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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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Images in the Margins – Review

Images in the Margins by Margot Mcilwain Nishimura

This is a cute little book about the marginalia often shown in medieval manuscript. It talks about th history of marginalia and how it started in the large capital letters of earlier manuscripts.

Images in the Margins does a good job of detailing which manuscript in particular the images come form so it’s possible to look up digital copies of the text later. There’s also brief history notes alongside the marginalia, talking about the importance of hunting for instance alongside hunting marginalia.

Marginalia often serve as a good insight into the mindsets of the people copying the manuscript. It also often gives us clues into the more common aspects which aren’t always depicted in other places, such as the image of the swimmers.

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[tabs] [tab title=”Publishers Blurb”] “Images in the Margins” is the third in the popular Medieval Imagination series of small, affordable books drawing on manuscript illumination in the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum and the British Library. Each volume focuses on a particular theme and provides an accessible, delightful introduction to the imagination of the medieval world. An astonishing mix of mundane, playful, absurd, and monstrous beings are found in the borders of English, French, and Italian manuscripts from the Gothic era. Unpredictable, topical, often irreverent, like the “New Yorker” cartoons of today, marginalia images drawn in the margins of manuscripts were a source of satire, serious social observation, and amusement for medieval readers. Through enlarged, full-color details and a lively narrative, this volume brings these intimately scaled, fascinating images to a wider audience. [/tab] [/tabs]

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Review – In Service to the Duke

In Service of the Duke

by?Christian Henry Tobler

 

To state the obvious, this is a magnificent facsimile of a German 15th Century fighting treatise (with translation). It?s visually and texturally stunning. For anyone with an interest in understanding the fighting techniques of this period, I?m assured it?s a must have. But – I?m definitely not a fighter and not qualified to discuss its finer points regards technique; others far better qualified will handle that later.

So why am I doing a review? – because this tome also contains a wealth of information on other aspects of medieval life. Everything from clothing to horse accessories, head wear, different ways hose and purpoints can be joined together, seam lines for the middle layers of clothes, men?s and ladies underwear? Wait, Ladies? Yes, the tome also contains a section on legal resolutions for common problems such as domestic disputes.

Seriously, this book has a wider audience than the original author could ever have imagined. Plain and simple, this is a beautiful book with a great deal of information for all aspects of 15th Century living history.

 

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Hildegard Von Bingen’s Physica – Review

Hildegard Von Bingen’s Physica
Translated from the Latin by Priscialla Throop.

It can be hard, as a re-enactor interested in cosmetics and herbal medicine to find texts on how people in past healed themselves and adorned themselves with cosmetics. We know that they did. Wanting to appear beautiful is an old human concept. But some traditions appear to have been verbal, passed down in stories from parent to child. And more are written either in the medieval language or in Latin – even then known as the scientific language.

Hildegard Von Bingen’s Physica, is one written in Latin. It was written in the 15th Century and describes in great detail what plants were good for healing. There’s not much actual cosmetic use within the book, it’s about healing. While the plants uses could still be applied today, it also uses the medieval concept of the humors in the description (For instance, Calendular is referred to as cold and moist. It’s used as a way to heal scabies and calendular today is known for it’s properties in healing skin issues.)We sell a calendula ointment, based on a different medieval text, that’s quite good for skin issues. Calendula Ointment

For anyone interested in Medieval herbs and healing, this is a must have book to add to the collection.

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[tabs] [tab title=”Publishers Blurb”] Saint, mystic, healer, visionary, fighter, Hildegard von Bingen stands as one of the great figures in the history of women in me. At a time when few women could write and most were denied a formal education, Hildegard von Bingen became a legendary healer, visionary, musician, artist, poet, and saint. Her works include twenty-seven symphonic compositions; Scivias, a compilation of her visions; and her two major medical works, Causae et Curae, a medical compendium, and Physica, published here in English in its entirety for the first time. Physicahas a strong affinity with the Eastern medical approaches gaining great respect today. The modern reader interested in natural healing will recognize the enormous truth in the theories of this 12th-century physician, which remind us that our cures for illness depend on our natural world and our place in it. [/tab] [/tabs]

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A Proper Newe Booke of Cookery – Review

A Proper Newe Booke of Cookery; Margaret Parker’s Cookery Book

Edited by Anne Ahmed

 

This facsimile is based on the Corpus Christi copy of “A Proper Newe Booke of Cookery”, which was lost for several hundred years before being found again. It’s in the best condition of all the copies that still exist and the font of the facsimile is clear and easy to read. And if it wasn’t, the translation by Catherine Hall on the left is definitely easy enough to read.

The redactions of the recipes at the end of the book are a little conservative. Good recipes which would work and easy enough for a beginning cook to follow. But based on personal experience with medieval dishes, it is my opinion that they could be more than this redaction allows for.

But it is a good book for anyone interested in 16th century cooking, which shows how they thought of their food and how it should be prepared. Unlike other books, there is no talk of other things around food, such as the serving hall, but it does give the “order of meats” and how they should be served which is good tips for anyone interested in doing a period banquet.

A Proper Newe Booke of Cokerye