16th Century Illuminated Letters

In the 16th century, when someone wanted to make a book they usually did everything by hand – from making the paper, to hand lettering and illustrating each page to binding it. The binding was usually a work of art in itself done in leather and metal decorations.

Books were extremely expensive and the subject matter was almost always religious. After all, most of the books of that time were commissioned by the Catholic Church. I’m assuming that is much the case with this beautiful work full of 16th Century illuminated letters.

I’m indebted to a university library who took the time to photograph each page of this historic work and made the page images available freely online. I’ve built upon their efforts to rescue just the illuminated letters to share with you. Some were even gilded with gold – making them even more beautiful. Most of the letters are on a beige background with red, blue, orange, green and black decorations.

There isn’t a complete alphabet here but there are so many wonderful letters that unless you are working with names, hopefully there’s a letter that you can make work for your project.

There were so many 16th Century illuminated letters to share with you that I’ve grouped them by letter into single posts, rather than create a post for each letter image. Enjoy.

Illuminated Letter D

12, 16th century illuminated letter D images. Beautiful, hand-crafted letters, in the public domain. Blue, red, white, orange, green and gold.

Illuminated Letter A

Eighteen 16th Century illuminated letter A images from a manuscript. Some are gilded. Colors include blue, white, red, orange green and blue/grey.

Illuminated Letter E

17 beautiful illuminated letter E images from a 16th Century Manuscript. Blue and white letters decorated with flowers, vines, leaves and berries.

Illuminated Letter G

Two of over 100 fancy letter images from a 1500s illuminated manuscript. This pair of illuminated letter G images both feature red flowers and green leaves.

Illuminated Letter H

A single illuminated letter H illustration from the 1500s. It features two pairs of griffins decorating a blue letter H. Further decorated with flowers and vines in red, blue and grey.

Illuminated Letter I

Seven illuminated letter I images from the 1500s. One is beautifully gilded. Colors include blue, white, red, green and grey.

Gilded Illuminated Letter L

There was only one illuminated letter L image in the French manuscript. But this 500+ year old work of art would make a fine addition to your own creativity.

Illuminated Letter M

5 illuminated letter M images from the 1500s. Some are gilded. The letters are blue. Decorations vary from flowers to mythological creatures.

Illuminated Letter N

3 full-color illuminated letter N images from the 1500s. One’s gilded. All are lovely.

Illuminated Letter O

A trio of beautiful illuminated letter O images from the 16th Century. Two are gilded. One is a bit smaller. Just waiting to be added to your own art.

Illuminated Letter P

They’re old, they’re beautiful. 8, 16th Century illuminated letter P images. Some gilded. Red, green, blue, white, orange and maroon. Some are gilded too.

Illuminated Letter Q

Six, yes 6! 16th Century letter Q images. Feature blue or white letters with red, blue, green, white and orange leaves and flowers on beige backgrounds.