Funded! This project was successfully funded on November 17, 2011.

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A modern illuminated manuscript based on one of the most important books in history.

www.illuminatedorigin.com

Why should you fund this project?

By helping to Kickstart The Illuminated Origin of Species you will be part of a historic endeavor to create a modern masterpiece that combines calligraphy and traditional illumination with one of the greatest works of scientific literature. It is an opportunity for you to receive truly unique cards, art prints, and original art associated with the first Illuminated manuscript based on Darwin's Origin of Species.  

Chrysina gloriosa, watercolor and gold on paper, Kelly M. Houle, 2011

“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”
                                           —Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species,1859


The above design is available as a boxed set of 8 gold-embossed greeting cards for a pledge of $30.

Why create an illuminated manuscript?

An illuminated manuscript is not merely a handwritten copy of a book, it is an original work of art that is cherished and preserved for generations for its beauty and importance.

Leptinotarsa lineolata, watercolor and colored pencil, Kelly M. Houle, 2011

Traditional illumination is still practiced by modern calligraphers, but creating an entire illuminated book is a relatively rare endeavor. It requires enormous patience, skill, and time. Any written work to be embellished in this way must be worthy of the time and resources required by the artist to write every word by hand, and illustrate the pages in sumptuous detail.

Purplr Arum Lily, Kelly M. Houle, 2011

Darwin's work presents a glorious range of possibilities for illustration and illumination. Gold will be used to symbolize sunlight, central to all life. Iridescence appears in almost all forms of life, including plants, shells, feathers, rocks, scales, and it absolutely flourishes in the insect world. As an artist with a background in calligraphy, science, and bookmaking, I feel I have finally found my calling as an artist, scribe, and illuminator working in the service of science. I look forward to spending the next few years creating a beautiful book in celebration of nature and human endeavor. 

What makes The Origin of Species so special?

The Origin of Species explains how we got here, and why all living things are the way they are. It illuminates our history. Darwin was the quintessential scientist, pouring over the details of nature, asking questions, making hypotheses, and gathering as much evidence as he could, not only from his own travels, but from his colleagues around the globe. The result is one of the most important books of all geological time, but don't just take my word for it. Here is what others have said:

"Darwin's Origin of Species is one of humanity's crowning achievements."  James T. Costa

"The Theory of Darwinian Evolution, which continues to be refined by thousands of scientists working around the world, is the basis for the entire field of modern biology. Today it is one of the most important concepts in science and probably in the history of human thought."  John Kress

"Charles Darwin's Origin of Species is one of the most precious books in the entire library of our species."  Richard Dawkins

"(The Origin of Species) was one of the greatest and most striking scientific discoveries of all time, and it is the basis of modern biology and medicine, leading to countless other discoveries that have continued to save thousands of lives." Lawrence Krauss

"If I were to give an award for the single best idea anyone ever had, I'd give it to Darwin, ahead of Newton and Einstein and everyone else."  Daniel C. Dennett

Next to the Bible no work has been quite as influential, in virtually every aspect of human thought, as The Origin of Species.” Ashley Montagu

"(The Origin of Species) is, together perhaps with Galileo's dialogues on motion, easily the most readable and approachable of the great revolutionary works of the scientific imagination."  John Burrow

"Arguably history's most influential book."  E.O. Wilson

What's with the beetles?

It was Darwin's early enthusiasm for collecting beetles that first led him toward the theory of evolution by natural selection. The fact that beetles fascinated young Darwin make them perfect for the opening pages of an illuminated manuscript based on his greatest work. Their shiny, metallic and iridescent surfaces will be fun to paint and embellish with real gold. I'm looking forward to illuminating over a hundred different beetles for the four 22x30-inch pages of the Table of Contents.

How will the money be used?

The money raised through Kickstarter will be directly applied to the creation and printing of the Title Page and the Table of Contents for a total of five 22x30 pages. I have already purchased all of the paint, paper, and gold to create the initial prototype page as well as the first five pages of the book. Every dollar you donate will give me the time and freedom to design, write, paint, and gild the first five pages of the book, in addition to producing great rewards for you, the visionary donors. Funding raised above and beyond my initial goal will be used to begin the Introduction of The Illuminated Origin.

What is your process?

More details about the process can be found on www.illuminatedorigin.com.

I truly appreciate your support. Thank you!

FAQ

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  • Pledge $10 or more
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    29 backers

    For a $10 contribution you will receive a beautiful Illuminated Origin of Species post card mailed to you in a translucent vellum envelope hand-addressed in calligraphy by me. In addition, if you choose, your name will be written in a special section of the actual illuminated manuscript where I acknowledge all contributors to the project.

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  • Pledge $30 or more
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    30 backers

    For each $30 pledge you will receive a boxed set of 8 greeting cards embossed in gold with my original calligraphic design that combines Darwin's tree of life with the phrase "Life is what we make of it." Envelopes are included.

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  • Pledge $30 or more
    You selected

    45 backers

    For a $30 pledge you will receive a boxed set of 8 gold foil embossed greeting cards with the phrase "There is grandeur in this view of life." This original calligraphic design combines Darwin's tree of life sketch with a phrase from the famous last paragraph of "On the Origin of Species." Envelopes are included.

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  • Pledge $60 or more
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    28 backers

    For every $60 contribution you will receive a limited edition, 3x5-inch, signed giclee print of one of the actual beetles that will appear in the opening pages of the Illuminated Origin of Species. These prints are hand-embellished with iridescent watercolors and 23-karat gold, and will arrive in a 5x7-inch shadowbox frame. There will be a choice of 5 different beetles. Donate more than once and collect them all!

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  • Pledge $90 or more
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    5 backers All gone!

    For $90 you will receive a one-page, personalized thank-you letter addressed to you, your family, or organization, handwritten by me in calligraphy, and illuminated with iridescent watercolors and 23-karat gold. Your letter will be written on high-quality Fabriano paper made in Italy and will be suitable for framing.

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  • Pledge $250 or more
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    10 backers All gone!

    Adopt-A-Beetle! For a $250 donation you will receive an ORIGINAL, signed, hand-illuminated 8x10 color painting of your favorite beetle, and a life size version will be included, subject to approval, in the opening pages of The Illuminated Origin of Species. Do you own the rights to a great beetle photo? I will turn it into an illuminated painting for you, and a life-size miniature version for the manuscript. You maintain all rights to your photo, I maintain all rights to the painted image. If you don't have a photo of the beetle you would like to sponsor, I will paint it from an actual specimen. Your contribution will be acknowledged in a special section of the manuscript.

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  • Pledge $250 or more
    You selected

    1 backer Limited (9 left of 10)

    Adopt-A-Beetle! For a $250 donation you will receive an ORIGINAL, signed, hand-illuminated 8x10 color painting of your favorite beetle, and a life size version will be included, subject to approval, in the opening pages of The Illuminated Origin of Species. Do you own the rights to a great beetle photo? I will turn it into an illuminated painting for you, and a life-size miniature version for the manuscript. You maintain all rights to your photo, I maintain all rights to the painted image. If you don't have a photo of the beetle you would like to sponsor, I will paint it from an actual specimen. Your contribution will be acknowledged in a special section of the manuscript.

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $300 or more
    You selected

    9 backers Limited (1 left of 10)

    For a $300 pledge you will receive a handmade miniature book of shiny, painted beetles! The miniature beetle book will be an 8-page accordion in a 2x3-inch matchbox cover. The beetles will be giclee printed onto watercolor paper and hand-embellished with iridescent watercolors and 23-karat gold. This is a limited edition of 12 signed and numbered copies. The first backer to pledge at this level or the $3000 level will receive copy #1/12.

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  • Pledge $600 or more
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    5 backers All gone!

    For $600 you will receive a full-size, 22x30-inch hand-painted, handwritten, hand-gilded title page of The Illuminated Origin of Species. THIS IS NOT A PRINT. I will create this piece from start to finish using the same process used make the title page of the original manuscript. No other page of the Illuminated Origin will be made available as an original. Each one of these will be slightly different, but all will have the Illuminated Origin of Species title block in raised 23-karat gold. This piece will be signed.

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  • Pledge $2,000 or more
    You selected

    1 backer All gone!

    For $2000, you will receive ALL of the rewards listed above, including the Title Page and Miniature Book, PLUS you will receive the original calligraphic art created for the greeting card design "Life is what we make of it," OR "There is grandeur in theis view of life" featuring Darwin's tree of life. This one-of-a-kind original work of art is made of 23-karat gold on 300-lb Fabriano Artistico paper, and is signed and beautifully framed to 16x16 inches. Your name will be written in a special section of the Illuminated Origin of Species as a founding donor.

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Funding period

- (30 days)