Late Medieval Books and their Fittings: A material culture study

Paper by Charlotte Howsam

Given at the Theoretical Archaeology Group Conference on December 19, 2017.

Abstract: There have been various approaches applied to study and understand the nature of the late Medieval book, including historical, palaeographical and codicological methods, and yet, traditionally, little attention has been given to the book as a form of material culture, especially by archaeologists. This paper will briefly discuss the different approaches that have been applied in recent years to the study of the book, before giving a detailed consideration of how the archaeological investigation into late Medieval book fittings excavated from English monastic sites offers an innovative approach to the wider study of the late Medieval book.

To move beyond simply defining the various types of late Medieval book fittings, an interdisciplinary approach can be applied to further understand the nature of this type of material culture, including the books on which fittings were used, the influences of different monastic orders, their geographical distribution and the significance of their deposition. It is the purpose of this paper to demonstrate how the archaeological investigation of book fittings provides not only the opportunity to study book fittings typologically but also to place such material culture into its wider social and cultural contexts within late Medieval society.

You can follow Charlotte on or on Twitter @c_howsam

‘You don’t get grander than this’: Winchester Bible to go on display

Unfinished 12th-century book will be shown along with royal bones at Winchester Cathedral.

Winchester Bible

Using a goose feather quill, a solitary scribe spent four years writing the words in Latin on the skins of 250 calves, before six artists began sumptuous illuminations using gold leaf and lapis lazuli from Afghanistan. Although it was never quite finished, the Winchester Bible finally weighed in at the medieval equivalent of 32kg.

Read more …

Chicken with Medieval Spices and Cinnamon

Maeve L’Estrange is a culinary archaeologist, studying for a PhD in experimental archaeology in UCD. Since no medieval Irish recipes survive, she tries to piece together what may have been eaten by examining the fauna and flora remains from excavation reports and combining these with spices and other foodstuff referred to in primary documents of the period.

For the recipe and to read more …