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Treasures of the Black Death -Review

Treasures of the Black Death Ed. by Christine Descatoire


I?m very excited by this book. Treasures of the Black Death is finally available somewhere other than the physical Wallace Collection Museum. (Which is an excellent museum?and well worth going to)

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Treasures of the Black Death is a collection from two hoards found at Colmar and Erfurt. What makes it unique is that they are hoards buried by Jews fleeing persecution during the Black Death (coins in the finds have dated it to 1349). Many of the surviving pieces of jewellery are religious in nature and this collection shows some of the surviving secular pieces of the time. It also has photos of Jewish jewellery, such as the Jewish wedding ring used as the cover photo.

The test?is a bit dry for my taste in places – there?s a lot of text on the history of the Black Death, on the history of the artifacts found, and on scientific analysis on the metal make up of the pieces. I’m mostly interested in jewellery books for the prettiness, but if the analysis of the metal used and detailed descriptions of how the finds were likely made .
But it also has some beautiful photos of the artifacts and some very detailed descriptions which is good for anyone interested in 14th jewellery and silver work.


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[tabs] [tab title=”Publisher’s Blurb”] In the middle of the 14th century, Europe was devastated by an appalling epidemic which killed a third of its population. Accused of having spread the disease, Jewish communities faced terrible persecutions, which often led them to bury their most valuable goods. Two of these hoards, discovered at Colmar in 1863 and at Erfurt in 1998, are discussed and illustrated here. Comprising a great variety of jewelry, gold- and silversmiths’ work, and coins, these two hoards constitute an exceptional source for the study of secular metalwork in the 13th and 14th centuries, very few examples of which have otherwise come down to us. They provide precious evidence of the economic activities and daily life of the medieval Jewish communities, but also of their precarious position within Christian Europe. In Erfurt over 1,000 people were killed, the entire Jewish population. Some of the objects, because of their very personal character, are deeply poignant. [/tab] [/tabs]

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The Medieval Cookbook – Review

The Medieval Cookbook by Maggie Black

The Good

[dropcap style=”no-background”] T [/dropcap]his book was written for The British Museum and has several images taken from the British Museum collection.

A transcript of the original recipe or the Translation of recipe before each redaction has been supplied. The redactions provided by Black are clear and easy to follow.

Unlike most medieval cookbooks, Black also has recipes about “poultices”, remedies to cure common ills. There’s no redactions for these translations but as the book mentions, the translations are clear enough that should someone want to, the poultices could be made up fairly easily.

Black?s recipes are very clear and easy to follow. Some ingredients may be hard to find for a non English reader (some recipes are for various game such as quail, pheasant, rabbit and hare) but the methodology is clear and the end results are great.

There?s some random factoids about manners and culture (14th Chaucer England mostly) sprinkled between the recipes which makes for interesting reading although it?s light on compared to the facts that Brears (Cooking and Dining in Medieval England) talks about.


The Meh

Recipes are not sorted by type of food or even century or area of food. This makes it difficult to be able to find a particular recipe within the book without either knowing where it is or looking it up in the index. I enjoying knowing the category of food that I want to make (pottage, leech, pastry, sweets) and this style or recording is very frustrating to me.
While, as stated above the recipes are clear and the methodology easier to understand, I don?t agree with all the interpretations of the recipes given. For instance, Black has a redaction of ?mushroom pasties? originally given in Le M?nagier de Paris (14th Century French manuscript). The translated copy of the texts (and as a non French speaker I?ve relied on various translations into English) states to ?add spices?. Other interpretations call for ginger and cumin. Black calls for dry mustard. Which, I mean it does work. It?s a perfectly good, tasty recipe. I just don?t believe it?s what the original recipe intended.


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January 2016 Newsflash

Greetings Gentle Readers;

It has been a while between newsletters and for this we do apologise; we have not been idle! Mainly Medieval as a store and as an entity is evolving to better support Australian re-enactment and improve your retail experience. To that end, we are working to make our website a news and research destination as well as a store. We will be rationalising our somewhat sprawling catalogue to provide goods faster and more efficiently, and to weather the decline of the Australian dollar.

In the coming weeks, you can expect a raft of product changes on our catalogue as we update prices and availability. Rest assured pending backorders are being honoured, regardless of product changes. A number of products will only be available at events but in turn we are working to appear at more events.

Our online store will increasingly focus on locally made re-enactor items and specialist publications including Australian Artisans such as Adam McKay, Medieval Still Room and Cracked Anvil Forge, and the Stuart Press and Compleat Anachronist pamphlet series.

We are excited to bring you these improvements and we thank you for your patronage and patience in 2015. We look forward to seeing you all at more events in the coming year. So until next time, we bid you all – good reading!


Paul, Elden, Loreena and Roxy – the Mainly Medieval Team