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Monsters and Grotesques in Medieval Manuscripts (Medieval Life in Manuscripts) Paperback – 14 Sep 2002


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Product details

  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • Publisher: University of Toronto Press (14 Sept. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802085121
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802085122
  • Product Dimensions: 17.7 x 0.6 x 24.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 328,410 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Alixe Bovey is Curator for the Survey of Illuminated Manuscripts at the British Library.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Stuart Davidson on 28 Aug. 2002
Format: Paperback
Welcome to the wonderful world of Dragons, Griffins & Sciopods, with Alixe Bovey's fascinating guide to the extraordinary creatures that inhabit the manuscripts of the Medieval age.
From the earnest, bearded beast on the cover, tightly clutching his bow & staff, I was drawn into a world that I never knew existed - it's amazing what an Amazon word search can come up with! Dr Bovey blows away the dust from these ancient texts & shows us how the monks who spent months carefully copying passages from the bible, would also include a menagerie of bizarre beasts within those texts; sometimes featured in graphic depictions of the Devil, consuming lost souls; at other times, just playful little creatures, with one leg & a giant bottom, lurking & pulling faces in the margins.
The beasts were often a dire warning of what happened to sinners; in fact one devilish dragon from an 11th century manuscript, was so frightening that a reader from a bygone age, has left small, but distinct scratch marks on the picture, either through superstition or fear.
The book traces many of the creatures from their Pre-Christian origins into the texts of Christian Europe. One thousand year-old bestiaries retold stories of Alexander the Great, using raw meat to entice griffins to carry him into the sky & Pliny's tales of panotii; gentle giants with huge ears they used as pillows & blankets!
Beautifully illustrated, this book is highly readable; Dr Bovey's huge affection for the beasts & grotesques, is clear. She also brings the creatures bang up to date with references to Harry Potter & the Alien films.
This book took me on a fascinating trip into a previously unknown world, with Dr Bovey a very able David Attenborough! I can't wait for my next moment of road rage, when I can wind down my window & yell at the offending driver; "You Blemmyae!"!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
An easy read 30 Jan. 2009
By JP - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The first sentence begins "A tiny one-footed beast, not much taller than one of the letters in the script above its head, lies on its back ...". The adjacent reproduction, however, shows the one-footed creature, several times larger than the script above its head, sitting on its backside, not lying on its back. So, within the first 25 words the author provides two inaccuracies, leading the reader to wonder if anything else in the book will be reliable. The mis-transcription (p. 28) of the rubric in the full-page frontispiece and fig. 25 is just one more obvious example of such carelessness.

If you want to read a short text with variety of color pictures, with rather a lot of descriptive text, but not much fact or interpretation, you will probably enjoy this slim picture-book. If you want something a bit more challenging, you probably will not. It is presumably not the fault of the author that many of the reproductions are very poor quality (e.g. figs. 5, 6, 8, etc.)
Monsters in High Places 15 Mar. 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Some of the monsters that medieval artists drew along the edges of manuscript pages were based on real animals, such as lions and whales. But many were made up from reading ancient and biblical writings. Respected writers, such as Aristotle, Ctesias, Herodotus and Homer in Greek, and Pliny the Elder and Solinus in Latin, saw foreign lands, forests and wildernesses as dangerous places. They thought of people, in such faraway lands as Ethiopia and India, either as deformed creatures looking somewhat human or as monsters.
Christianity spread by letting be whatever parts of other cultures didn't get in the way of what Christians believed. So St Augustine of Hippo accepted these stories. But he saw these monsters as having souls in need of being saved.
But it didn't matter if it was monks or, later on, professionals outside the church who copied and did the artwork. Artists and writers, particularly in medieval England, France and the Netherlands, were just as accepting as those who had gone before. The Universal History and The Wonders of the East on the one hand, and the Byzantine and Tiberius psalters on the other, were all known for monsters.
And monstrously ugly on the outside meant bad on the inside. For the final battle in the biblical book of the Apocalypse was between St Michael's good army of beautiful angels and Satan's bad of ugly dragons and monsters. Readers and viewers in the Middle Ages felt that they had to take sides in this fight. So they often scratched, slashed or smudged the faces of those drawn as doing evil in medieval manuscripts.
Joining monsters at the end of the 15th century were grotesques, as having parts from animals, humans and plants. They were based on cave drawings of mythical monsters. This art was in a palace of Emperor Nero that was rediscovered in 1488. So, for example, grotesques showed up on the edges of pages in the Book of Hours for Bonaparte Ghislieri, a wealthy resident of Bologna.
Author Alixe Bovey is an excellent starting point. Her user-friendly writing gives perfect examples of the MONSTERS AND GROTESQUES IN MEDIEVAL MANUSCRIPTS. Her book works well with Janetta Rebold Benton's HOLY TERRORS and Jennifer Dussling's GARGOYLES. She paves the way for John Block Friedman's THE MONSTROUS RACES IN MEDIEVAL ART AND THOUGHT and A G Smith's GARGOYLES AND MEDIEVAL MONSTERS, both harder to start with first.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Excellent 12 Jun. 2009
By Christopher James - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
An excellent introduction to the subject matter. After reading, one is eager to learn more. Fascinating topic.
2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Ils sauvent les monstres et les grotesques, n'est-ce pas? 14 Jan. 2004
By Reader from Yellow River - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Les monstres enlumines dans les manuscrits medievaux venaient des ecrits anciens, de l'imagination, et du royaume animal, tels que des baleines et des lions. Les residents des pays lointains, des incultes, et des forets se trouvaient difformes et monstrueux dans les ecrits les plus estimes d'Aristote, Ctesias, Herodotus, Homere, Plinius pere, et Solinus. Le christianisme attirait des convertis par ne pas s'opposer aux croyances culturelles qui n'etaient pas ouvertement antichretiennes. Alors des monstres, avec des ames a sauver, s'enluminaient L'univers et Les merveilles de l'est, tous les deux par des nonreligieux, autant que des psautiers de Byzantium et de Tiberias, tous les deux par des religieux. Les grotesques se dessinaient des le 15eme siecle, pendant lequel on redecouvrait le palais ou l'empereur Neron a fait peindre, sur des muraux des grottes, des etres avec des membres des animaux, des humains, et des plantes. Ainsi les grotesques, avec des ames a sauver, s'enluminaient-ils les images des pages du Livre des heures destine au richissime Bonaparte Ghislieri de Bologne.
1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Ils sauvent les monstres et les grotesques, n'est-ce pas? 14 Jan. 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Les monstres enlumines dans les manuscrits medievaux venaient des ecrits anciens, de l'imagination, et du royaume animal, tels que des baleines et des lions. Les residents des pays lointains, des incultes, et des forets se trouvaient difformes et monstrueux dans les ecrits les plus estimes d'Aristote, Ctesias, Herodotus, Homere, Plinius pere, et Solinus. Le christianisme attirait des convertis par ne pas s'opposer aux croyances culturelles qui n'etaient pas ouvertement antichretiennes. Alors des monstres, avec des ames a sauver, s'enluminaient L'univers et Les merveilles de l'est, tous les deux par des nonreligieux, autant que des psautiers de Byzantium et de Tiberias, tous les deux par des religieux. Les grotesques se dessinaient des le 15eme siecle, pendant lequel on redecouvrait le palais ou l'empereur Neron a fait peindre, sur des muraux des grottes, des etres avec des membres des animaux, des humains, et des plantes. Ainsi les grotesques, avec des ames a sauver, s'enluminaient-ils les images des pages du Livre des heures destine au richissime Bonaparte Ghislieri de Bologne.
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