"The Medieval Craft of Memory: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures" is a valuable resource for the independent scholar interested in Medieval thought and mnemonic techniques. As a companion to Mary Carruther's other book "The Book of Memory" it is a welcome complement. It is of especial interest for the partially educated (as most of us are in these academic dark ages) as the selections are translated from Latin. Many of the original works are extremely difficult to find outside specialised libraries, so this book also is a tremendous time-saver. It is particularly useful as source for finding other works, as some of the selections are only partial. Of course, this would necessitate a knowledge of Latin. It would have been nice to have the Latin as well, but one can't have everything.
For those interested in what authors the work selects from, they are as follows: Hugh of St. Victor, Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, Frances Eiximenis, Thomas Bradwardine, John of Metz, Jacobus Publicius, and an anonymous author. The mnemonic device of the Guidonian Hand is also given, but it is an illustration. Each author and selection is introduced with introductions of varying lengths. A general introduction begins the book as a whole, which is frequently useful (it is imperfect, but one can overlook that due to the value of the selected texts). A bibliography and index close the work.
An appendix that includes brief selections from two texts from late antiquity, namely Consultus Fortunatianus's "On Memory" and C. Julius Victor's "On Memory" is also included.
The greatest aggravation this book possesses is its brevity. In 311 pages it covers 14 authors, and at times the selections simply seem too short. Further, both St. Thomas's and St. Albert's commentaries on Aristotle's "On Memory and Recollection" require one two acquire a copy of Aristotle's original work, which is not included yet is needed to truly comprehend the commentaries. It is not difficult to find, but it is still a minor aggravation.
As a whole, however, this book is extremely useful. It is not light reading, however, as it is a scholarly work and one should be prepared to work a little when one reads it. It is excellent for the medievalist, the enthusiast of mnemonics, historians of thought, and those simply interested in how well people can actually think and remember and how to go about training themselves to do so. At times the tone of the academic preambles of the editors are a little too dismissive of the medievals's values, but overall the book is an excellent tool for the thinking person. My hat is off to the publisher for putting out an academic publication that isn't a waste of paper and space.