The art of illumination is a decorative design using varieties of colors, silver and gold to decorate manuscripts. Hand made books with the collaboration of calligraphy, miniature paintings, drawings and decorated letters are called illuminated manuscripts. The art of Illuminated manuscript was typically created and used for narrative in the religious stories based on the Biblical stories in Europe. Monks of monasteries in Western Europe made most of illuminated manuscripts and books with great effort, from the 8th century to 16th century. The art of illumination rose to the heights of magnificence, delicate and marvelous art. The art of illumination was considered as great beauty and has been regarded as the art of the Middle Ages in the Western Europe. The roots of illumination can be found in the Egyptian, Roman and Greek art. The Egyptian Papyrus rolls and the Book of Dead are known as the oldest illumination.

Only a few examples of classical Greek and Roman illumination have remained from the 3rd to 6th century. Byzantine religious manuscripts include many miniature paintings. But throughout the Middle Ages, marvelous illuminated books were made in Europe. The Book of Kell is a collection of manuscripts with decorative designs created between the 7th and 10th centuries in Ireland and Northern Britain. It is known as a manuscript of Mediaeval Art and consists of the Gospels. The pages are fully decorated. The paintings are of Christ, the Virgin Mary and the Child and the holy figures. The illuminated Book of Hours, which is a prayer book played, an essential role in Christian religion. Around the 10th century to the 12th century, a mix of Arabic and Christian elements created a style in Spain. The Winchester Bible of mid 12th century is an example of this style.

Illumination includes a vast variety of designs in European, Islamic and especially in Persian art. The delicacy and absolute beauty of illumination gives particular value to the complexity of the Persian art of illumination. It has been considered a national traditional art in Persia for many centuries. A Persian edition of the Koran from the 14th century, delicately designed calligraphy and miniature paintings is one marvelous example of the art of illumination. The art of illumination in Persia is practiced with the creative original design but in different style up to the present time. © 2006 Hifa Farah