Nobody Reading Your Blog? What You Need Is a Monkey-centaur.

It’s hard enough to claw back time from the demands of life and fiction writing to write a blog post. Why, then, double the time with a search through Google images to illustrate my points? Because that’s where so much of the fun lies. Visual puns, quirky interpretations or just the weirdities that pop up on the web can add a zing that keeps the casual reader going. So today, in fraternal and sororal solidarity, I offer up one of my best sources of free images.

The British Library’s Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts blog reproduces illuminations from the manuscripts in their collection. When I contacted them, they said I might reproduce the images in my blog as long as I credited the Library and gave their citation to the manuscript. Hence this monkey-centaur, with which I illustrated the concept of an evil deed.

Monkey sawing books (Courtesy British Library, Add. 49622, f.146)

Monkey sawing books
(Courtesy British Library, Add. 49622, f.146)

What could be worse than sawing a book in half? Who but a monster would do it?

The blog itself is a welcome break from the slog through my inbox. Every few days one of the BL’s experts discourses on a gorgeously illustrated manuscript, on several manuscripts on a single theme, on a type of illustration (the marginalia are the

Detail of a marginal scene of a fox seizing a duck, with 'sound effects' added in a later hand, reading ‘queck’. Courtesy British Library, Add MS 49622, f. 190v

Detail of a marginal scene of a fox seizing a duck, with ‘sound effects’ added in a later hand, reading ‘queck’. (Courtesy British Library, Add MS 49622, f. 190v)

most fun) or on whatever else strikes their fancy. The Library is digitizing its collections as fast as ever it can, and newly digitized manuscripts are frequent subjects of the blog. An international cadre of enthusiasts seem to spend their time crawling through the collection online, and sometimes they find delights that the staff haven’t had time to appreciate. This hapless duck was tweeted out by one Erik Kwakkel of Leiden, who got credit in the BL’s caption. He must have been researching his genealogy.

Medieval monks laboring in the scriptorium frequently found their minds directed to the world, the flesh and the devil. Sometimes these showed up in decorous and improving forms. Sometimes not.

Cerberus (strangely human) feasts on the gluttons condemned to Hell (Courtesy British Library MS Egerton 943, f. 12r)

Cerberus (strangely human) feasts on the gluttons condemned to Hell (Courtesy British Library MS Egerton 943, f. 12r)

Here we have the punishment of gluttony from a manuscript of Dante’s Inferno. In classical mythology Cerberus was a three-headed dog who guarded the gates of Hades; here he is a three-headed devil who eats those who eat too much. Be warned.

Nun rebuking a lecherous grotesque. Courtesy British Library Add. ms 49672 f098v

Nun rebuking a lecherous grotesque. (Courtesy British Library Add. ms 49672 f098v)

Progress has made prudes of us. Here we have a nun wagging a monitory finger at a grotesque who is clearly attacking her. According to the BL manuscripts blog, later owners of such manuscripts often defaced scandalous images in the margins as disrespectful to the pious subject matter.

And here is the editorial comment of some envious monastic on the lovers in the main image:

A monk's envy expresses itself.

A monk’s envy expresses itself. The BL bloggers passed this on from the Morgan Library’s collection, MS G 24, f. 25v.

Readers of the blog get to play with the toys, too. Contests are held for the best caption for various images. The one just above was submitted in a contest to find images illustrating the names of London subway stops. That one was for “Arsenal.”

If you’d like some sympathy in your writing woes, check out The Burden of Writing: Scribes in Medieval Manuscripts.

Every April 1, a spoof post appears. In one, the digital whizzes at the British Library had introduced flying saucers into the illuminations. Another announced the discovery of an ancient cookbook with recipes for unicorn.

I know you get too much email already, but I really recommend following this blog. You’ll find images you can use, and you’ll enjoy yourself, too.

Advertisements

About Heidi Wilson

I'm currently writing a mystery that takes place in New Hampshire and a novel about an artist who's working in Ireland and Hell. Former incarnations: stock market economist and professor of Greek. Go figure.

Posted on July 17, 2016, in Heidi Wilson, images, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. “Arsenal”!!! That’s got to be the best….

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: