The earliest illuminated manuscripts were painted in monasteries as
early as the seventh century (Lindisfarne Gospels). These were
religious books, Gospels, Psalters, liturgical books, but in the
eleventh century a "book culture" emerged in Europe, and books were
produced for wealthy patrons.
Initial letters of books and sections within books were
decorated with fanciful drawings and painted, "illuminated" for the
esthetic appreciation of those who owned them. "Miniatures," small
paintings that illustrated the contents of the book were also
Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press with
replaceable wooden or metal letters in 1436. Books printed before the
beginning of the sixteenth century are usually called "Incunabula." I
will use the term to refer to old printed books of whatever age which
were designed to imitate the illuminated manuscript.