Patterned and tooled gold leafing was commonly seen in European manuscripts starting in the twelfth century CE and continuing until the decline of illuminated manuscripts after the advent of printed books. English illuminators of the era used tooling most frequently in their work, but examples of tooled and patterned gilding can be found in French, German, Dutch, Bohemian and Italian manuscripts as well.
As the use of gold leaf declined in manuscripts, supplanted by shell gold and powdered gold, so did the richness and intricacy of the tooling techniques used.
Some English Examples
|Life of St. Cuthbert, c. 1200|
|Psalter of Robert de Lindesey c. 1220-1222|
|Psalter by William de Brailes c.1230-1240|
|Ramsey Psalter c. 1300|
|Gorlestan Psalter c. 1305-1315|
|Luttrell Psalter c. 1334-1340|
|Lytlington Missal c. 1385|
|Carmelite Missal c. 1395|
|French: Bible Moralisee c.1250|
|French: The Hunting Book of Gaston Pheobus 15th century|
|Bohemian: Golden Bull of Emperor Charles IV c. 1400|
|Italian: Italian Tarot Cards, first half of 15th century|
|Dutch: Fagel Missal c. 1459-1460|
All of these techniques were used alone or in combination to create different effects in medieval illumination.
Stippling: a stylus or blunt needle is pressed firmly into the gilding after burnishing to create dotted patterns and shading
Punching: a stamp or punching tool is tapped into the surface of the gilding after burnishing using a hammer, either to impress the design of the stamp, or to create deeper dotted patterns, outlines and shading.
Engraving: a scribing tool or stylus is drawn across the surface of the gilding after burnishing to create a continuous line or crosshatch pattern.
Modeling: layers of gesso are painted on in patterns or over larger areas in order to raise them above the gesso ground, used especially on anconas, or panel paintings, prior to gilding and burnishing the surface.
In addition to these basic techniques, illuminators and panel painters often combined them to achieve more elaborate effects. For example, raised areas could also be stippled or engraved to add to three-dimensional effects and to detail Glass jewels could be tapped into the gilded gesso to decorate engraved crowns and diadems. Rich brocade robes could be simulated by overpainting gilding with color, then gently scraping away the paint in a pattern as seen in brocaded textiles and stippling the exposed gold to resemble glittering woven gold threads. These combined techniques were more commonly used on panel paintings which were not exposed to as much wear and abrasion as book illuminations. The Wilton Diptych, c. 1396-97, is an extraordinary English example of the rich effects possible with gold tooling.