New Medieval Books: From Manuscripts to Silk
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April 19, 2022

New Medieval Books: From Manuscripts to Silk

Five new books about the Middle Ages, including a new biography of Christine de Pizan.

Christine de Pizan: Life, Work, Legacy

By Charlotte Cooper-Davis

Reaktion Books
ISBN: 9781789144420

Excerpt: In 1368, when Christine de Pizan, who was then around four years old, arrived in Paris from Venice, the French royal court that received her was itself undergoing renewal. At thirty years old and having only succeeded to the throne four years earlier, Charles V was a young king. His wife, Johanna of Bourbon, was expecting her first child, the future Charles VI> As for Paris, the city was a thriving cultural centre and thanks to her father’s position as court astrologer, Christine was installed in its heart from the moment she set foot in the city. It was in Paris and at court that she would spend the next fifty years of her life. As a courtier, Christine was afforded a privileged insight into the various cultural and political phenomena of the time. While her situation made the practicalities of becoming a writer more accessible, the political climate provided plentiful material for her writings.

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The Development of Education in Medieval Iceland

By Ryder Patzuk-Russell

De Gruyter
ISBN: 978-1-5015-1418-0

Excerpt: Even by medieval European standards, Iceland had distinctive conditions under which educational practices operated. It was highly decentralized, with a scattered population that was entirely rural. Nothing in Iceland resembled a city, or even a town. Teaching took place in schools run by cathedrals or monasteries, but these were very small communities of learning, and located on isolated farmsteads. Many students learned at home from parents or foster-parents, or were apprenticed to a priest, who might have been training his replacement, and professional teachers were confined to cathedrals or monasteries.

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The Verge: Reformation, Renaissance and Forty Years that Shook the World, 1490-1530

By Patrick Wyman

Grand Central Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-5837-0118-8

Excerpt: The forty-year period on which this book focuses, from 1490 to 1530, saw greater and greater influxes of capital through this framework of economic institutions. Any one of these processes was a major development in its own right: Scholars have spent decades, centuries even, writing and arguing about them. There are good reasons for this. The emergence of the printing press, for example, can best be understood as a full-blown revolution in information distribution. The cobbling together of a truly global world for the first time in human history included the Americas was not a minor blip. All of these processes collided in the short decades on either side of 1500. That was not a coincidence; the availability of capital had supercharged all of them.

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The Perceptions of Medieval Manuscripts: The Phenomenal Book

By Elaine Treharne

Oxford University Press
ISBN: 978-0-19-284381-4

Excerpt: When I look at a physical manuscript book, I can quickly obtain some understanding of what I am seeing from my perspective and I can guess at the extent or the weight or the materials based on my acquired knowledge. But to gain the fullest understanding of the book I need to see it in its entirety – immanently and from all angles open to me. I need to access the physical manuscript using all of my senses, including turning the folios to move through the book; holding the book with my hands, or having it open on my lap; turning the book to look at images; or, in the Special Collections room of the library, standing up to look at the spine, or twisting to get a better look at a small detail because conservation regulations mean I cannot pick the book up. Perceptions of Medieval Manuscripts contributes to knowledge by asking that we re-see the book with an eye to this wholeness, looking at the book in the various contexts of production and use, and thereby providing fresh perspectives on manuscripts through time.

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Silk: The Thread that Tied the World

By Anthony Burton

Pen and Sword Books
ISBN: 978 1 52678 092 8

Excerpt: On my desk in front of me is a little white cylinder, approximately 10cm long with rounded ends. It looks rather like a large capsule from a pharmacy, except that the case ‘instead of being smooth’ is slightly woolly to the touch. Given the title of this book, readers will probably have guessed that this is the cocoon of the domestic silk moth, Bombyx mori, a close relation to the wild silk moth, Bombyx mandarina. The cocoon is just one stage in the life of this rather dull looking creature.

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