The Myopic Scribe
Illuminated manuscripts have the tiniest strokes details. They’re so intricate I don’t see how they were made without a visual aid. Unless….they were created by someone who could naturally see with precision.
When a summons is sent to me I will take this stone and place myself in the sun, I will at a distance melt all the writings of the summons.
Do you think a craft-worker could hold a burning glass lens in one hand and create tiny strokes with the other? To me, it would be awkward, but possible. I suppose it would work because you can find hands-free magnifiers today. Some are mounted on legs and others on a neck-cord.
Image-enlarging lenses were described in Ptolemy‘s Optics. They were also commented on by Ibn Sahl (10th century) and Alhazen (Book of Optics, ca. 1021). Eventually – in the 12th century – their Latin translations appeared in Europe.
|Tommaso da Modena’s portrait
of Cardinal Hugh de Provence
“It is not yet twenty years since there was found the art of making eyeglasses, which make for good vision”
There’s even one of Simon Bening, my persona workshop master’s son. It is a self-portrait he painted in 1558 with him holding them in his hand like a saint’s attribution symbol.
From pictures, you can’t tell how effective eyeglasses were. How were they worn? How well did they stay in place? And did they distort?
The tendency to be nearsighted is inherited, but the condition is also affected by how you use your eyes. If you spend major time doing intense, close visual work you may develop myopia.
|Simon Bening self-portrait,
In the Middle Ages guilds and workshops encouraged myopia’s hereditary and environmental benefits. Being nearsighted aided both a scribe’s ability and learning progress. In a monastery or workshop, better sketchers would naturally become scribes, the best rising to become masters. Workshops also tended to be inherited by qualified sons, keeping the craft and the gene in the family.
I was blessed with myopia. My Mother and Aunt had it too. I started wearing glasses for it at age 9. I still take off my glasses to read, paint and letter scrolls.
When I look further away I see things in a hazy fuzz. In High School my friends seeing me down the hall thought I was ignoring them. Unless I know your clothing I might not recognize you across the room if I’m not wearing my glasses.
I admit I use my weakness to benefit my art. I love painting illumination’s every intricate stroke. All the steps needed to get to the shading, whitework, and diapering are just a drag. My myopia may even be the reason I implore scribes to look at an abundance of illuminations. I want you to see the fine details clearly too.
Related Prior Post:
5 Tips To Train Your Artist Eye
Tip To Seeing Like An Artist
Related External Article:
Close Work Without Magnifying Lenses?
That was a very interesting read!
I wonder if this tradition of nearsighted people becoming scribans and such makes us modern nearsighted more “nerdy” even now so to speak 🙂
In my case, sadly, mi myopia is so strong that I can’t use it to my advantage with intricate details. Because that would mean 5cm from my eyes.
I’m glad you enjoyed it.
I haven’t read anything on ” inherited nerdiness”. That would be a deep subject to research.
You do bring up an important point. Not all myopia is beneficial for detailed works. There are measured limits to its benefit.