Letters from Queen Elizabeth about Mary Queen of Scots
This was a highly important cache of letters unknown to historians and biographers, covering an important but little-known period in the long captivity of Mary, Queen of Scots. The letters were written to Sir Ralph Sadler while he was entrusted with the custody of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1584 to 1585. Some are also signed by Lord Burghley, Francis Walsingham and the Earl of Leicester. The letters address such subjects as the conditions and security of the Scottish Queen’s confinement, and her negotiations with Queen Elizabeth. For more details about the letters please visit the source.
Several thousand manuscripts that are several centuries old are set to be digitized and made available over the Internet in the public domain, thanks to an initiative by the state government of Tamil Nadu in India.
This 15th-century doodle is found in the lower margin of a manuscript containing Juvenal’s Satires. This classical text was a popular device to teach young students - kids - morals. The medieval teacher Alexander Nequam stated: “Let the student read the satirists […] so that he may learn even in his younger days that vices are to be shunned” (quote here). Spoken like a true optimist, because this page shows what young school boys like to do with rules: disobey them. And so in stead of studying the student who used this book drew a funny doodle in the lower margin: a figure with a flower in one hand and what appears to be a pipe in the other. Could it be his teacher? Doodles are of all ages but those produced by bored school kids are the most entertaining.
Pic: Carpentras, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 368 (here). Here is another example of school kids doodling.
Medieval music books, with their merry notes jumping off the page, are a pleasure to look at. This sensational page from the 14th century adds to this experience in a most unusual manner. It presents a well-known song, the French ballade titled En la maison Dedalus (In the house of Dedalus), be it that the scribe decided to write both music and lyrics in a circular form. There is reason behind this madness. The maze created by music and words locks up the main character of the song, the mythological figure Ariadne, who is a prisoner in the house of Daedalus - she is represented by the red dot. The book contains treatises on music theory, notation, tuning and chant. In other words, it was meant for experts readers. The beholder likely enjoyed the challenge of singing a circular song (did he or she spin the book around?) and how it held its subject hostage in the merriest of ways.
Pic: Berkeley, Music Library, MS 744 (made in Paris in 1375). More about the manuscript here, including more unusual images. This is a study of the book (the ballade is discussed at p. 14).
Here is something special I happened upon by coincidence in a French database today. These unique drawings are found in a handwritten book from 1611 produced by Nicolas de Rély, a monk from Corbie. We know little about the author and the book is relatively unknown in scholarship, which is kind of amazing considering its topic: a study of medieval labyrinths. These large objects were mazes of up to 40 feet in diameter, built into the floor of cathedrals of twelfth and thirteenth-century Europe (see Chartres Cathedral, lower image). Church visitors, which included a lot of pilgrims, had to undertake a journey to its centre - the latter on their knees, by means of repentance. The labyrinth is also an intellectual exercise, of creating an object of perfect harmony, of balance and calculation, like the Gothic cathedrals which housed them. The monk in the early 17th century was so fascinated by them that he devoted a study to their shapes and routes, replicating them in detail: what a beautiful way to lose yourself!
Pic: Amiens, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 405 (dated 1611). More images and some more information here. More information of labyrinths here and in this PDF. More about the Amiens labyrinth here.