I’m sitting here listening to Guns N Roses’ album ‘Appetite for Destruction’ on Pandora Radio. Yes, I have eclectic musical tastes–everything from Def Leppard to the Baroque lutenist Robert (Bob) Barto. You could blame these wide-ranging tastes on the facts that I had a mother who had been a concert pianist in her youth, and still played every night after supper, as well as my growing up in the heady 60’s during the British Invasion (of pop and rock music, that is.)
I tried to upload a music file of mine to YouTube, to no avail. I could either get the audio up or the video, but not both. Here’s the silent video file (you have already heard the audio here: More of my music: Traditional folk harp). The video takes you on a shaky three minute mini-tour of one corner of my living room:
So, while I’m listening to ‘Sweet Child of Mine,’ I decided to take a few pics of the books surrounding me on the coffee table and couch, to give you an idea of what I’m reading these days.
The stack on the right of the coffee table contains just a few of the very many books I’m reading in preparation for teaching an SCA class on Eleanor of Aquitaine (Duchess of Aquitaine, Queen of France, and then Queen of England in the 12th century) liege lady of William the Marshal of England, who was, and is, considered to be The Greatest Knight of all times:
The middle stack includes some of the books I’m using for my second year of teaching Women in the Viking Age. The shelf underneath has some of my many birder books, except for the ones specific to Iceland and also to North Atlantic seabirds. Those books reside on the Iceland and Viking shelves in a separate bookcase.
But back to the top of the coffee table: on the left are two very new books. My brother Chris and sister-in-law Missy gave me an Amazon gift card for Christmas and my birthday recently, and I blew it on these two books. 🙂
I highly recommend both these books! ❤ The larger one is Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts: Twelve Journeys into the Medieval World, by Christopher de Hamel. De Hamel is probably the best-known contemporary writer on medieval manuscripts in the world. This book was recommended to me by my close friend, the artist Tim Porges, with whom I went to Grinnell College way back in the day.
Twelve Journeys‘ manuscripts include not only the expected exemplars of books of hours, and The Book of Kells, but also, for example, a manuscript recommending warfare techniques to a liege lord, which turned out to be my favorite of the whole lot. There is also a really nice section on a manuscript of The Hengwrt Chaucer.
One of the features of Twelve Journeys is de Hamel’s recounting of the histories of these manuscripts and their discovery in modern times, as well as his own journeys to see them in the repositories where they currently reside. Kind of a travelogue featuring very very old books and sometimes cranky, but sometimes sweet guardians of Rare Book Rooms in libraries around the world.
The book on top of Twelve Journeys is The Hastings Hours, published by The British Library. It is a reproduction of the Book of Hours written and illuminated around 1480 C.E. by Flemish artisans for William Lord Hastings of England. It contains all the miniatures of the original, reproduced so clearly that you can often see the artists’ brushstrokes. I’ve already spent hours looking at this little tome.
Looking beside me on the couch, I find these books, which I just received in the last two or three days.
The book on the left is for my Women in the Viking Age class. It is by Johanna Katrin Fridriksdottir, entitled Women in Old Norse Literature: Bodies, Words, and Power. I discovered it late in my research a little over a year ago when I was working on a paper comparing two women in the Icelandic family sagas. See Swotting away…
Of course, when you find something late in the course of your research, it always turns out to be something that causes a sea change in your thinking, and in this case it was no different. Fridriksdottir basically analyzes female characters from all the Icelandic sagas in terms of agency, and that analysis threw a new spin on the analysis I was employing in my paper (which, by the way, I never did complete, although I may still do it!).
If you are at all interested in the Sagas and Viking women in them, in particular, and if you have a taste for academic discourse, I recommend Fridriksdottir’s book as one that you cannot overlook.
I was able to borrow the book last year during my research for the paper from The Ohio State University Library, but cannot do so now because I’m not enrolled this semester. So I had to bite the bullet and order it. Last summer it was priced around $75, but now it has gone up to $100. Yikes! 😛 These scholarly books do not come cheap.
To the right of Fridriksdottir’s book is The British Museum’s small coffee table (or couch) book, Viking Poetry of Love and War. I received this enchanting book this weekend from Jen Johnson when we met to go out to dinner after the SCA event, Festival of Maidens. You can see two photos of Jen and hear about the gift and our dinner at Festival of Maidens 2018.
Finally, to the right of those books is the one I splurged on at Maidens, a beautiful 1969 edition of The Tres Riches Heures of Jean, Duke of Berry.
This edition of The Tres Riches Heures includes all the miniatures in full color and to scale, as well as many of the textual pages with their illuminated capitals. Just the heavy weight of each page of this edition is a delight to handle, but when the fine quality of the reproductions is also taken into account, it is almost as if you are there looking over the Limbourg brothers’ shoulders as they created this masterpiece in the early 1400’s.
I found this book on a shelf of other wonderful art history books at Festival of Maidens, in the stall of the North Star Armory, whose Facebook page is at North Star Armory. I had picked out another book of medieval art history published in Germany when I spied this Tres Riches Heures, and then the contest was over.
North Star Armory also had very tempting turtle brooches and trefoil brooches there, and many other things, but as I’ve said before, I am a bookaholic, so it was a book that captured my greatest interest and my purse. 🙂 I repaid them for the richness of their booth by returning with my purple harp and playing the latest trouvere chanson I’m learning, this one from the 1100’s by Blondel de Lisle.