Exhibition design by Urban Salon

2011–2012

Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination is the British Library’s first major exhibition to bring together the library’s royal collection of illuminated manuscripts collected by the kings and queens of England between the ninth and 16th centuries. We produced the exhibition graphics, working closely with exhibition designers Urban Salon.

‘The digital age seems to be witnessing a renewed public love of the luxury book as a desirable physical object. Somehow, as the stream of disembodied information displayed on flat plastic screens has swollen, the sheer aesthetic richness of the medieval book has gained correspondingly in importance. I’ve worked with a lot of medieval books of the sort on display in the wonderful exhibition Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination, now on show at the British Library. For me, the experience of such books is always complex. Illuminated books can have tremendous charisma: they sparkle with gold and colour and are eloquent in their intelligent arrangement and design. But they also engage other senses. This pleasurable and fully aesthetic experience involves smell – the heady scent of the animal skin or vellum on which all the work is done, which wafts up immediately the book is opened; touch, too – the sensation of handling a mighty leather binding and gently touching the hair and flesh sides of the skins. I know of one expert on such books who can “source” the sheepskin on a book just by gently fondling it before pronouncing “French” or “Italian”.’ (Paul Binski, Times Higher Education, 10 November 2011)