology and chemistry degree and have worked in a hospital laboratory for over 25 years. History has always been an interest, and my affection for the Tudor era was sparked after learning some background about Shakespeare’s works. The politics, the forgotten words and their meanings from that time, fascinate me. I fancy myself a bit of an armchair historian and time traveler. My suggested books succeed in transporting me back in time. I learn on the coattails of smart protagonists created by intelligent writers who get the mix of history, mystery, and science just right. 

Mary's book list on Medieval-Tudor mysteries time travel

Mary Lawrence Why did Mary love this book?

One of the first books I ever read set in the medieval period that hooked me on historical mysteries set in medieval/Tudor times.

Eco’s plot is absolutely unique and memorable. The story is dotted with eccentric monks who do not always follow the rules. The atmosphere feels incredibly well done. I feel present in the cavernous stone abbey, with the winter chill and sinister machinations that seep straight into my bones.

A true genre classic, they even made it into a movie starring Sean Connery.

By Umberto Eco,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Name of the Rose as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Read the enthralling medieval murder mystery.

The year is 1327. Franciscans in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate. When his delicate mission is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths, Brother William turns detective.

William collects evidence, deciphers secret symbols and coded manuscripts, and digs into the eerie labyrinth of the abbey where extraordinary things are happening under the cover of night. A spectacular popular and critical success, The Name of the Rose is not only a narrative of a murder investigation but an astonishing chronicle of the Middle Ages.

'Whether…


Book cover of The Flowering of Mysticism: Men and Women in the New Mysticism: 1200-1350

Rik Van Nieuwenhove Author Of An Introduction to Medieval Theology

From my list on medieval theology and spirituality.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of Medieval Theology at Durham University, UK, and have published on both medieval theology (especially Thomas Aquinas) and spirituality (especially Jan van Ruusbroec, an author from 14th century Brabant). When I was in my early twenties, I had no interest in Christianity, but I gradually realized that the societal and moral problems of modernity could only be properly addressed by examining a genuinely alternative tradition, namely pre-modern thinkers (if only because postmodern critics of modernity remain all too often beholden to the assumptions of modernity, even in their opposition to them). This explains why I was drawn to medieval theology (and spirituality). 


Rik's book list on medieval theology and spirituality

Rik Van Nieuwenhove Why did Rik love this book?

This is Volume 3 of a major series covering Western spirituality from the era of the Church Fathers to the seventeenth century. Every volume contains a wealth of insights into medieval spirituality (and theology). This series is a monument of scholarship: nothing like this has ever been tempted by any scholar in the English-speaking world—and achieved with so much flair and expertise.

One would buy these books just for the bibliographies alone, even in an age of search engines. This volume covers Franciscan spirituality, women mystics, and beguines, including Hadewijch, Mechthild, and Marguerite Porete. Like the other volumes, it is lucid, informative, and comprehensive. Warmly recommended.  

By Bernard McGinn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Flowering of Mysticism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The year 1200 marked a dynamic turning point in the history of Christian mysticism. New forms of religious life provided the impetus for a new mysticism whose influence continues today. This book documents the spirited dialogue between men and women that made possible the richness of mysticism in the 13th and 14th centuries.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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