GILDED PAGE: The Secret Lives of Medieval Manuscripts

Book number: 93621 Product format: Hardback Author: MARY WELLESLEY

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Bibliophile price £15.00
Published price $30


The survival of manuscripts is often random. Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales survive in 92 manuscripts because Chaucer was a well-connected diplomat. By contrast, no medieval manuscript survives of Julian of Norwich's Revelations of Divine Love, nowadays considered a great religious classic. Julian was a woman, and her radical theology was sometimes at odds with church teaching. In other chapters, the author discusses the Paston Letters, the Lindisfarne Gospel, the artists of the colourful Winchester Bible, Canterbury Pilgrims, the artist Tamaris pictured at work, the only surviving Beowulf manuscript singed at its edges and other books which have survived fires and floods, the personal prayer book of Henry VIII, and the work of hidden writers such as the Saxon nun Hugeburc, who lived in Germany and wrote the lives of saints Willibald and Wynnebald, coding her name into the text. The world of manuscripts is full of breathtaking, can't-believe-it discoveries, and in this fascinating book the author starts with three manuscript discoveries that not only made headlines but changed our understanding of history. In 1934 a house party in search of ping-pong balls found a cache of old books. Luckily one of the guests was a keeper at the Victoria and Albert Museum with an instinct for a find. In fact it was the lost Book of Margery Kempe, the first autobiographical work in English, from the early 14th century. Kempe had 14 children, suffered from post-natal depression, went abroad on pilgrimages and had visions, all of which she described in colourful style. In the same year there was another astonishing discovery, the original manuscript of Thomas Malory's great Arthurian epic, Le Morte D'Arthur, an exploration of the 15th century culture of chivalry. It also confirmed the identity of the author, which had been contested on the grounds that Malory was something of a career criminal unlikely to have penned the refined classic. In fact he wrote it in prison. The author's third dramatic discovery was made in the 12th century, when the monks of Durham Cathedral opened the coffin of St Cuthbert and found the Cuthbert gospel, the earliest intact European book. Created in the early 8th century, it subsequently travelled round the north of England as the monks of Lindisfarne sought to preserve Cuthbert's remains from the marauding Vikings. 340 pages, gorgeous gleaming-with-gold decoration and colour decoration and capitals in reproductions. Please note contents same as Hidden Hands: The Lives of Manuscripts and Their Makers.

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ISBN 9781541675087

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