The Illuminated letter is an embellishment on a written page, it is derived from the idea of achieving illumination with the application of gIlluminated leaf to letters and images to create the deserved glowing effect. Illuminated letters are usually the first letter of a paragraph or page, they are enlarged, in color, and embellished with decoration and/or gold. Against the rest of the normally black text, these letters stood out to enhance the visual appearance of a page. Though gold is one of the most captivating features of illuminated manuscripts, other vibrant colors were also applied to create different design dimensions to the artwork. Many different cultures have used
Illuminated letters, from ancient Egypt to Medieval Europe, and by the 7th Century, Illuminations became a respected art form. Illuminators were usually monks who would take the text of a page once it was completely laid out by a scribe and began creating the decorative images we call illuminations, these images often include colorful scenes with animals and plants. Most of the manuscripts with these letters are usually religious in subject. While most medieval manuscripts in the Middle Ages were written on parchment, the documents important enough to illuminate were often completed on vellum. By the late Middle Ages, the rise of the accessibility of paper and printing directly coordinated to the decline of illumination as handcrafted designs were replaced by cheaper and faster printing.
The illuminated letter examples were taken from wikipedia, the contemporary drop cap examples were taken from Daily Drop Cap.