Athanasius Kircher - Kircher accompanied by the Angel Cosmiel on a Journey through the Cosmos, “Itinerarium Exstaticum”, 1671.

Exaggerations and even fabrications notwithstanding, Kircher wrote only one book that could rightly be called a work of fiction, and that was “Itinerarium Exstaticum” (Ecstatic Journey). At the time, Kircher wanted to enter the discussion about all the new astronomical observations afforded by the telescope, but an insufficiently critical treatment of the new astronomy could get you in trouble with the Inquisition, if not burned at the stake. So he wrote it as work of the imagination - the story of a Cosmic Dream in which an Angel named Cosmiel leads Kircher’s fictional stand-in, a priest named Theodidactus (“taught by God”), on an edifying flight through the Heavens.

There isn’t much doubt  that Kircher privately believed in the Copernican model of the Universe, but his opinion wasn’t based solely on the astronomical evidence. A Sun-Centered System also made much more Mystical sense. “The whole mass of this Solar Globe is imbued with a certain Universal Seminal Power”, Cosmiel explains about the Sun. It “touches things below by radiant diffusion.”

Whatever else may be said about it, “Itinerarium Extaticum” represented a step toward modern science fiction. In fact, although Kircher’s scientific stature largely faded, his work influenced many writers and artists, including Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, Marcel Duchamp, and Giorgio De Chirico.

Codex Gigas (portrait of the devil) From the manuscript Codex Gigas. Photo by: National Library of Sweden/Claes Jansson/Per B Adolphson

The portrait of the Devil is the most famous image in the Codex Gigas (f. 290r), and it is the cause of the the book’s nickname, the Devil’s Bible. The Devil is shown alone, in an empty landscape, within a frame formed by two large towers. He is crouching with his arms held up (he has only four fingers and toes) and wears an ermine loin cloth. Ermine is usually associated with royalty, and its use here is to emphasise the position of the Devil as the prince of darkness.


Anonymous French Illuminator

Adoration of the Magi; Journey of the Magi

France (c. 1450s)

Illumination. [Vincent de Beauvais], Miroir de la Salvation Humaine , trans. J. Miélot (43 fols.). Fol. 10 sup v : Adoration of the Magi and Journey of the Magi.

miniature: 395 x 400 mm.

Chantilly, Musée Condé.

The Image of the Black in Western Art Research Project and Photo Archive, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University



Journey from Venice to Palestine, Mount Sinai and Egypt, c.1467

Selected images from a beautifully illustrated account of a journey made from Italy to the Middle East. Although this book (known as Egerton 1900) was purported to reflect a journey made in 1465 by Gabriel Muffel, third son of the Nuremburg patrician Nicholas Muffel, the travelogue is, however, merely a German translation of an account of a journey made more than a century earlier. This actual journey was undertaken by the Franciscan friar Niccolo da Poggibonsi who visited the Holy Land in 1346-50, and wrote up his travels in the Italian book Libro d’oltramare. The work remained untranslated until Muffel got hold of it, also supplying it with 147 miniatures, a selection of which are presented below. The confusion doesn’t stop there. Muffel’s account was then translated back into Italian, printed at Bologna in 1500. Originally the author was ‘anonymous’ but the account was, in due course, recognised to be that of Niccolo da Poggibonsi, though it was not realised that it was in fact a translation of Muffel’s translation of the original. This Bologna 1500 printing enjoyed a huge success with 26 editions being published before 1600. For more on this latter manuscript and how it relates to Egerton 1900 see this page on the British Library site. 

Victoria Aveyard: What’s On My Desk And Why

I’m a sucker for desks, particularly the desks of writers. I love looking at what they have going on - it’s so fascinating and personal to see what people want to spend their time with, and what helps them write. So I decided to do a rundown of what’s currently crowding my very messy workspace. 

Obviously, there’s lots of Red Queen stuff. I have two very large binders holding the first draft and the final draft of RQ, both with annotations from my awesome edit team. And next to them is my RQ ARC, partly for reference while writing the sequels, but mostly for my own vanity. It’s incredibly satisfying to look over and see the journey the manuscript has taken. Not to mention the cover is pretty rocking. There’s also some timelines and world-building tidbits I keep on my cork board, along with the original cover I drew for RQ, and some pictures of buffalo. I’m a sucker for buffalo. 

I’ve also got a bunch of books lying around, usually what I’m reading as well anything I need for reference. Currently, there’s The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy, The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie, and An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. To feed my screenwriting soul, there’s also a screenplay of Raiders of the Lost Arc by Lawrence Kasdan. And of course, I have A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin. Whenever I need a boost, it’s there for me. I won’t get into the actual bookshelf because that’s another post itself. 

Then there’s my pile of paper crap. Mostly, yellow legal pads. Pens write so smoothly on them, and this is where I jot down call notes, to-do lists, etc. There’s also a graphing notebook, for maps, timelines, family trees, and other world-building goodies, and my fresh new planner to help keep this year straight. And of course, odds and ends like receipts, business cards, letters, stamps, you name it. Anything I can toss in the overflowing tray, I will. Like any true writer stereotype, I love Moleskins, and I’ve got one smaller notebook that I’m using exclusively for notes and world-building on my newest book project (not RQ related).

According to my roommate, I’m kind of (read: really) messy, so there’s a bunch of other knick knacks crowding my desk space. I have a little spinning globe that is mesmerizing (maps are my favorite), a wearable crown paperweight that I mostly use to corral my many half-empty water bottles, another paperweight that says ‘Play On Playa’ in mock encouragement, and several autumn-y candles. My only semblance of desk organization is my collection of pretty post-it notes, which are usually littered all over my computer screen. There’s usually an iced coffee as well, perched happily on a Bozeman, Montana coaster that I stole from my roommate. And looking over all of it, two framed prints of Edinburgh, Scotland, one of my favorite cities, both from the 1800’s. Naturally, one is a map. 

All in all, my desk is a pretty great reflection of me. Kind of scattered, way too into geography and American Bison, and constantly attempting (and failing) to organize. I won’t dare to go into the drawers, because they’re a warzone. 

-Victoria Aveyard / vaveyard

Victoria’s debut book, Red Queen, is available now! Learn more at

A Wild Hippo Appears, or the original manuscript of “Journey to (The Great Swamp)”. If those hands seem familiar, it’s because our intrepid Castiel made the mistake of reading the original poem when it had just been published. Papyrus scrolls were pretty fancy technology.

Fanart for seperis’ Down to Agincourt series. If this doesn’t make sense, it will become more and more hilarious the further into the series you read.

HRC Incun 1492 M887t (front and back pastedowns) Creator: Iustinianus–see comments below
Text: Digesta Iustiniani
Region: Italy
Date Range: circa 1250-1350
Layout: 22 lines in 2 columns (per pastedown)
Support: parchment
Dimensions: 150 x 205 mm
Language: Latin
Script: Gothic Bookhand (Southern Textualis Libraria/Formata)
Structure and location: front and back pastedowns

This image was taken as part of a survey of medieval manuscript binding waste at the Harry Ransom Center. Comments regarding script, dating, localization and identification of text are highly encouraged and appreciated.

For a diagram showing the structural features of a book click here

Information about the book this manuscript waste was found in can be viewed in the online public access catalog of the University of Texas at Austin.

by The Fragments Project

Girdle book by Beinecke Library Author/Creator:

[ca. 15th c.]

Physical Description:
1 vol.
100 x 80 (68 x 41) mm.


Cite as:
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

Repository: Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University

Bibliographic Record Number:

Call Number:
MS 84

View our Record:

Decorated page with coat of arms in Petrarca, Francesco: Canzoniere Petrarca, Francesco: Trionfi; commentary by Bernardo Lapini da Siena. Canzoniere; commentary by Franciscus Philelphus. Venice: Reynaldus de Novimagio and Theodorus de Reynsburch, 1478. Opening page of the Canzoniere (a2r) with an eight-line initial “V” supplied in gold on a square ground of white-vine decoration defined in crimson, blue and green, which extends into the inner and upper margins; the lower margin is decorated with a border of white-vine decoration in the centre of which is a partially defaced or worn coat of arms incoporating a shield flanked at each side by a green ribbon which is looped around the initials “P” and “D”; paragraph marks supplied in alternate red and blue. Sp Coll Hunterian Be.3.7 (part II).

Codex Gigas - Heavenly Jersualem From the manuscript Codex Gigas (The Devil’s Bible). Photo by: National Library of Sweden/Claes Jansson/Per B Adolphson

The Heavenly City is represented in tiers, each with buildings and many towers (probably for church towers), behind red walls. The Heavenly City, although without any people, was shown as a symbol of hope and salvation, and as a contrast to the portrait of the Devil.

The Heavenly City and the Devil Portrait are the only full page pictures in the Codex Gigas by Kungliga biblioteket

Detail, Folio from a Shahnameh Manuscript by A.Davey A banquet scene folio from a Shahnameh manuscript.

According to Wikipedia, “The Shahnameh (Persian: شاهنامه šāhnāmeh "Book of Kings”) is an enormous poetic opus written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi around 1000 AD and is the national epic of the cultural sphere of Greater Persia. Consisting of some 60,000 verses, the Shāhnāmeh tells the mythical and historical past of (Greater) Iran from the creation of the world up until the Islamic conquest of Persia in the 7th century.“

"The work is of central importance in Persian culture, regarded as a literary masterpiece, and definitive of ethno-national cultural identity of Iran. It is also important to the contemporary adherents of Zoroastrianism.”

Qazvin school, 18th century A.D.

In the collection of the Reza Abbasi Museum, Tehran, Iran.