Member Blogs > Books Tell You WhyThe Humorous and Absurd World of Medieval Marginalia

  • Thu, 10 Sep 2015 08:00:00    Permalink

    For most of the Middle Ages, the only way to reproduce a book was to copy it by hand. Copying was solitary, lengthy, and physically taxing work. Scribes worked long hours, in contorted positions, and abided by rigid expectations. At heart, it was a droning process, too, allowing the copier only the ability to transfer the words of another. Consequently, many scribes developed a sense of humor to break up the monotony of their hand-cramping task. It was well-deserved, for without these scribes, we would have lost an unfathomable amount of our artistic and cultural history — from antiquity onward. Luckily, we can find evidence of their playful spirits in the margins of their very manuscripts, where illustrated miniatures and writings reveal the creative personality behind the pen.

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