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Communal Creativity in the Making of the 'Beowulf' Manuscript

Towards a History of Reception for the Nowell Codex


Simon C. Thomson

In Communal Creativity in the Making of the ‘Beowulf’ Manuscript, Simon Thomson analyses details of scribal activity to tell a story about the project that preserved Beowulf as one of a collective, if error-strewn, endeavour and arguing for a date in Cnut’s reign. He presents evidence for the use of more than three exemplars and at least two artists as well as two scribes, making this an intentional and creative re-presentation uniting literature religious and heroic, in poetry and in prose.

He goes on to set it in the broader context of manuscript production in late Anglo-Saxon England as one example among many of communities using old literature in new ways, and of scribes working together, making mistakes, and learning.

Material Culture and Queenship in 14th-century France

The Testament of Blanche of Navarre (1331-1398)


Marguerite Keane

In Material Culture and Queenship in 14th-century France: The Testament of Blanche of Navarre (1331-1398) Marguerite Keane considers the object collection of the long-lived fourteenth-century French queen Blanche of Navarre, the wife of Philip VI (d. 1350). This queen’s ownership of works of art (books, jewelry, reliquaries, and textiles, among others) and her perceptions of these objects is well -documented because she wrote detailed testaments in 1396 and 1398 in which she described her possessions and who she wished to receive them. Keane connects the patronage of Blanche of Navarre to her interest in her status and reputation as a dowager queen, as well as bringing to life the material, adornment, and devotional interests of a medieval queen and her household.

Religious Orders and Religious Identity Formation, ca. 1420-1620

Discourses and Strategies of Observance and Pastoral Engagement


Edited by Bert Roest and Johanneke Uphoff

This volume deals with the transformative force of Observant reforms during the long fifteenth century, and with the massive literary output by Observant religious, a token of a profound pastoral professionalization that provided religious and lay people alike with encompassing models of religious perfection, as well as with new tools to shape their religious identity. The essays in this work contend that these models and tools had an ongoing effect far into the sixteenth century (on all sides of the emerging confessional divide). At the same time, the controversies surrounding Observant reforms resulted in new sensibilities with regard to religious practices and religious nomenclature, which would fuel many of the early sixteenth-century controversies.
Contributors are Michele Camaioni, Anna Campbell, Fabrizio Conti, Anna Dlabačová, Sylvie Duval, Koen Goudriaan, Emily Michelson, Alison More, Bert Roest, Anne Thayer, Johanneke Uphoff, Alessandro Vanoli, Ludovic Viallet, and Martina Wehrli-Johns.

Imagining the Text

Ekphrasis and Envisioning Courtly Identity in Wirnt von Gravenberg's Wigalois


James H. Brown

In Imagining the Text, James Brown examines ekphrasis – the verbal representation of a visual representation – in Wirnt von Gravenberg’s thirteenth-century Arthurian romance Wigalois, one of the most popular and enduring stories in the Middle High German literary tradition. Through close reading of the text and examining illustrated Wigalois manuscripts, early print editions, and frescoes, Brown explores how ekphrasis structures the narrative, harmonizes potential conflicts in the text, and contributes to the construction of courtly identity. Imagining the Text demonstrates that the vibrant symbiosis of word and image is crucial to the poem’s sustained popularity for more than six hundred years, and contributes to the history of the book and to the study of medieval and modern modes of perception.


Anna Welch

In Liturgy, Books and Franciscan Identity in Medieval Umbria, Anna Welch explores how Franciscan friars engaged with manuscript production networks operating in Umbria in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries to produce the missals essential to their liturgical lives. A micro-history of Franciscan liturgical activity, this study reassesses methodologies pertinent to manuscript studies and reflects on both the construction of communal identity through ritual activity and historiographic trends regarding this process.
Welch focuses on manuscripts decorated by the ateliers of the Maestro di Deruta-Salerno (active c. 1280) and Maestro Venturella di Pietro (active c. 1317), in particular the Codex Sancti Paschalis, a missal now owned by the Australian Province of the Order of Friars Minor.

Discovering the Riches of the Word

Religious Reading in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe


Edited by Sabrina Corbellini, Margriet Hoogvliet and Bart Ramakers

The contributions to Discovering the Riches of the Word. Religious Reading in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe offer an innovative approach to the study of religious reading from a long term and geographically broad perspective, covering the period from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century and with a specific focus on the fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries.
Challenging traditional research paradigms, the contributions argue that religious reading in this “long fifteenth century” should be described in terms of continuity. They make clear that in spite of confessional divides, numerous reading practices continued to exist among medieval and early modern readers, as well as among Catholics and Protestants, and that the two groups in certain cases even shared the same religious texts.

Contributors include: Elise Boillet, Sabrina Corbellini, Suzan Folkerts, Éléonore Fournié, Wim François, Margriet Hoogvliet, Ian Johnson, Hubert Meeus, Matti Peikola, Bart Ramakers, Elisabeth Salter, Lucy Wooding, and Federico Zuliani.

Memory, Family, and Self

Tuscan Family Books and Other European Egodocuments (14th-18th Century)


Giovanni Ciappelli

The family book, a kind of diary written by and about the family for its various members, was established by scholars as a genre in Italy in the 1980s. Although initially regarded as an Italian genre, the family book can also be found in other parts of Europe. Nevertheless, the genre can be traced back to Florence, where it first emerged and consequently flourished with the lavish production of such documents. This abundance springs from the social structure of the city, where such texts were essential for establishing and cultivating the basis for the social promotion of Florentine families. This book presents a reconstruction of the evolution and persistency of Tuscan family books, as well as a study of several aspects of social history, including: reading and private libraries, domestic devotion, and the memory of historical events. Starting with the Renaissance, the investigation then broadens to the 17th-18th centuries and considers other forms of memory, such as private diaries and autobiographies. A final section is dedicated to the issue of memory in the egodocuments of early modern Europe.

This book was translated by Susan Amanda George.


Domenic Leo

The "Vows of the Peacock" - written in 1312 and dedicated to Thibaut de Bar, bishop of Liège - recounts how Alexander the Great comes to the aid of a family of aristocrats threatened by Indians. The poem remained popular throughout the fourteenth century and was soon followed by two sequels. Twenty-six illuminated manuscripts constitute part of a catalogue and concordance of all Peacock manuscripts. One of the most provocative, (PML, MS G24), has twenty-two miniatures which illustrate chivalry and courtly love, as epitomized in the text. An unusually high number of scurrilous marginalia, however, surround them. An interdisciplinary exploration of iconography, reception, image-text-marginalia dynamics, and context reveals their ultimate polysemy as scatological comedians and serious harbingers of sin.

Social Imagery in Middle Low German

Didactical Literature and Metaphorical Representation (1470-1517)


Cordelia Hess and Cordelia Heß

Social imagery during the Late Middle Ages was typically considered to be dominated by the three orders oratores, bellatores, laboratores as the most common way of describing social order, along with body metaphors and comprehensive lists of professions as known from the Danse macabre tradition. None of these actually dominates within the vast genre of lay didactical literature.
This book comprises the first systematic investigation of social imagery from a specific late medieval linguistic context. It methodically catalogues images of the social that were used in a particular cultural/literary sphere, and it separates late medieval efforts at catechization in print from the social and religious ruptures that are conventionally thought to have occurred after 1517. The investigation thus compliments recent scholarship on late medieval vernacular literature in Germany, most of which has concentrated on southern urban centres of production. The author fills a major lacuna in this field by concentrating for the first time on the entire extant corpus of vernacular print production in the northern region dominated by the Hanseatic cities and the Middle Low German dialect.

Wace, The Hagiographical Works

The Conception Nostre Dame and the Lives of St Margaret and St Nicholas. Translated with introduction and notes by Jean Blacker, Glyn S. Burgess, Amy V. Ogden with the original texts included


Jean Blacker, Glyn S. Burgess and Amy Ogden

Best known for his two chronicles, the Roman de Brut and the Roman de Rou, Wace, one of the great pioneers of twelfth-century French writing, is also the author of three hagiographical works: the Conception Nostre Dame and the Lives of St Margaret and St Nicholas. The Conception is the first vernacular work to focus on the life of the Virgin Mary. Emphasising Margaret's concern for women in labour, the Margaret seemingly contributed to the saint's broad popularity. The Nicholas, with its many miracles involving children, equally played a key role in popularising its protagonist's cult. The present volume brings these works together for the first time and provides the original texts, the first translations into English, notes and substantial introductions.