Despite what people tend to think, an Illuminated Address is not something you switch on and off like a light bulb.
These were once important components of a celebration of achievement. They were generally very ornate and often included elements of the person’s history in the medley of images.
Today the art of the illuminated address has all but vanished. In the mid to late 19th, and early 20th century, they were a popular way to thank prominent individuals for their contribution to organisations. The presentations often made the local news.
The artistry that went into these addresses ranged from fairly amateur production to highly sophisticated illustration techniques and calligraphy. They were, at their best, an art form in themselves.
They fall into two differing categories. Illuminated addresses have burnished gold or silver added. Illustrated addresses only have colour for decoration.
Illuminated addresses evolved from the hand-written illuminated manuscripts that were produced between 1100 and 1600, with monasteries as their earliest creator. These had hand painted decorations that generally included precious metals such as gold or silver, brilliant colours and elaborate designs. The pages were often made from animal skin, commonly calf, sheep, or goat.
The term illumination originally denoted the embellishment of the text of handwritten books with gold or, more rarely, silver, giving the impression that the page had been literally illuminated.
Wealthy patrons also wanted these illustrative works for personal libraries and encouraged the formation of private workshops that flourished in French and Italian cities between the 13th and 15th centuries.
The decline of the illuminated manuscript tradition coincided with the ability to mass produce printed text and the increasing numbers of literate people who wanted secular as well as religious books
(Note: the picture accompanying this text is a sample of an Illustrated Address. This one was presented to their daughter by her parents on her wedding day. This is also in our collection.)