Thursday, September 10, 2015

Kathryn Rudy's "Postcards on Parchment"

Kathryn M. Rudy is senior lecturer in the School of Art at the University of St. Andrews. She earned her Ph.D. from Columbia University in Art History, and also holds a Licentiate in Mediaeval Studies from the University of Toronto.

Rudy applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Postcards on Parchment: The Social Lives of Medieval Books, and reported the following:
I spent about a decade studying the images in medieval books that didn’t quite fit, thematically or size-wise. And I realised that many of these ‘miniatures’ were not designed for manuscripts, at least not for the ones they landed in. I wrote a book about the other careers that small images could have outside the book and what functions they might have. Sometimes they functioned like postcards. Other times as corporate calling cards, indulgences, or objects on which to swear an oath.

The image of Margaret to which I refer on page 99 [inset left, click to enlarge] is a political print, meant to rally support for Margaret of Austria at the beginning of her reign. She has herself represented as a shepherdess, protecting her lambs from the beasts lurking in the woods. These beasts are the French!
From p. 99; click to enlarge
Cistercian nuns near Brussels stuck their copy of the image in a liturgical manuscript, partly because it was big enough to house and protect the rather strange image of Margaret. This is the only copy of the print that survives, and it did so just because these nuns stuck it in their book.
Learn more about Postcards on Parchment at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue