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Scribes and Illuminators – Review

Scribes and Illuminators; Christoper de Hamel

This is part of a series on medieval craftsmen from the University of Toronto Press. (Must find some of these other titles, glass painters, armorers, goldsmiths etc)

The name gives it away, this is about paper and parchment makers, ink-makers and scribes and illuminators, binders and booksellers.

There’s a lot of references to period sources, including quotes from written sources and lots and lots of manuscript images. It’s not a how to, except in making the tools. There’s a fair amount of detail on how to stretch a hide and then scrape it to make the parchment and some photos of a modern reconstruction. There’s actually a lot of images in this book – photos of artefacts and modern reconstructions, and lots and lots of manuscript images. (including an adorable half finished 15th century sketch of French birds.)

Cennino says

Get it from someone who is a good goldbeater; and examine the gold; and if you find it rippling and matt, like goat parchment, then consider it good.

The tone is good and flows well without being too dry.The book is less than 70 pages so it can’t go into great depth about the subject matter, but it does present a good (and well researched) broad brush on the subject matter.

I would recommend this book for anyone getting started in making parchment, ink or looking at getting into illumination. It’s a good history of, and has some information about how to do it, but it is definitely not a “how to”.

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[tabs] [tab title=”Publishers Blurb”] Illuminated manuscripts survive in great numbers from the Middle Ages. They are often beautifully preserved, enabling us to appreciate the skilled design and craftsmanship of the people who created them. Christopher de Hamel describes each stage of production from the preparation of the vellum, pens, paints and inks to the writing of the scripts and the final decoration and illumination of the book. He then examines the role of the stationer or bookshop in co-ordinating book production and describes the supply of exemplars and the accuracy of texts. He follows the careers of a number of specific scribes and illuminators who emerge not as anonymous monks but as identifiable professional lay artisans. He also looks at those who bought the completed books, why they did so, and how much they paid.His survey ranges from the eleventh century through the golden age of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries to the luxurious manuscripts existing at the invention of printing. [/tab] [/tabs]

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Amsterdam Ceramics : A City’s History and an Archaeological Ceramics Catalogue 1175-2011 – Review

Alex the Potter of Flaming Gargoyles says “It’s great!”

Amsterdam Ceramics provides a look at the ceramic finds in Amsterdam over the past 900 years. It’s organised by time period and each piece has a brief description of what the item is and the size. Each chapter has a brief intro with some other (non ceramic) archeological finds. (Iron handsaw! Finally we find someone who has the evidence!)

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide[tabs] [tab title=”Publishers Blurb”] Amsterdam Ceramics explores nine centuries of urban history and archaeological ceramics from the city of Amsterdam. A total of 1247 archaeological ceramic items are presented in a catalogue which is chronologically subdivided into nine chapters covering the period 1175-2011, and offers a representative selection of finds from over 200 excavation sites. In introductory chapters to each chronological period the finds are set alongside the changing topography of the city. [/tab] [/tabs]

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Two books about Monsters in Medieval Manuscripts

Monsters are a common theme in Medieval times, and show up frequently in the marginalia of the manuscripts. So here are two books that are about the monsters.

Medieval Monsters
By Damien Kempf & Maria L. Gilbert

Medieval Monsters has a brief description of what the monster was and gives an example of a medieval text in which the creature is described. It is a very much imaged based with the text taking up only a small part of the page (if at all).

The siren is a monster of strange fashion, for from the waste up, it is the most beautiful thing in the world, formed in the shape of a women. The rest of the body is like a fish or a bird. She sings so sweetly and beautifully that once sailors hear her song, they cannot resist going towards her. Entranced by the music, they fall asleep in their boat, and are killed by the siren before they can utter a cry.

The images aren’t referenced within the text, but there is a bibliography explaining which manuscripts were used for the book.

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Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps
by Chet Van Duzer

Unlike Medieval Monsters, Sea Monsters is a lot more text based. Duzer is keen to describe in detail why monsters were on maps (and in some cases, why they were not) and to describe in far greater detail the history of the various monsters. He makes reference also to the various legends about the monsters and to the characteristics they were said to had. Not just monsters such as sirens, dragons and mermaids are described but also what we now know to be ordinary creatures were also sometimes described as monsters.

the arms of the polyp (octopus) are so strong it can pull a sailor form a ship into the sea and then eat him.

I would recommend Medieval Monsters to those interested in the images, and Sea Monsters for those who have more interest in the history, legends and more importantly, 10th-16th century mappaemundi.

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[tabs] [tab title=”Medieval Monsters – Publishers Blurb”] From satyrs and sea creatures to griffins and dragons, monsters lay at the heart of the medieval world. Believed to dwell in exotic, remote areas, these inexplicable parts of God’s creation aroused fear, curiosity and wonder in equal measure. Powerfully captured in the illustrations of manuscripts, such as bestiaries, travel books and devotional works, they continue to delight audiences today with their vitality and humour. Medieval Monsters shows how strange creatures sparked artists’ imaginations to remarkable heights. Half-human hybrids of land and sea mingle with bewitching demons, blemmyae, cyclops and multi-headed beasts of nightmare and comic grotesques. Over 100 wondrous and terrifying images offer a fascinating insight into the medieval mind. [/tab]
[tab title=”Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps – Publishers Blurb”]The sea monsters on medieval and Renaissance maps, whether swimming vigorously, gambolling amid the waves, attacking ships, or simply displaying themselves for our appreciation, are one of the most visually engaging elements on these maps, and yet they have never been carefully studied. The subject is important not only in the history of cartography, art, and zoological illustration, but also in the history of the geography of the ‘marvellous’ and of western conceptions of the ocean. Moreover, the sea monsters depicted on maps can supply important insights into the sources, influences, and methods of the cartographers who drew or painted them. In this highly-illustrated book the author analyzes the most important examples of sea monsters on medieval and Renaissance maps produced in Europe, beginning with the earliest mappaemundi on which they appear in the tenth century and continuing to the end of the sixteenth century.[/tabs]

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Women’s Secrets – Review

Women’s Secrets
A Translation of Pseudo-Albertus Magnus’ De Secretis Mulierum with Commentaries
Helen Rodnite Lemay

This is an English translation of either a late 13th or early 14th century text written by a disciple of Albertus Magnus. It is currently unknown what the disciple’s name actually was (hence Pseudo Albertus Magnus). The text is about human reproduction and demonstrates how 13th and 14th monks saw women (spoiler, it’s not super complimentary….)

This version also has two separate commentaries on the text – one from Lyons 1580 edition of the text and one from Venice 1508, which are interesting reading themselves.

This is NOT a medical text book and is not even representative what people in this time period understood about reproduction. It’s a social cultural explanation of what the (celibate) clergy understood about life and women.

As part of an overall collection on medieval texts, this would be a good book. It was an influential book in it’s time and provides good insight into what they were thinking.

But it’s not a good book for anyone whose just starting out or who is interested in the more practical aspects of medieval medical and health. It’s incredibly dry in places and is pure text. Even the commentaries are quite dry in places so it’s more for people interested in reading academic texts.

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Dress Accessories 1150-1450 – Review

Dress Accessories 1150-1450
Geoff Egan
Fran?es Pritchard

Dress Accessories is one of the Museum of London Collections. And like all MoL books, it is faaaaaboulous.

I mean, the text is dry, this is very much an academic book. But for proper details regarding the found artifacts, with proper dates and context for the finds, MoL does it best.

Dress Accessories is about the accessories which people worn upon their persons. It contains finds found in London (and everything is English because it’s Museum of London so no need to worry about, would my persona have this) and this includes
girdles, buckles, strap ends (for belts), mounts, brooches, buttons, lace chapes, hair accessories, pins, beads, chains, pendants, finger rings, bells, purses, cased mirrors, combs, cosmetic sets, and needle cases.

Because it’s an academic text, each illustration of the finds has a scale on the page, which is very handy for anyone who intends to make the items discovered.

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Featured Product – Carved Lady with Hawke Knife

Carved Lady with Hawke is one of Adam McKay’s finer pieces of work.?Carved in the round, it portrays a young lady with a tame bird of prey. The form is modelled from a popular theme found across Europe and Scandinavia from c. 1200-1400 of young women with birds, dogs and musical instruments. Because extant examples are invariably from ivory, this reproduction is olive wood;?a fine carving wood and fitting substitute.

Beyond the sculpted handle, this is a fully functional carving knife, with a queen ebony bolster and high carbon tool steel blade. High carbon steels take and retain a razor edge, should you decide to put this artwork into service.

The accompanying vegetable tan leather?sheath is a suitable match for the carved handle. It?has been molded directly to the knife, hand stitched and decorated with hand-tooled panels, and finished with a beeswax polish for sheen and durability. The decoration is based on examples in the Museum of London.

More examples of carved handles can be seen at?Gothic Ivories Projects

Carved Lady with Hawke

While this knife is a unique work, Adam can be commissioned for similar knives via Mainly Medieval.