Children's Doodles Found in Margins of Medieval Manuscript

The margins of a medieval manuscript from a convent in Naples, Italy, are decorated with doodles of what are apparently devils, a farm animal and a person that were likely drawn by children, a new study finds.

Children probably scribbled these doodles on the 14th-century manuscript a few hundred years after the book was made, said the study’s author, Deborah Thorpe, a research fellow at the Centre for Chronic Diseases and Disorders at the University of York in the United Kingdom.

The drawings are a rather serendipitous find; Thorpe discovered them by chance while conducting research for another project.

“I was looking through a database of medieval manuscripts online, and I found images of these beautiful doodles in the margins, and to me they looked like they were done by children,” Thorpe said in a statement. “I thought, ‘This is really interesting, has anyone written anything about this?'’ Read more.

This animated illustration depicts Alexander the Great’s horse Bucephalus, made up of 54 or so birds, beasts and fish.

It’s from a 1544 manuscript held by the John Rylands Library in Manchester (Armenian MS 3, fol. 42v), and was in our recent exhibition Armenia: Masterpieces from an Enduring Culture.


The Codex Borgia / Yoalli Ehecatl is a PostClassic Mexican manuscript which dates from the 13th - 15th centuries. Written in a highly complex pictorial script, the codex recounts the religious beliefs of the Nahua peoples and outlines the ritual behaviors associated with particular calendar dates.

Isaac Newton's Recipe for Magical 'Philosopher's Stone' Rediscovered

One of Isaac Newton’s 17th-century alchemy manuscripts, buried in a private collection for decades, reveals his recipe for a material thought to be a step toward concocting the magical philosopher’s stone.

The “philosopher’s stone” was a mythical substance that alchemists believed had magical properties and could even help humans achieve immortality.

The manuscript turned up at an auction at Bonhams in Pasadena, California, on Feb. 16, where the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) in Philadelphia bought it. The alchemy text will be available in an online repository for those interested in the history of modern chemistry, according to James Voelkel, the CHF’s curator of rare books. 

The handwritten document contains instructions for making “philosophic” mercury that Newton copied from a text by another known alchemist. Written in Latin, its title translates to “Preparation of the [Sophick] Mercury for the [Philosophers’] Stone by the Antimonial Stellate Regulus of Mars and Luna from the Manuscripts of the American Philosopher." Read more.

5 Things I’ve I’ve Learned While Writing My First Manuscript

Hello and welcome to my first blog post! I’m Laura – an aspiring writer, as you may have guessed by the title of this post – and I, like many others, have made a lot of horrible mistakes and revelations with my first manuscript. While I’m only halfway through my first draft, being the masochistic, self-embarrassing person that I am, I thought I’d share what those lessons were.

1.      The first line is hard.

It’s even harder when you put all this pressure on it that you really don’t need. It’s just a collection of words, just like the rest of the novel.

Don’t fret.

2.     Don’t go back and edit.

There were so many times when I finished a chapter or a scene and then realized: Shit. That’s not how I mapped that character. Or, oh my god, I just missed out a HUGELY important part of that character’s backstory.

What I’ve learned is that it’s the hardest but the best thing you can do for your novel to just. Keep. Pushing. Through.

You’ve got to grit your teeth and remember that this is what second drafts are for, because if you go back and rewrite something every time you notice a mistake, you’ll never finish the stupid thing.

3.     Outlines can be really fun. Or they can be torture.

This lesson is kind of unavoidable as a newbie writer. If you’ve never outlined your book before, you won’t know what sort of outline you like. So you could get 20,000 words into the story (like me), realize you screwed up your outline because you did it on Word instead of post-it notes, and lose your damn mind.

“Why is everything so disorganized!?” You scream, before slamming your head against the keyboard for the millionth time.

Take a deep breath. Stop writing. Redo your freaking outline.

4.     Finish ALL character construction before you start writing.

I didn’t take this step seriously because I didn’t take my writing seriously in the beginning; it was just something I was dabbling in which I hadn’t done in years.

But if you’re considering writing a novel, you have to finish all your character construction 100% before you can start the novel.

A lot of my characters have half-finished outlines. So sadly, I’m gonna have to take a break from all the fun writing I’ve been doing to map them out halfway through the story.

5.     Don’t be too hard on yourself.

I’m actually pretty good at remembering this lesson, but I think every writer finds it invaluable.

You don’t need to be the next F. Scott Fitzgerald in the writing world to have an incredible work in your hands – or, well, your head.

Remember that it’s okay to make the above mistakes, and many more (seriously, I could list hundreds). Just push the negative thoughts away for a moment, and keep tapping at that keyboard. Good things are bound to come out of it if you work hard enough.

So that’s all I’ve got to say on the subject. I’m sure I’ll have plenty more to talk about once my novel is finished and once I move onto the editing phase for my novel. Thanks for reading this far and I’d love to hear some feedback!

World's Most Mysterious Book to Be 'Cloned'

The Voynich Manuscript, a mysterious book that has frustrated code breakers and linguists for a century, will be “cloned” in 898 copies to help experts decipher it.

A small Spanish publishing company has secured the rights to make exact replicas of the manuscript, which is currently locked away in a vault at Yale University’s Beinecke Library.

The copies will faithfully reflect every stain, hole and sewn-up tear in the parchment.

Pages from the book are already available online, but touching the manuscript is an experience the Internet can’t capture, Juan Jose Garcia, director of the publishing house Siloe, told Agence France-Presse.

“It’s a book that has such an aura of mystery that when you see it for the first time … it fills you with an emotion that is very hard to describe,” Garcia said. Read more.


Monsters in the Margins

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Hieronymous Bosch exhibit, “Visions of Genius,” in ‘sHertogenbosch. I knew Bosch’s works before I became a medievalist, so when I began to encounter strange creatures in the margins of manuscripts, I regarded them with some familiarity.

Both Bosch and the earlier creators of these manuscript monsters, also known as grotesques, knew that the margins, both in life and in art, could be a dangerous place for medieval people. The forests and marshes that surrounded medieval towns were full of menacing animals and sometimes more menacing brigands, and the edges of the world were thought to be home to terrifying people with the heads of dogs or no heads at all, their faces strangely located in the center of their chests. These ideas were due both to a (very reasonable at that point) fear of the unknown and to the fact that European medieval life literally revolved around the word of God- Jerusalem is the center of most early medieval maps, and the further away one got from it, the more deformed things became from the perfection of God.

When you understand the thought process of the average medieval European, finding these strange creatures in the margins suddenly seems par for the course. Because so many medieval manuscripts are religious works, it only makes sense that such grotesques would appear the further away the reader got from the words of the text. I must say though, to modern eyes, some of these grotesques look more amusing than they do terrifying! My favorite has to be the square-jawed bird man in a hood.

(from Edinburgh MS 26, MS 35, MS 2, MS 27, MS 195, MS 304, and MS 43)