Last spring I published a two-page article in Medieval Warfare VIII.1 talking about the kinds of concealed armour which were for sale in the Avignon of the Babylonian Captivity. As far as I know nobody else has talked about these sources in any language except Italian, so I hope translating them was helpful! Now, I am interested in the real things and how they were made … if I ever have money I might commission a few reproductions. But what if your interest is in gaming? How might you represent this armour, say in GURPS?
Erik Kwakkel, Books Before Print (Amsterdam University Press/ARC Humanities Press, 2018) EUR 34 (paperback), 105 (hardcover), 105 (ebook) (available on Biblio)
Erik Kwakkel, excellent book historian and blogger, has a new book out on the medieval manuscript as a well-engineered tool shaped by readers’ habits and desires.
This beautifully illustrated book provides an accessible introduction to the medieval manuscript and what it can tell us about the world in which it was made and used. Captured in the materiality of manuscripts are the data enabling us to make sense of the preferences and habits of the individuals who made up medieval society. With short chapters grouped under thematic headings, Books Before Print shows how we may tap into the evidence and explores how manuscripts can act as a vibrant and versatile tool to understand the deep historical roots of human interaction with written information. It highlights extraordinary continuities between medieval book culture and modern-world communication, as witnessed in medieval pop-up books, posters, speech bubbles, book advertisements,and even sticky notes.
If you are a little bit interested in the middle ages, most of the illuminated manuscripts you have seen are from the 15th and early 16th century … they are roughly contemporary with the first printed books in Europe. Fifteenth-century Europe was richer than Europe a century or two earlier, it had more rich people who could pay for lapis-lazuli blue and gold dust and silver leaf, and the styles of art are closer to our taste. Early printed books imitated manuscripts like ebooks and websites imitated hardcovers and magazines. But medieval book culture was also different than ours: big margins were fashionable, and books were meant to be memorized not read once and passed on. Specialists called codicologists and art historians know many things which sometimes get brushed over in books aimed at a larger audience.
If you work with medieval books, but didn’t get to take university courses on the subject, reading this and a few of the books in the bibliography would be an excellent idea. You can find the affordable paperback edition on Biblio.
Full Disclosure: I know the author
Doug “Talbot” Strong, the author of An Analysis of 1300 Effigies Dated Between 1300 and 1450 has finally been able to publish his book on surviving medieval European plate armour. This will be a four-volume set costing about 150 USD a volume but there is a discount for earlier orders. Each volume contains written descriptions, line drawings, and some colour photos of all surviving examples he could find in more than a decade of searching and making friends with collectors and curators.
The first volume, on bascinets, is now available for preorder and should hopefully arrive in time for Christmas.
Full Disclosure: I know the author and the publishers
One of my articles is out in Ancient History Bulletin 32.1-2, “A Prosopography of the Followers of Cyrus the Younger.” This one is about the forgotten Cyreans: the ones whom Xenophon classed as part of ‘the barbarian army’ like Procles, Ariaeus, and Artapates. Where ancient historians have written quite a bit about men like Clearchus, and a famous article from 1963 studies men in ‘the Greek army,’ this is the first article to look at these men as a group (I hope to write another article on women like Aspasia the Phocaean and the Milesian woman, but that won’t be this decade).
This is a prosopography, so it takes a group of people each of whom we know a little about and spends a lot of energy tracking down their families, social backgrounds, careers, inter-relationships, and descendents. But it also cites cuneiform texts, Iranian philology, and suggests that the distinction between ‘the Greek army’ and ‘the barbarian army’ of Cyrus the Younger might not be what you think.
If you want a copy, please tell me so in the comments and I will email you one. Ancient History Bulletin also sells subscriptions and individual articles for a very reasonable rate. In two years, I will put it up on my site.
Most people interested in ancient weapons know that early iron swords were not any better than bronze ones. But they don’t always know where the idea comes from, or how we know about the properties of early edged weapons. If you want to find out, the article is available in Ancient Warfare XI.6 (The Decelean War) from Karwansaray.
But in a little magazine article, I was not able to include all the references which I wanted. So what if you want to learn more?
Jeffrey Hildebrandt is offering several courses on historical metalworking techniques in Saskatoon, Sakatchewan this winter.
Schedule for 2017
4 – Repoussé. Learn the basics of this venerable art form, creating fine relief work over pitch. $150 + tax
18/19 – Spangenhelm. Build your own Viking helmet using historical armouring processes. $250 + tax
2 – Jewellery Pendants. Learn techniques in etching, stamping and pierce-work while making several pendants. $150 + tax
9 – Victorian Christmas Ornaments. Have some festive fun crafting Christmas ornaments as gifts and decorations, while picking up some traditional tinsmithing skills. $150 + tax
No previous experience required
4-5 students per course. Spillover interest may lead to additional courses.
Course fees can be paid digitally to register – contact me by email.
Register early to secure your spot; free cancellation up to a week before the class.
All tools and materials are supplied, and you keep what you make.
To register before the classes fill write to Jeffrey Hildebrandt (firstname.lastname@example.org) All prices are in CAD.
There is a new life of Hypatia of Alexandria out for a modest price ($30). Hypatia is a figure who has a significant role in modern pop culture (there is even a good film about her!) and polemics about religion, but comes from a place and time which is not as accessible as Socrates’ Athens or Marcus Aurelius’ imperium. But Alexandria in the fourth century CE was a colorful place, full of faction-fights and nations, sects, and languages all jumbled together. So if you want a look at that world by someone who is more interested in the ancient world than scoring points in modern debates, you might want to check it out (you can find a new or used copy on bookfinder).
Edward J. Watts, Hypatia: The Life and Legend of an Ancient Philosopher. Women in antiquity. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017.. Pp. xii, 205. ISBN 9780190210038. $29.95.
Reviewed by Aistė Čelkytė, Underwood International College, Yonsei University (email@example.com)
This monograph, dedicated to reconstructing the life and career of the Alexandrian mathematician and philosopher Hypatia, is part of the Women in Antiquity series. The study has a strong historical focus, so that little is said about Hypatia’s philosophical views, apart from identifying Hypatia as a Plotinian Platonist, that is, one who did not engage in theurgical practices popular among contemporary Platonists. The choice of a historical focus might seem surprising as the evidence for her life is very sparse, but Watts presents a detailed picture of Hypatia’s career by means of innovative use of a large variety of texts. The book is comprised of introduction, ten chapters and concluding remarks.
Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani needs funds to print his latest book, on black-powder firearms in Iranian museums. The title will be Persian Fire and Steel: Historical Firearms of Iran.
His earlier book, Arms and Armour from Iran, contains a wonderful assortment of information drawn from books and articles in half a dozen languages. It also contained pictures and measurements of objects which had never been published in a European language before, and translations and summaries of many texts in New Persian/Farsi which are otherwise unavailable. So if you are interested, or like beautiful books on arms and armour, you might want to check this new project out! Without the support of patrons, he won’t be able to afford to print it.
Further Reading: https://www.moshtaghkhorasani.com/books/persian-fire-and-steel/
While I can’t pull the lid off Ninkasi’s vat to announce some projects which are still fermenting, today I would like to remind my gentle readers about two other new publications.
First, I have a short article on Marduk and Tiamat in issue 9 of Ancient History magazine. The focus of that issue is on Athens in the fourth century BCE, but there are also articles on Sicilian and Egyptian topics. If you like Peter Connolly’s The Ancient City you will like this issue. Check it out!
Second, I have obtained permission to release a pre-print of my paper on the mnemonic techniques employed in the writings of Fiore dei Liberi, a fencing master from Friuli who died some time after February 1410 CE. It was scheduled for a conference proceedings which was intended to appear in 2014 but which has been delayed. I hope it has something useful for fencers who want to learn more about medieval studies, and medievalists who want to learn more about physical culture. You can download the PDF from my website. (It is not beautifully formatted, because I made it from a PDF of the proofs which I had to convert to LibreOffice to edit then back to PDF to post; I am sorry, but going through the file and correcting the formatting would be very time consuming, and I can’t afford to take that many hours away from my other writing projects).
Back in 2014 I began a project to address a problem which I noticed. Amateur students of armour seemed to have trouble finding written sources, and historians specialized in one period sometimes seemed not to notice things which I saw again and again in the world history of armour. For example, my reading in the world history of prices in general, and armour prices specifically, makes me read the statement that Athenian settlers needed to bring arms worth 30 drachmas differently than some other ancient historians do (for a list of sources, see Van Wees, Greek Warfare: Myths and Realities, p. 52, plus the Salamis Decree from the Acropolis at Athens). From watching the traffic on my blog, I noticed that if you give people a link to sources, many of them will follow it. In my view, making sources available is the single most important thing which historians can do: interpretations change and are a product of our culture, but sources are foreign and reading enough of them makes it hard to have any simple interpretation of history, or believe that people in other cultures and other times think just like we do. But often sources on armour are published in out-of-print books in a handful of libraries, or available in old translations by people who were not especially interested in material culture.
Unfortunately, I have had to put this project aside for two years now, so I think it is time to make sure that my gentle readers know about Armour in Texts.