Making Medieval: Illustrating the Middle Ages from Chaucer to Morris

University of Roehampton & House of Illustration present a lecture & practical workshop for U3A members and their guests

When, Where

From illuminated manuscripts to William Caxton’s woodcuts, from Kelmscott Press to contemporary fantasy novels, English books about the Middle Ages have relied on illustrations to bring their stories to life. Looking at examples of illustrations produced over five centuries – from The Canterbury Tales to the 1830 illustrated edition of Ivanhoe – Dustin Frasier Wood will consider the many ways English readers have dreamed and drawn the Middle Ages.

We will begin by examining illuminations in works such as the Lindisfarne Gospels and Ellesmere Manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. We will consider not only what kinds of images they contain but how those images were made: what kinds of materials were used, how the images are arranged in relation to text, and what the images say about who read these manuscripts.

In the second half of the seminar we will look at examples of how illuminations inspired artists and publishers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Highlights will include William Blake’s ‘illuminated’ manuscripts, illustrations for Ivanhoe, early reproductions of the Bayeux Tapestry, and the rise of Victorian medievalism in illustrations for Arthurian poetry and children’s stories.

Following the seminar, illustrator Merlin Strangeway will lead participants in a fun and accessible workshop exploring illuminated initials.  Each participant will create an illustrated letter, illuminated with a creature from medieval folklore – to end up with a collaborative “Book of Beasties” on parchment-style paper, and decorated with gold.  

About Dustin Frazier Wood

Dustin Frazier Wood is a postdoctoral research fellow in English at the University of Roehampton, where he co-ordinates the Romantic Illustration Network (RIN). He has published numerous articles on English medieval studies and medievalism in the period c.1660-c.1830, and has recently completed a book on the rediscovery of Anglo-Saxon literature, art and history in eighteenth-century Britain. Dustin is also the Librarian and Archivist to the Spalding Gentlemen’s Society (SGS), where he curates a collection of rare books and manuscripts of the 13th to the 19th centuries.

About Merlin Strangeway

Merlin Strangeway (nee Evans) is a professional illustrator, passionate about recording the world in all its detail. Her work spans commercial, educational and medical illustration, and she is currently undertaking an MA in Medical Art. She has delivered education work for House of Illustration for six years, and has previously collaborated with the University of Roehampton’s Romantic Illustration Network on previous workshops with U3A and schools.


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