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Learner Reviews & Feedback for Deciphering Secrets: The Illuminated Manuscripts of Medieval Europe by University of Colorado System

107 ratings
47 reviews

About the Course

Perhaps no other relic of the European Middle Ages captures our imagination more than illuminated medieval manuscripts, or those documents decorated with images and colored pigments. Serving as windows unto a lost world of kings, ladies, faith, war, and culture, they communicate complex visual and textual narratives of Europe’s collective cultural heritage and patrimony. In this fashion, illuminated manuscripts are dynamic messages from our communal past that are still relevant today in fields like graphic design and typography. In this seven-week course, students will explore the material creation, content, and historical context of illuminated medieval European manuscripts. Students will acquire an introductory knowledge of their distinguishing characteristics, their cataloguing and periodization (when they were created), the methods utilized to produce them, and their historical context and value. Student achievement will be assessed using not only traditional multiple-choice quizzes, but more importantly will be evaluated based on individual student projects. In their final projects students will either (1) produce a board of commented images about medieval manuscripts or (2) prepare a physical manuscript using medieval methods. The best of these peer-evaluated projects will be posted on the Deciphering Secrets website, which is our collective citizen scholarship web presence that encourages and supports our global citizen scholars appreciation and contributions to transcription of medieval manuscripts. Finally, we wish to highlight that this course is an exciting international collaboration between the University of Colorado (USA) and Universidad Complutense Madrid (Spain)....

Top reviews

Jan 26, 2018

An excellent overview of a complex subject , with the rare option to explore the practical skills involved in making manuscripts , and with a forward view of new research evolving IT makes possible.

May 4, 2017

fascinating subject. Excellent course whether you want to just learn about the history of the manuscripts or try creating some yourself. The Spanish professor is a real expert in the subject.

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26 - 47 of 47 Reviews for Deciphering Secrets: The Illuminated Manuscripts of Medieval Europe

By Laëtitia J

Oct 26, 2018

Complete, and very high quality ! And last but not least, creative and funny :) Many thanks


Dec 11, 2017

Interesting and enjoyable course. Thanks for all the work in preparation of the course.

By Ben F

Apr 18, 2020

Excellent. I really enjoyed the course. I learnt loads, both theoretical and practical.

By Imelda F

Jan 25, 2017

Very challenging and also a lot of fun. I learned a lot and want to continue

By Emily L

Aug 10, 2017

Great course, very informative, and left me inspired to learn more!

By Charles R

Nov 17, 2019

This is a very good course.

I have learned a lot in a few weeks.

By Bukhal A

Mar 14, 2017

Дужа захпляльны і цудоўны курс! Раю ўсім! Выкладчыкі - чароўныя!

By Francesco M

Dec 16, 2020

Ottimo Corso e bravissimi professori

By Irene M M

Mar 10, 2020

Muy completo y detallado.


Jan 28, 2017

Great course!!

By franca g c

Sep 6, 2017

While this course was not exactly what I had expected, it certainly offered insights that I would have never imagined. More importantly, I now know the terminology used and can differentiate the different periods in which the books were bound.

What I loved most was the hands-on-project, which takes the students through the full process of not only creating an illuminated manuscript, but it also drives the student to one of the most important elements which makes up the codex, the binding.

Participating in the above process is invaluable. If you're a lover of illuminated manuscripts, or letters, the freedom towards the creative process is quite "illuminating." Coming up with the content for the copy and the corresponding illustrations was quite fun and somewhat unnerving at the same time. I was nervous about approaching the illumination, not of the letters, but of the other elements such as the initials. Once done, though, it was a very satisfying feeling. The binding process was a bit unnerving as well, not because it's so difficult, but because I didn't necessarily have all the tools.

Having said, this, I would have given the course 5 stars. I gave it 4, only because, the binding process "how to" was not the most clear.

Otherwise, this is an excellent course which I highly recommend. I look forward to other related courses.

By Anne G M A

Sep 10, 2018

I am enjoying this course a lot!!

this despite some broken links + as per my experience with the course, the process of getting reviewed by the pairs is a pain, often not getting the feedback needed, the deadline surpasses, and it is complicated to understand if it is due to system or not. While getting those issues one cannot concentrate properly on the course because it takes time digging on that part instead of dedicating that time studying.I think the course is excellent though and I am absolutely loving it.

By Jennifer H

Jul 12, 2020

Really enjoyed the course and learned a great deal from it. I felt that some of the contextual history was a bit dry and did not boost my overall understanding of/appreciation for manuscript production. I had hoped for more information on the content of manuscripts vs the production of manuscripts. Did not enjoy the "Board" project - tedious! But making a manuscript really drove home production techniques and was helpful to me as a teacher.

By Carol S

Apr 15, 2018

Very engaging and creative course that allowed me to study a subject I have always been enchanted with. The only issues are that the professors accent was so deep that it was difficult to understand her and the machine generated transcript had the same issue I did. Still a most enjoyable course and I would highly recommend it to all. Thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to take it.

By George M

Feb 19, 2017

You can read my full review on my blog:

By David B

Apr 6, 2017


By Elisa M

Feb 18, 2018

First I'd like to say that this course is quite original and I give a lot of credit to Dr. Sanchez-Pinto for taking on such a project. Her videos are the most instructional of the class. That said, there are two instructors, and Dr. Martinez-Dávila mostly introduces a series of reading materials, so there are hardly any videos on the history component of the class.

Also, the weekly assignments are quite lengthy and require quite some work. For these, there is a deadline of only one week and the feedback from students is very diverse, depending on whether they are themselves librarians or not.

Overall an interesting course for those who are curious about manuscripts, but could definitely use a makeover.

By Wendi S

Jun 3, 2017

While the information was quite fascinating, the presentation was very dry. I realize English is not Dr. Sanchez's first language, but she was stiff and obviously reading the text. There was little or no inflection. Her attempts at humorous or light comments fell flat because of this and didn't add anything. I would also like to have seen the writing portions of the lesson integrated into the history. It was awkward reading about the times/peoples and then going on to the writing. Certainly there was a better way to do this. It was like taking two different courses at the same time.

By Lara A

Jul 28, 2020

Really enjoyed the course- many reminders and useful snippets of information on the history of manuscript production. If you get over the chunks of poorly transcribed videos, some mistakes in the information provided (do check details)- then it is a really good introduction. The parts I learned from most are the board projects, where they reminded me to really look at the identifying features of manuscripts that you find in many collections across the world.

By Irina I

Sep 2, 2018

(+) I really liked the manuscripts part - it was great.

(+) I liked the hands-on project about creating the manuscript, but sometimes instructions were too vague or missing at all.

(-) I didn't like the history part. It has a lot of reading materials and none of the videos. And I didin't always see a connection to manuscripts.

(-) I hate the system when other students should grade my assignments. There was one student who always put too low grades to me and I didin't understand why (for example, I have written ductus of 3 letters and he put that I have done only 2 etc). I suppose that he doesn't understand English quite well so he doesn't understand the rubrics, but that's quite demotivating.

(-) The interview with a Dutch scriptor, who showed letters from manuscripts, was not translated to English.

By Lynn H

Mar 14, 2017

It was a very interesting course, however it was biased toward Spanish history with the inclusions. I was really more interested in what I thought the course was supposed to be about anyway, Medieval Manuscripts. I had a terrible time deciphering the lecturer's English and, because I'm not interested in a course certificate, the course projects were a waste of my time, though I can see that they could be fun and add to the enjoyment of the course.

By Wesley W

Sep 24, 2020

Slow, tedious, boring.