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Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, a famous illuminated manuscript, is on view to both the public and to scholars only in the form of a high-quality facsimile Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry décembre.jpg
Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry , a famous illuminated manuscript, is on view to both the public and to scholars only in the form of a high-quality facsimile

A facsimile (from Latin fac simile, "to make alike") is a copy or reproduction of an old book, manuscript, map, art print, or other item of historical value that is as true to the original source as possible. It differs from other forms of reproduction by attempting to replicate the source as accurately as possible in scale, color, condition, and other material qualities. For books and manuscripts, this also entails a complete copy of all pages; hence, an incomplete copy is a "partial facsimile". Facsimiles are sometimes used by scholars to research a source that they do not have access to otherwise, and by museums and archives for media preservation and conservation. Many are sold commercially, often accompanied by a volume of commentary. They may be produced in limited editions, typically of 500–2,000 copies, and cost the equivalent of a few thousand United States dollars.[ citation needed ][ clarification needed ] The term "fax" is a shortened form of "facsimile" though most faxes are not reproductions of the quality expected in a true facsimile.

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets, and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

Book medium for a collection of words and/or pictures to represent knowledge or a fictional story, often manifested in bound paper and ink, or in e-books

As a physical object, a book is a stack of usually rectangular pages oriented with one edge tied, sewn, or otherwise fixed together and then bound to the flexible spine of a protective cover of heavier, relatively inflexible material. The technical term for this physical arrangement is codex. In the history of hand-held physical supports for extended written compositions or records, the codex replaces its immediate predecessor, the scroll. A single sheet in a codex is a leaf, and each side of a leaf is a page.

Manuscript document written by hand

A manuscript was, traditionally, any document that is written by hand -- or, once practical typewriters became available, typewritten -- as opposed to being mechanically printed or reproduced in some indirect or automated way. More recently, the term has come to be understood to further include any written, typed, or word-processed copy of an author's work, as distinguished from its rendition as a printed version of the same. Before the arrival of printing, all documents and books were manuscripts. Manuscripts are not defined by their contents, which may combine writing with mathematical calculations, maps, explanatory figures or illustrations. Manuscripts may be in book form, scrolls or in codex format. Illuminated manuscripts are enriched with pictures, border decorations, elaborately embossed initial letters or full-page illustrations.


Facsimiles in the age of mechanical reproduction

Advances in the art of facsimile are closely related to advances in printmaking. Maps, for instance, were the focus of early explorations in making facsimiles, although these examples often lack the rigidity to the original source that is now expected. [1] An early example is the Abraham Ortelius map (1598). [1] Innovations during the 18th century, especially in the realms of lithography and aquatint, facilitated an explosion in the number of facsimiles of old master drawings that could be studied from afar. [2]

Printmaking process through which an artistic print is created

Printmaking is the process of creating artworks by printing, normally on paper. Printmaking normally covers only the process of creating prints that have an element of originality, rather than just being a photographic reproduction of a painting. Except in the case of monotyping, the process is capable of producing multiples of the same piece, which is called a print. Each print produced is not considered a "copy" but rather is considered an "original". This is because typically each print varies to an extent due to variables intrinsic to the printmaking process, and also because the imagery of a print is typically not simply a reproduction of another work but rather is often a unique image designed from the start to be expressed in a particular printmaking technique. A print may be known as an impression. Printmaking is not chosen only for its ability to produce multiple impressions, but rather for the unique qualities that each of the printmaking processes lends itself to.

Abraham Ortelius Flemish cartographer

Abraham Ortelius was a Brabantian cartographer and geographer, conventionally recognized as the creator of the first modern atlas, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. Ortelius is often considered one of the founders of the Netherlandish school of cartography and one of the most notable figures of the school in its golden age. The publication of his atlas in 1570 is often considered as the official beginning of the Golden Age of Netherlandish cartography. He is also believed to be the first person to imagine that the continents were joined together before drifting to their present positions.

Map A symbolic depiction of relationships between elements of some space

A map is a symbolic depiction emphasizing relationships between elements of some space, such as objects, regions, or themes.

Facsimile of Edgar Allan Poe's original manuscript for The Murders in the Rue Morgue RueMorgueManuscript.jpg
Facsimile of Edgar Allan Poe's original manuscript for The Murders in the Rue Morgue

In the past, a technique such as the photostat, hectograph, or lithograph was usually used to create facsimiles. More recently, facsimiles have been made by the use of some form of photographic technique. For documents, a facsimile most often refers to document reproduction by a photocopy machine. In the digital age, an image scanner, a personal computer, and a desktop printer can be used to make a facsimile.


The hectograph, gelatin duplicator or jellygraph is a printing process that involves transfer of an original, prepared with special inks, to a pan of gelatin or a gelatin pad pulled tight on a metal frame.

Image scanner device that optically scans images, printed text, handwriting, or an object, and converts it to a digital image

An image scanner—often abbreviated to just scanner, although the term is ambiguous out of context —is a device that optically scans images, printed text, handwriting or an object and converts it to a digital image. Commonly used in offices are variations of the desktop flatbed scanner where the document is placed on a glass window for scanning. Hand-held scanners, where the device is moved by hand, have evolved from text scanning "wands" to 3D scanners used for industrial design, reverse engineering, test and measurement, orthotics, gaming and other applications. Mechanically driven scanners that move the document are typically used for large-format documents, where a flatbed design would be impractical.

Personal computer computer intended for use by an individual person

A personal computer (PC) is a multi-purpose computer whose size, capabilities, and price make it feasible for individual use. Personal computers are intended to be operated directly by an end user, rather than by a computer expert or technician. Unlike large costly minicomputer and mainframes, time-sharing by many people at the same time is not used with personal computers.

Facsimiles and conservation

Important illuminated manuscripts like Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry are not only on display to the public as facsimiles, but available in high quality to scholars. [3] [4] However, unlike normal book reproductions, facsimiles remain truer to the original colors—which is especially important for illuminated manuscripts—and preserve defects. [5]

Illuminated manuscript manuscript in which the text is supplemented by the addition of decoration

An illuminated manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is supplemented with such decoration as initials, borders (marginalia) and miniature illustrations. In the strictest definition, the term refers only to manuscripts decorated with either gold or silver; but in both common usage and modern scholarship, the term refers to any decorated or illustrated manuscript from Western traditions. Comparable Far Eastern and Mesoamerican works are described as painted. Islamic manuscripts may be referred to as illuminated, illustrated or painted, though using essentially the same techniques as Western works.

Facsimiles are best suited to printed or hand-written documents, and not to items such as three-dimensional objects or oil paintings with unique surface texture. [6] Reproductions of those latter objects are often referred to as replicas.

Replica exact reproduction

A replica is an exact reproduction, such as of a painting, as it was executed by the original artist or a copy or reproduction, especially one on a scale smaller than the original.

See also

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Vellum parchment made from calf skin

Vellum is prepared animal skin or "membrane" used as a material for writing on. The term is derived from the Latin word vitulinum meaning "made from calf", leading to Old French velin for "calfskin". Parchment is another term for this material category. If vellum is distinguished, it is by vellum being made from calf skin, as opposed to that from other animals, or otherwise being of higher quality. Vellum is prepared as a surface for writing to produce scrolls, single pages, codices or books.

Lindisfarne Gospels manuscript

The Lindisfarne Gospels is an illuminated manuscript gospel book probably produced around the years 715-720 in the monastery at Lindisfarne, off the coast of Northumberland, which is now in the British Library in London. The manuscript is one of the finest works in the unique style of Hiberno-Saxon or Insular art, combining Mediterranean, Anglo-Saxon and Celtic elements.

Copy editing is the process of reviewing and correcting written material to improve accuracy, readability, and fitness for its purpose, and to ensure that it is free of error, omission, inconsistency, and repetition. In the context of publication in print, copy editing is done before typesetting and again before proofreading, the final step in the editorial cycle.

Digitization process of creating a digital representation of a document

Digitization, less commonly digitalization, is the process of converting information into a digital format, in which the information is organized into bits. The result is the representation of an object, image, sound, document or signal by generating a series of numbers that describe a discrete set of its points or samples. The result is called digital representation or, more specifically, a digital image, for the object, and digital form, for the signal. In modern practice, the digitized data is in the form of binary numbers, which facilitate computer processing and other operations, but, strictly speaking, digitizing simply means the conversion of analog source material into a numerical format; the decimal or any other number system that can be used instead.

Vergilius Vaticanus illuminated manuscript

The Vergilius Vaticanus or Vatican Virgil is a Late Antique illuminated manuscript containing, in its form today, fragments of Virgil's Aeneid and Georgics. It was made in Rome in about 400 A.D., and is one of the oldest surviving sources for the text of the Aeneid and is the oldest and one of only three ancient illustrated manuscripts of classical literature. The two other surviving illustrated manuscripts of classical literature are the Vergilius Romanus and the Ambrosian Iliad.

The NYPL Digital Gallery is a digital archive created by the New York Public Library that provides free access to a large collection of over 500,000 digitized images, the majority of which are in the public domain. It launched to the public on March 4, 2005.

Microform any forms, either films or paper, containing microreproductions of documents

Microforms are scaled-down reproductions of documents, typically either films or paper, made for the purposes of transmission, storage, reading, and printing. Microform images are commonly reduced to about one twenty-fifth of the original document size. For special purposes, greater optical reductions may be used.

Hans Bol artist

Hans Bol or Jan Bol, was a Flemish painter, print artist, miniaturist painter and draftsman. He is known for his landscapes, allegorical and biblical scenes, and genre paintings executed in a late Northern Mannerist style.

A facsimile is a copy or reproduction of an old book, manuscript, map, art print, or other item of historical value that is as true to the original source as possible.

Leiden Aratea manuscript

Leiden, Universiteitsbibliotheek, VLQ 79, also called the Leiden Aratea, is an illuminated copy of an astronomical treatise by Germanicus based on the Phaenomena of Aratus. The manuscript was created in the region of Lorraine and has been dated to around 816.

Preserving parchment becomes more difficult when pigments, inks, and illumination are added into the equation. Pigments do not dye parchment; instead, they lie on the surface of the parchment and so are rather fragile. The goal of restoring illuminated manuscripts should be to make them resilient to damage while altering them as little as possible. Each individual manuscript, and even each individual page, must be considered as a separate object with different aspects that must be taken into consideration. This in turn will help determine the best course of preservation or conservation treatment.

M. Moleiro Editor is a publishing house specialising in high-quality facsimile reproductions of codices, maps and illuminated manuscripts. Founded in Barcelona in 1991, the firm has reproduced many masterpieces from the history of illumination.

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Taddeo Crivelli, also known as Taddeo da Ferrara, was an Italian painter of illuminated manuscripts. He is considered one of the foremost 15th-century illuminators of the Ferrara school, and also has the distinction of being the probable engraver of the first book illustrated with maps, which was also the first book using engraving.

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Stuttgart Psalter

The Stuttgart Psalter is a richly illuminated 9th-century psalter, considered one of the most significant of the Carolingian period. Written in Carolingian minuscule, it contains 316 images illustrating the Book of Psalms according to the Gallican Rite. It has been archived since the late 18th century at the Württembergische Landesbibliothek in Stuttgart.

During the Byzantine Empire, Byzantine art was centered on a Christian society based in Constantinople after the fall of Rome. Religious or holy icons were used throughout Byzantine Art in many different forms: mosaics, paintings, statues and illuminated manuscripts. Monasteries helped produce many of the illuminated manuscripts devoted to religious works using the illustrations to highlight specific parts of text, a saints' martyrdom for example, while others were used for devotional purposes similar to icons. These religious manuscripts were most often made possible at request of patrons and were used for private worship but also gifted to churches to be used in services.


  1. 1 2 C. Koeman, "An Increase in Facsimile Reprints," Imago Mundi, vol. 18 (1964), pp. 87-88.
  2. Craig Hartley, "Aquatint," The Oxford Companion to Western Art, ed. Hugh Brigstocke. Oxford University Press, 2001; Grove Art Online, Oxford University Press, 2005. [accessed 20 April 2008].
  3. Public institutions with facsimile collections
  4. Paul Lewis, "Preservation takes rare manuscripts from the public," New York Times - 25 January 1987 [accessed 19 April 2008].
  5. Bronwyn Stocks, "The Facsimile and the Manuscript," - an exhibition in the Leigh Scott Gallery, University of Melbourne (on-line catalogue with additional images).
  6. Richard Godfrey, "Reproduction reproductive prints," The Oxford Companion to Western Art, ed. Hugh Brigstocke. Oxford University Press, 2001; Grove Art Online, Oxford University Press, 2005. [accessed 20 April 2008].