6 Illuminated manuscripts

Students will design a contemporary decorative illuminated text which incorporates personalised typography, stylised images and letterforms.

Students will study the history and development of the illuminated manuscript. They will investigate and explore the process that medieval scribes used, the graphic materials and techniques, and compare it to processes used today. Students will design a contemporary decorative illuminated text which incorporates personalised typography, stylised images and letterforms.


  • 5.4 investigates and responds to the world as a source of ideas, concepts and subject matter for visual design artworks.
  • 5.5 makes informed choices to develop and extend concepts and different meanings in their visual design artworks.
  • 5.6 selects appropriate procedures and techniques to make and refine visual design artworks.
  • 5.8 uses their understanding of the function of and relationships between artist - artwork - world - audience in critical and historical interpretations of visual design artworks.


3 weeks.

Driving question

How can we use illustrations to make reading easier?


Students will explore personalising typography. They will investigate how historical books have influenced the work of contemporary designer's graphic techniques and analyse how they communicate meaning.

Focus areas

  • Lines, shape, colour and image
  • Structural and Cultural frames
  • Design, and design world.
  • Difference and Diversity
  • Information and communication technology
  • Multicultural.


All activities require students to demonstrate their learning and are all assessment for learning activities.

Teaching and learning activities

Students will:

  1. work through the Illuminated manuscripts PowerPoint (PPTX 6.9 MB) as a class, completing the exercises below:
    1. slide four - watch and summarise the videos Making illuminated Manuscripts (06:13) and The Structure of a Medieval Manuscript (02:08).
    2. slide seven - use the internet to find examples of manuscripts from other cultures. Write in visual design journal or blog
    3. slide eight -
      1. Why is this manuscript called the 'Book of hours'?
      2. What was the purpose of the book of hours?
      3. How is repetition used in the images?
      4. Brainstorm 5 modern organisational tools that could be changed to an illuminated manuscript.
      5. Watch the video The Medieval Calendar (04:29).
    4. slide 9 - use the Comparing manuscript illustrations handout (PDF 5.39 MB) to answer the questions below.
      1. What are the similarities and differences between the two manuscripts?
      2. Are there any images or symbols that have remained the same?
      3. How have illuminated manuscripts developed over time?
      4. How could they be used in the future?
    5. slide 10 -
      1. compose a 1-page biography for Graeme Base.
      2. write a TEEEC paragraph on his art style, artworks and creative process
      3. What makes his work unique, yet similar to illuminated manuscripts?
      4. design a 10-page children's book based on Graeme Base's works.
    6. slide 11 - watch the video Interview with Children's Author Graeme Base (02:55) and find out more about Graeme Base.
  2. create a 3-5 minute animated presentation on PowToon addressing one of the questions below:
  • Who made the illuminated pages of a manuscript?
  • What were illuminated manuscripts used for?
  • What impact did the invention of the printing press have on books?
  • How were upper and lowercase letters used in an illustrated manuscript?
  • How do illustrations depict a narrative or tell a story?

You'll need:

  • A4 paper
  • baskerville type handout
  • tracing paper
  • visual design journal/blog
  • colour pencils, paints and felt tip markers
  • mobile phones or digital cameras.

Download and print the Baskerville type handout (PDF 3.1 MB) to give to students. This sheet contains the font Baskerville required for this exercise.

Students will:

  • draw a 3cm border around an A4 sheet of paper
  • measure and outline a 10cm x10cm square in the top right-hand corner
  • select an animal you wish to illuminate
  • trace an uppercase letter from the Baskerville type handout (PDF 3.1 MB) for the first letter their selected animal
  • continue tracing the remainder of the animal name in lower case
  • fill the remainder of the design and letters with simplified and stylized images
  • colour the shapes using a limited palette of blue, green, yellow and red
  • outline in marker pen and use gold paint to finish
  • photograph and upload to their blog.

Remind students to pay careful attention to the typographic anatomy and individual letter shapes when completing this design.

Students will:

  • select one week of their school timetable
  • allocate 1 A4 piece of paper to each different class in that week
  • design and draw an illustrated manuscript in the style of a book of hours, that indicates the details of each lesson
  • upload the artworks into their blog and outline the design process.

Please note: if students are still concerned about designing and creating in the style of an illuminated manuscript, follow a similar process with the Baskerville type handout (PDF 3.1 MB), as outlined in the illuminated animal activity.

Students will complete a digital blog/visual design journal documenting the ideas and processes used throughout this sequence. This can be completed through one-note, Class Notebook or Google classroom.

The blog or visual design journal should contain:

  • the process and technical skills used in practical classes
  • personal reflections about the practical activities
  • information gained through investigations or class discussions
  • answers to questions asked in class
  • a glossary of new words and terminology with graphic examples
  • and thoughts of the different techniques and types explored.



Teachers are encouraged to provide students with acceleration activities if required.

Students could:

  • browse modern examples of illuminated manuscripts on the internet or through the CreativeArts712 Pinterest Visual Design board
  • design and make a popular nursery rhyme into an illuminated manuscript
  • write a blog post addressing the driving question.

Life skills


  • LS 1 experiences a variety of visual design procedures to make visual design artworks.
  • LS 6 makes a variety of visual design artworks that reflect experiences, responses or a point of view.

Students could:

  • write a short story of five sentences, based on their trip from home to school. Some students many need assistance with the order of events for their story. An example of events for their sentences could be:
    • woke up
    • left the house
    • what did I see
    • who did I see
    • where did I go
  • draw a picture of each sentence
  • pick a title for their story
  • using the Baskerville type handout, trace the letters of the title onto an A4 page in the top right hand corner
  • completely fill the page with pictures related to their story
  • outline in felt tip marker
  • colour it in.


Formative assessment can be used to determine learning progress throughout the lesson sequences. Teachers should informally assess a student's level of understanding and adapt accordingly.

This sequence and accompanying worksheets are available as word documents below.


Please note:

Syllabus outcomes and content descriptors from Visual Design 7–10 Syllabus (2004) © NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, 2017.

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