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May 2, 2009 11:52 AM   Subscribe

The Luttrell Psalter is the definitive example of Marginalia; the term used to describe drawings and flourishes in medieval illuminated manuscripts. Explore pages similar to this and this up close. Here is a medieval blog which has more Marginalia, both amusing and medievally ribauld or both. For serious scholars Marginalia is the website of the Medieval Reading Group at the University of Cambridge which has a myriad of online resources.
posted by adamvasco (11 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
I love the freedom middle ages artists like this seemed to have in representing animals and creatures they'd maybe only heard of, without the constant niggling over details we have here in the information age.

Sure the bird has a huge head and human feet! Of course all thirty soldiers were facing in the exact same direction! Yeah the tree turns into an ornate letter "B"!

Beautiful stuff.
posted by chronkite at 12:55 PM on May 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

cool stuff...a lot of this started from the process of making 'demons'...see, back in the day, when all this copying was done by hand, they didn't have erasers, so instead of trying to use a knife to scratch off the ink, possibly damaging the page, they'd simply try to transform any accidental ink blots into some sort of creature, making the most out of an unfortunate situation. since most ink blots and smudges are irregular, these creatures would usually be pretty weird. there's a couple of great examples in the treasury at the cloisters in new york city...check 'em out if u get a chance. i found this prayer book on their site, which has lots of great marginalia, but i coudn't find a good example of a 'demon' (they usually have a dark center ;)
posted by sexyrobot at 1:11 PM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

(somewhat related) A few years ago I did the design for a permanent exhibition of Leonardo studies on optics in his native town museum (in Vinci, near Florence), so I had the opportunity to work with high resolution scans from several of his codexes, among which the Atlanticum. Besides the sheer genius, the unrelated, minuscule sketches of faces, figurines and machinery which populated all of the pages were something unique.
posted by _dario at 1:23 PM on May 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Most excellent post, adamvasco - thanks!
posted by madamjujujive at 1:42 PM on May 2, 2009

Great stuff! This boggles my mind (and if it showed up in, say, a kid's book today would lead to lawsuits and tears). Thanks for the post!
posted by languagehat at 2:35 PM on May 2, 2009

Got Medieval is cracking me up. Personal ads! And The Psalter is truly lovely, but that Turning the Page, Shockwave crap is like trying to read a book in your lap with the Hubble Telescope. You hear me, Birtish Liberry?
posted by steef at 2:50 PM on May 2, 2009

awesome post!! I just bookmarked all of this (I looooooove illuminated manuscripts more thank life itself!) and those personal ads are the bomb :)
posted by supermedusa at 8:06 PM on May 2, 2009

Great post. Thanks!
posted by paperpete at 2:46 AM on May 3, 2009

My favorite bit of marginalia is the poem Pangur Ban, also made into a song by Samuel Barber.
posted by Snyder at 5:42 AM on May 3, 2009

Thanks for posting this adam, I'll tell them you like the site :-)
posted by honest knave at 5:37 AM on May 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Very cool.

What caught my eye was the Luttrell name. I'm a Luttrell on my mother's side, and it wasn't until a year or so ago that I began to learn the fantastic story that goes with it (none of my relatives knew, either).

Come to find out, I'm a Plantagenet, too!
posted by cptnrandy at 7:08 AM on May 4, 2009

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