Wanderings into the Long Ago

My brain is still fried. Now we’re starting to plan a big move. As in moving all our stuff, two little kids, and two old cranky cats about 2,200 miles away. And finding a place to live, and a school for the kids, and, and. . . .

So, to take my mind off that and all the work piling up that I’m not sure I can get done between packing and traveling, I’ve been web surfing, of course.

Now, Dr. Nokes and Mr. Pyrdum have been entertaining me recently with their humorous (and I don’t mean the Four Humors) medieval bloggery. And of course my old SCA friends and their English country dancing. Somehow the other day I was thinking of all this, and remembering several mentions of the Luttrell Psalter. (Probably at least one from Mr. Pyrdum’s wonderful series, Mmm . . . Marginalia.)

This is an illuminated book of Psalms from 14th-century England. Aside from its overall beauty, it is remarkable for its marginalia: little paintings in all the margins, only some of which seem to relate to the text at hand.

I love this book. It’s like all of my little hobbies and interests got wrapped up in vellum.

First it lulls us into complacency with how people lived:*

Plowing with oxen

Roasting some dinner

Feasting on the dinner**

Stealing some cherries (must remove shoes to climb trees!)

Then we might notice some beautiful renderings of animals:

Proto-Flopsy Bunnies

Huginn and Muninn?***

My, it’s crowded in here. But at least there are dancing ladies to entertain us. Baaa!

No fleas on me!

Proto-Jemima Puddleduck

And then, things start to get a little bit silly:

I am sick (bang!) to death (oof!) of this distaff (ouch!) and spindle! Invent the Great Wheel (aagh!) already!

Early multitasking. Unlike cats, the chickens won’t play with your yarn while you’re spinning in the farmyard, evidently.

Even during the busy harvest season, sometimes you just gotta get funky!

And yet more multitasking.

And then, just when we think those medieval monkish scribe types were just fooling around a little, there are the . . . oddities:

It’s a snail! It’s a bird! I must be high!

All this, and balding too?

You’d be grumpy too if you had a beak like that AND a tentacle on your head.

He’s got a head at both ends, cloven feet, and a swirly skirt. And he’s a damn fine musician!

For a closer look at more amazing images from this book, look here and click on “Turning the Pages” in the right sidebar.

* * * * *

*The description on the British Library site points out that the images are probably idealized in favor of Lord Luttrell’s worldview. Hence, all the happy peasants.

**Lord Luttrell himself, and family. Note the handy earflaps on his hat! Those medieval nobles were nothing if not practical.

***Extra points if you knew who they were before clicking the link.

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13 Comments

Filed under art, Books, Silliness and Mayhem

13 responses to “Wanderings into the Long Ago

  1. I loved looking at these illustrations! Thanks for sharing them here. That’s pretty exciting about your big upcoming move. I wish you all the best throughout these next busy weeks as you prepare to say goodbye to your current home and community.

  2. These are hilarious. I loved the medieval multi-tasking. Inspiring, no?

  3. That was really fun. Good luck getting to move. Are you going to California?

  4. HA! I got the extra points:-p. I love the woman gettin’ jiggy wit’ it out in the field. I, too, find myself stopping for a little Hammer Time on harvest day. I was just wondering why the woman feeding her chickens was eying that much larger bird so apprehensively. Luckily she has that spindle in her hand to poke him with if it gets up to mischief. I usually just carry a broom around the farm (the roosters can get a bit cheeky now and then).

    Nothing like a little good humored procrastination to keep your mind off what truly needs to be done. Have a good day!

  5. Eve

    Ha ha HA! Great post: the images are fascinating and (mostly) beautiful; and your comments are priceless!

    “You’d be grumpy too if you had a beak like that AND a tentacle on your head.”

    For sure!

  6. I also enjoyed this post immensely. Mostly I came over here to let you know that I have given you a blog award. You can view it and the “rules” over at my place.

  7. I’m glad you all liked this!

    We’re moving to Pocatello, Idaho. Papa got a new job. We’re excited, and very stressed out 🙂

    LisaAnne: Hammer time on harvest day? HAHAHA!

    HMH: Why, thank you. I’ll go check that out.

  8. Holy Smoke! A move! aaah, I have been there too many times to count. Think positive, a move really is the world’s way of making us assess our needs and priorities, and of helping us find new Doors.

    Best of luck.

  9. Yes, and doesn’t she seem much more calm and happy? 🙂

  10. Have you heard about the Luttrell Psalter film project, by the way?

    (If that embedding didn’t work, just go to http://youtube.com/watch?v=z_SeykG9ah4 for that trailer.)

  11. I did come across that, while searching around online for this post. I didn’t look at the videos, though, just the web site. Cool stuff!

    The nice thing is that there is continuity: everyone is from the same culture and period. I like the SCA, but sometimes I think it would be fun to just have 13th-century English garb all together, or whatever you chose. Some internal consistency–I guess it would feel more “authentic” in some way. Or maybe so that I could really go deeper into one thing instead of being attracted by all the cool shiny stuff over 1000 years 🙂

    And of course it helps that in this video they have the wonderful natural scenery, instead of a fluorescent-lighted church hall or Boy Scout campground 🙂

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