New medieval books: from manuscripts to silk

Five new books on the Middle Ages, including a new biography by Christine de Pizan.

Christine de Pizan: life, work, legacy

By Charlotte Cooper-Davis

reaction books
ISBN: 9781789144420

Extract: In 1368, when Christine de Pizan, then about four years old, arrived in Paris from Venice, the French royal court which welcomed her was itself in the process of being renewed. At thirty and having only acceded to the throne four years earlier, Charles V is a young king. His wife, Johanna de Bourbon, was expecting her first child, the future Charles VI> As for Paris, the city was a thriving cultural center and thanks to her father’s position as court astrologer, Christine settled in its heart from its installation 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 had a privileged insight into the various cultural and political phenomena of the time. While his situation made the practicalities of becoming a writer more accessible, the political climate provided abundant material for his writings.

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The development of education in medieval Iceland

By Ryder Patzuk-Russell

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

Excerpt: Even by medieval European standards, Iceland had particular conditions under which educational practices operated. It was highly decentralized, with a dispersed, entirely rural population. Nothing in Iceland looked like a city, or even a village. Teaching took place in schools run by cathedrals or monasteries, but these were very small learning communities and located on isolated farms. Many students learned at home from parents or foster parents, or were apprenticed to a priest, who could have trained 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 Editions
ISBN: 978-1-5837-0118-8

Excerpt: The forty-year period on which this book focuses, from 1490 to 1530, saw increasingly large inflows of capital through this framework of economic institutions. Each of these processes was a major development in itself: researchers have spent decades, if not centuries, writing and debating about them. There are good reasons for that. The emergence of the printing press, for example, can be understood as a real revolution in the distribution of information. DIYing a truly global world for the first time in human history that included the Americas was no minor accident. All of these processes collided in the short decades either side of 1500. This was no coincidence; the availability of capital had supercharged them all.

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Perceptions of Medieval Manuscripts: The Phenomenal Book

By Elaine Treharne

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

Excerpt: When looking at a physical manuscript book, I can quickly gain some understanding of what I see from my perspective and can guess 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 every angle available to me. I need to access the physical manuscript using all of my senses, including turning the folios to move around the book; holding the book with my hands, or having it open on my lap; turn the book to view images; or, in the library’s special collections room, standing up to look at the spine, or twisting to get a better view of a small detail because curation rules prevent me from taking the book. Perceptions of medieval manuscripts contributes to knowledge by asking to review the book with an eye on this completeness, by looking at the book in the different contexts of production and use, and thus offering new perspectives on manuscripts over time.

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Silk: the thread that united the world

By Anthony Burton

pen and sword books
ISBN: 978 1 52678 092 8

Extract: On my desk in front of me is a small white cylinder about 10 cm long with rounded ends. It looks more like a big drugstore capsule, 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 it is the cocoon of the house moth, Bombyx moriclose relative of the wild silkworm, Tangerine Bombyx. The cocoon is only one stage in the life of this rather dull creature.

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