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Medieval Texts and Images: Studies of Manuscripts from the Middle Ages.

Ed. by Margaret M. Manion and Bernard J. Muir. (Chur: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1991). xx + 224 pp.; 8 colour plates; 84 black-and-white figures. ISBN 3-7186-5133-5. No price given. This book is an uneven collection of essays on the relations between text and image in mediaeval manuscripts. As die editors indicate, their definition of |mediaeval' and, indeed, the topic itself has been loose. One of the best essays, C. O'Brien's |Renaissance books and Raphael's Disputa, takes the subject into the sixteenth century, concentrating on the mediaeval influences on a monumental Renaissance fresco. The essays fall into three rough groups: discussions of die influence of patrons on die style and contents of manuscripts, such as H. Maddocks's Pictures for aristocrats: the manuscripts of die Legende doree; discussions of individual codices and their pictures, such as P. R. Monks's The Rolin Master's hand in London B.L. Additional 25695', and essentially formalist treatments of certain picture types or details, such as A. R. Fiett's |The significance of text scrolls: towards a descriptive terminology. Some of the essays seem tentative, and unable to account for the evidence in the accompanying reproductions. For instance, Flett on text scrolls in Crucifixion scenes provides many references to contemporary sign theory, but fails to explore an obvious parallel between these scrolls and another prominent -- centrally placed -- text in her pictures: Pilate's inscription at die head of die cross. And K. McDonald, in |Et verbum caro factum est: the prayer-book of Michelino da Besozza', draws some convincing parallels between the high affective styles of both picture and text in this manuscript, but does not discuss the elegant gold-leaf captions above the pictures, which were evidently intended as part of the pictorial design. Tentativeness is a virtue, however, in B. J. Muir's |Editing the Exeter Book: a progress report'. Muir offers a hoard of new, raw data about the manuscript, including some impressive charts and photographs, in support of his claim that P. Conner's recent three-booklet theory concerning the manuscript ought to be qualified. The contents and judicious tone of Muir's essay are major contributions to the on-going dialogue about this important Anglo-Saxon compilation. Likewise worthy of note is M. M. Manion's Art and devotion: the prayer-books of Jean de Berry', a sensitive evaluation of these manuscripts as evidence for the centrality of the Mass in mediaeval aristocratic devotion. Manion also discusses the Dominican influence on the design of these books (|books which helped to fashion the devotional lives of their owners), connecting this influence to pictures of friars as instructors in the Pelites Heures. Her analysis nicely emphasizes the social nexus of prayer-book production and use in aristocratic households, rescuing the books from considerations |as purely collector's items'.
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Author:Kuczynski, Michael P.
Publication:Medium Aevum
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1993
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