Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam - Illustrated by Willy Pogany
Funny medieval doodles
With their wild hair and frantic gaze, these doodled men look like fools. They are waving as if to seek contact with the reader. The thing is, the reader is busy singing and listening to a sermon. That is because these 800-year-old images are found in a Missal, a book used during Holy Mass. What a shock it must have been for the serious user of the book, to flip the page and suddenly find yourself face to face with these funny creatures. And what a great contrast: a serious book with silly drawings.
Pic: Paris, Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, MS 95 (Missal, 12th century). More about the manuscript here.
The Codex Gigas. The largest medieval manuscript in existence, created by a single scribe in the early 13th century. Sometimes called “The Devil’s Bible” because of a large unexplained picture of him. Lavishly illustrated. Just the writing alone, not counting the illustrations, would have taken five years of constant writing to complete
Front doublure (1897). Binder - M. Marius Michel (1846-1925).
NYPL Digital Gallery
The “Codex Rotundus” owes its name to its round shape. It is a small book of hours (9 cm diameter) made in Bruges in 1480. Thumbnails are most likely from the workshop of Dutchman Willem Date illuminator (active from 1450 to 1482). (Hildesheim Cathedral Library, Germany)
"Fatal Fragrance" by D.M. Locke. Published by Cassell in hardback in 1950. Dust wrapper art by Reginald Heade
Books on the go
There is nothing like reading outside. While we share this sentiment with medieval readers, back then you couldn’t just bring any book with you. Most of them had bindings with oak boards and were as big as modern magazines. As a result, even regular-size books weighed as much as a bag of potatoes. Pre-modern binders, clever lads, came up with different solutions to carry a book on your body. The most common one was to fit it with a leather wrapper that included a knot, which you could stick under your belt (Pic 3). Smaller and lighter objects, like a thin almanac (pic 4) or a prayerbook, such as the one owned by Anne Boleyn (Pic 1), could simply be tied to the belt with a string. The most elegant solution, however, is shown off by the red Arabic manuscript, which is to fit the book in a neat pouch, carried in your hand (Pic 2). With these techniques it was not so much an issue how to take a book with you, but through what means to do so. Off you go!
Pics and additional information - Pic 1 (top): London, British Library, Stowe MS 956, copied c. 1540 (more here); Pic 2 (red pouch): Arabic manuscript of c. 1650, Royal Library Stockholm (more here); Pic 3 (knot): New Haven, Beinecke Library, MS 84, copied in England, 15th century (more here); Pic 4 (cloth binding): recently purchased by the Wellcome Library in London (more here). More on such “girdle books” here and here.
Some images from the Erlangen-Nürnberg University Library that we added to the DMMmaps.
Our post, links and details: http://j.mp/1lYij0z
Medieval skull clasp
You are looking at a tiny book, no larger than an iPhone. Made c. 1500, it was designed for the road: it concerns a portable Book of Hours (or prayer book) that was carried around by a pilgrim on his religious pilgrimage. The object’s size is, of course, not what makes this medieval manuscript stand out. That honour must go to the clasp that holds the book closed, which is decorated with a skull carved out of bone. The theme of this decoration is very fitting for a pilgrim seeking redemption, finding his way along the dusty roads of medieval Europe. Every time he sat down to open his book he was confronted with his future, which looked rather grim: remember you will die one day. Better smarten up and keep on going. And that is what he did.
Pic: Stockholm, National Library of Sweden, MS A 233 (book and binding c. 1500). More images here, but not all information provided there is correct. This article should be taken as a source for further information.
Castro, Joannes à, active 1686-1690. De on-ghemaskerde liefde des hemmels, 1686.
Houghton Library, Harvard University
A pierced silver binding (probably late 18th century) with chased medallions depicting the Nativity and the Ascension on front and back covers; silver clasps.