Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Drool book....

Sorry about the date code... new thing on the camera & haven't asked son number two how to get rid of it (don't you LOVE eight year olds who know more about technology than you do? )

I call this a drool book because it covers a subject that I could drool over for ages. The book doesn't look that unusual from the photo, but it IS. This book, published as part of one of the in-depth books on the history of Art by University of California Berkeley Press covers a very specific subject -- Medieval Chronicles written about and for Royal patrons. The manuscript (which was copied and recopied and fiddled with from 1274-1422) includes numerous lists of blood lines of the Kings of France. In addition it gives ideas on how kings should behave, how their dauphins (heirs) should requite themselves and how the queens should act. There is a great deal of information in the chronicles on all facets of kingship -- and much information on how it changed from king to king depending on their abilities, interests and political structures during each reign.

BUT --

while I LOVE that information (Medieval French is nice -- I happen to adore early English / British royal history & have read up on that when the chance appears), this book specifically details the illuminations (pictures) that accompany the text of these manuscripts & tries to interpret the meanings -- and the changes that were made to different copies through the years.

The thing about manuscripts is that even if the monk who is working on the illustration / illumination or the caligraphic text, is taking the material from a copy in front of him, there is variation -- many of the illustrations change. Either subtly due to different artistic interpretation, or because the patron who ordered the manuscript gave specific information about what was to be illustrated, or because the overseer of the project had specific details he wanted included.

Here's a bit about that process: "Like Thomas of Maubeuge, the designers of these books apparently took the taste of their patrons into account by personalizing both text and pictures. Thus an unedited text describing John of Jerusalem's trip to Rome to ask for papal assistance for the Holy Land was apparently included in the Brussels chronicle to satisfy the requirements of a patron with a particular interest in this incident. Because the pictorial cycles in these manuscripts are as varied as their texts, a comparison of texts and images should cast light on the perceptions of French history by noble audiences in the mid-fourteenth century."

For book dealers who specialize in manuscripts and incunabula (early printed books) (unlike myself) this book is a drool book because it contains detailed collations -- page information on how the books were put together. In what order, what was moved, and how many pages (leaves), etc. were in each copy & how they differ. It's vital information for these dealers to make sure they have complete books & also to find out exactly which copy the manuscript might be.

Cool book. If only I had time to read the whole thing. ...

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