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Babylonian cuneiform tablet, ca. 2047-2039 B.C.

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Ethiopian manuscripts showing the scroll form, and the Coptic style of codex binding. The two-part case traditionally accompanies this type of book.


Early Manuscripts

Miniature manuscripts occur throughout the history of human record keeping. Cuneiform tablets were in use as early as 4000 B.C., and continued to be used occasionally until circa 75 A.D. They were often used for legal documents and receipts. The examples shown date from circa 2000 B.C. With the advent of more convenient writing materials, papyrus, paper, and vellum or parchment, miniature manuscripts occurred as small rolls, and in the form of codex books. In the Western manuscript tradition, liturgical works produced for use in church ceremonies tended to be large, often intended to be read by more than one person at the same time. However, religious works intended for personal use often were small enough to be described as miniatures, and were intended to be carried conveniently by their owners. Miniature books of hours and other types of devotional literature are among the most sought after Western miniature manuscripts.

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Book of Hours, Bruges?, Belgium, ca. 1440.

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