Mediaeval manuscripts used as dust jackets


King Harold Day

We have found a really interesting story about how mediaeval manuscripts were used in the 17th and 18th centuries as “stuffing” in the binding of books or as dust jackets.   And it comes from Edmonton, not the one near us, but Edmonton, Alberta, in Canada.

The story starts like this:-  “The book before me is huge and heavy, bound, not in paper or cardboard, but with planks of solid oak, held together by thick cords.   It looks like a prop from a fantasy film. It’s actually a Latin dictionary, published in the early 1700s.”   But here’s the secret:-   “But as old as the dictionary appears, it hides a secret far older.   Inside the heavy oak cover is a parchment liner.    Other pieces of the same parchment are stuffed into the spine, to bind the book block together.   The parchment wrapper is far older than the dictionary:  a medieval manuscript, hand-written on calfskin…

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Whale of a Tale, or there’s something fishy about this place…


Gilt Pleasures

Did you hear the one about the sailors who landed on an island, built a campfire and then got blown sky-high by a geyser?  No?  How about the sailors who landed on an island, built a campfire and then the whole island did a deep-dive, taking them with it?

These are just a couple of tales that made the rounds in the middle ages and both are based on the misconception that whales like to float at the surface of the water and so accumulate sand on their backs; sailors in turn mistake the whales for islands and when they make camp, may either find themselves unceremoniously caught up in the whale’s blow-hole eruption or, more commonly, they make a campfire and when it gets too hot, it startles the whale into diving into the depths, taking the sailors with it to their deaths.

Another commonly-told story about the whale…

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