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The letter P as a historiated initial (depicting Peter) in an illuminated Latin bible, 1407 AD. Colored with paint and gold leaf.

A historiated initial is an enlarged letter at the beginning of a paragraph or other section of text, which contains a picture. Strictly speaking, an inhabited initial contains figures (human or animal) that are decorative only, without forming a subject, like a historiated one. Both sorts became very common and elaborate in illuminated manuscripts. These initials were first seen in the Insular art of the early 8th century.[1] The earliest known example is in the St Petersburg Bede, an Insular manuscript of 731-46.

The oldest historiated initial known, St Petersburg Bede, 8th century.

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