Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Manuscript of Forme of Cury

The University of Manchester's John Rylands University Library is digitising and making available on the Internet images of the pages of 40 important books, including the Forme of Cury, the 14th century cookbook compiled by the cooks of Richard II's royal household. (Thanks to pals Skalla-Geirmundr and Breac, both of whom forwarded the Middlebridge post and link to the Guardian.)

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Again with the Books

Mistress Melisande is spending the weekend doing something called "stitching camp". I find this activity remote, inexplicable and possibly injurious to sanity; therefore I chose to enjoy a leisurely day among the booksellers (and restaurants, and sellers of fine viands and bottled items) to be found in the Barony of Cynnabar. That is to say, Ann Arbor, for those readers not familiar with the nomenclature of the Middle Kingdom.

Some time ago, I mentioned that I would have more to say about bookstores in Michigan. Two of the finest are to be found in downtown Ann Arbor, and I spent a leisurely hour in each. They don't exhaust the possibilities, by the way, but they are more reliable locations for medieval books than the others.

First, perhaps my favorite bookstore in Michigan is Motte and Bailey, at 212 N. 4th St., just south of the Kerrytown area. With a name like that, you might surmise that the proprietors have a good medieval section, and they do. Their prices are reasonable, I might add. Today I chose Those Who Fought; An Anthology of Medieval Sources, edited by Peter Speed. It was an inexpensive paperback; I resisted the many other temptations in the quiet, elegant store, having many other stops to make. (Besides, I'll be back soon enough. I had to make sure I didn't actually have a copy of another book, and I don't.) Checking out, the co-owner suggested a work describing the military campaigns of Louis the Fat. It's that kind of store. I've had similar conversations with both owners on previous occasions. Once had a long talk with this gentleman about Jonathan Sumption, and when we could expect the next installment of his magisterial history of the Hundred Years War.

A bit later, it was on to Dawn Treader, the venerable warren of stacks at 514 E. Liberty, quite near the big Borders and State St. I've been visiting Dawn Treader since the early 1980s, and have lost track of all the books I've bought there (sold quite a few books to them, too). Today I chose, with some difficulty, The Secular Spirit: Life and Art at the End of the Middle Ages, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is an exceptionally fine catalog from an exhibition in the mid 1970s; not the flashiest museum exhibition book I have, but probably the best I've seen, with many photos of late medieval objects arranged logically, with clear and knowledgeable commentary. Just at a glance in the store, it had photos of things I had heard vaguely described and found interesting, and it was inexpensive. Over the years, I've both found many wonderful things at Dawn Treader but often found their medieval selection a bit thin; picked over by Cynnabar folk, no doubt. The last couple of times I've visited, the selection was not thin; I had trouble deciding what to buy.

Ann Arbor has other used bookstores; I usually visit Westside Books, at 113 W. Liberty, but it happens that I rarely find what I'm looking for. Still fun to look, as I did today. Also, keep in mind the Ann Arbor Public Library Friends book shop, which is open in the basement of the library on Saturdays and Sundays during fall, winter and spring. Their selection changes massively from week to week, but I usually find it the best of the library book sales in Michigan. Today I found two books I've seen many times but never for a price I cared to pay, Grant Uden's handsome Dictionary of Chivalry and Flanders in the Fifteenth Century: Art and Civilization.

Sometime soon, bookstores in East Lansing.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Vikings Pictures

These are Sgt. Radegund's photos on Flickr from Vikings Come Home this year.

Mid Michigan Renaissance Festival

There is a new... I think it's new... Renaissance festival in the Frankenmuth area. The link to their web site is here. Well, I'm famously unenthused about Ren faires, but I have attended the big one in Holly once, and also went to it's predecessor location once - first time I ever saw SCA combat, actually, at that one. I knew about the SCA and was technically a member, in fact, but I had never been to an event at the time - this was the early fall of 1982. Anyway, I reckon I'd like to pay a visit to the new one, it being close by, to encourage them and give them a few of my hard-earned dollars.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

New Medieval Glass Options

Historic Enterprises has added new options for medieval glass tableware at their site. They carry several pieces from Le Verre Historique, a Belgian producer, but note that they can now provide anything from the producer's website. Ordering from overseas is often complex and expensive (and there is a language barrier in this instance, as there not infrequently is), so having Historic Enterprises do the importing is a valuable service.

Friday, September 19, 2008

New Website Design for the SCA

The SCA, Inc. website, which, to put it mildly, has always been a very bare bones sort of site, fairly informative but quite plain, has been redesigned. It's still rather spare, but it's distinctly an upgrade.


I'd never heard of them, but apparently the Cagots were an oppressed people of southern France and northern Spain. This article describes them, and notes some other vanishing European peoples. Fascinating subject. (Via SCA Today.)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Comic Art

I can't manage to get anything remotely medieval out of this, but oh well. Here is the website which provides much of a forgotten British comic strip classic, Carol Day, from the 50s and 60s. Never made the US papers, because allegedly too sophisticated for the US market. I wish American media outlets would let the public decide that, just once. Not all hillbillies out here in flyover country, no matter what they think on the coasts.

Update: For example, check out panel 2 in strip #139. Wow.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Another SCA Podcast

Right here. The Lion's Road podcast. Via the always interesting SCA Today website.

Books of Hours Again

And other illuminated manuscripts, at the Leaves of Gold website.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

SCA and Cocktails

SCA and cocktails don't go together all that well... or I never thought so, anyway. The Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc. is all about the Middle Ages, and they didn't have cocktails in the Middle Ages, poor benighted sods. Of course, we SCA members are often fond of the sauce, in our way, and I have been at more than one post-event function at which beer, mead and ale were not the only libations offered. (One time at Pennsic, Geirmundr and I made martinis... well, I made them, and Geirmundr drank them, mostly. A merry evening, to be sure. And we used to have cocktails before dinner in the kitchen during one period of local revels, and we have generally had champagne after local events.)

Well, last summer, I decided to take a break from the SCA for a while, and as I tried to still post occasionally here, I found I really wanted to talk about cocktails, one of my other hobbies being making classic cocktails. I even considered starting a separate blog for a while. But I managed to mostly avoid drifting too far from my chosen topic here. I know other bloggers vary from their topic, so it isn't a sin or anything. I just like the tidiness of sticking to my chosen field of... uh, blogography.

Tonight, I was prowling through drink blogs (trying desperately to avoid actually grading any more papers or final exams from the summer term), and I went to a new one, to me, anyway, called An Exercise in Hospitality... Adventures with Cocktails and Food. And what should be the latest post on this blog but the Pennsic War! The writer explains to his usual readers about Pennsic and then discusses at length drinks and meals he and his comrades had there, together with some stabs at more period fare. Delightful, and perhaps I'm being too picky in my topics. I'd post more often if I could expand my topic base.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Books of Hours

One of my loves about the Middle Ages is the study of Books of Hours, those personal prayer books from the 13th-16th centuries of which so many lovely examples survive. I've manfully restrained myself from greedily collecting all the handsome facsimile copies in print... except for a few, of course, plus many less extravagant books about them. I just got Painted Prayers by Roger S. Wieck, and was reminded that I haven't looked around the Internet lately to see what was currently out there. (Regrettably, Painted Prayers is out of print, and I had meant to get it but not gotten around to it until this week... I did not pay anything like the prices for used books shown here. Just in time, I guess.)

Here is a link to a Book of Hours owned by Oberlin College, the Artz Hours, all of the pages of which are shown on successive pages. Very interesting.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

More Book News

One of the features of the Lapeer Days festival in nearby Lapeer, Michigan, is a library used book sale. The festival began today, and so did the book sale at the de Angeli Public Library. It's not the best local used book sale, but it's pretty good. My principal complaint, actually, is that the Friends of the Library arrange the tables in such a narrow fashion that it is fairly difficult to get around and see all the books. They also have a huge selection of children's books, dvds, cds, and etc. Lapeer Days lasts through the 16th.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

New Acquisitions

Well, if I didn't get to go to Pennsic, I did some satisfying medieval shopping here at home.

The Flint area is not well supplied with used bookstores. There are two Jellybean stores; together with a third in Owosso, a locally-owned chain. The one to the south of town concentrates on mass media stuff; I can't recall ever finding anything on the Middle Ages other than things that get assigned in history classes. Not complaining, they are the place to go for used music, mystery and science fiction paperbacks, DVDs, that sort of thing. The one closer to the center of town is more interesting, although the management have a sometimes exalted notion of how to price some of their collectibles. They get people to pay it, I guess. They have easily the most extensive collection of used books of a more serious type than anywhere this side of one of the university towns in Michigan, but it is a curiously neglected side room; the main action with paperbacks, records and so forth is in the main room. I don't think there's ever been another customer in the side room on the rare occasions I go in - about once a year or less. Awkwardly, the clerk decides on a price at the counter for these books, after performing a brief check on the Internet. ABEbooks.com, I'm guessing? They don't say. I've actually gotten some good deals, once a spectacular deal, so they're not being unreasonable on price; I just wonder if they realize how discouraging a browsing experience this mysterious method induces. If they just marked the prices in the books, I'd go in more often.

At any rate, on a rare visit this week, I found two books on Western martial arts. Sydney Anglo's authoritative The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe. I've checked it out from academic libraries, and it seemed well worth having. Author John Clement claims it is the most important work on the subject in a century; while my interests tend more to the political and strategic levels, particularly about the Hundred Years War, I'm willing to agree with Clement, as far as I can tell. The second book was the Codex Wallerstein, a 15th century fighting manual with reproductions of the illustrations and translations of the text into several languages. Want to know how to rob a peasant by making him think you've slit his throat, but without actually doing so? No problem, the Codex Wallerstein explains the method. I'm hoping I don't have occasion to use that one, myself. But it's good to know these things, right?

Both volumes were in hardcover, in good shape with a little shelf wear, and I certainly wanted them both. The clerk wanted $40 for each, and I left them there. At the very least, I wanted to make sure I couldn't do better on the Internet. But $40 was about right, I found, and after giving it some thought, I realized I would just regret it if I didn't go back for them. Both books are out of print; I didn't go to Pennsic and spend lots of money there; I haven't been keeping up with the literature on my hobby for years now; so the next day I went back and bought both.

So that was fun, but I had already been thinking this week about a Saturday visit to John K. King Books in Detroit (check out the YouTube videos at the link). I tried to persuade Skalla-Geirmundr to go with me, but he was busy being responsible or something. John K. King is the biggest bookseller in Michigan, advertising 900,000 books. It is a spectacular experience, quite like visiting an academic library but being able to buy the books (well, an academic library with a somewhat haphazard collection, but still...). Five or six floors of an old factory building right downtown on W. Lafayette, just what you'd want a big city used bookstore to be. I knew from experience that they have excellent sections on history, cooking and art, just to note some of my interests. Strangely enough, I haven't been there in about ten years, although my infrequent visits always produced wonderful results back in the 90s. It's not really that much fun, getting to that spot in downtown Detroit all the way from Flint. No, it's not a safety issue, downtown Detroit is perfectly fine with me. It's the traffic, construction and accident backups. I've driven in a lot of big cities, but Detroit's the only one I really try to avoid - things are never going smoothly, the way they do on the average visit to Chicago. Half the place is always torn up for construction, because Michigan can't be bothered to build the roads to proper tolerances to begin with; we'd rather repair them every other other year. I mean, Washington DC is less annoying, even with very much heavier traffic and much more aggressive drivers.

Sure enough, I 75 was backed up, so I found myself on a tedious crawl on surface streets to M 10, the Lodge Freeway. That went quickly, thankfully.

I had originally meant to get there early and spend all day visiting each floor, but my local medievalist extravagance suggested a more disciplined approach. The cooking section for cocktail books and medieval cookery; the medieval and English and French history sections; the military section for medieval items were my targets. So I never made it above the 2nd floor, but I had one of the more productive bookstore visits I've ever had. I found (pertinent to the topic of this blog, anyway):

Food and Feast in Tudor England by Alison Sims.
Art, Culture and Cuisine; Ancient and Medieval Gastronomy by Phyllis Pray Bober.

I'd read both but didn't own them. Both are beautiful hardcovers with dustcovers, both were very attractively priced, much better than I could've done on eBay or Amazon.

The Medieval Soldier; 15th Century Campaign Life Recreated in Colour Photographs by Gerry Embleton and John Howe.
Crecy 1346; Anatomy of a Battle by Henri de Wailly.

The price for these two I can only describe as derisory. $18 for the pair. Both are immaculate; the Embleton and Howe book looks brand new and still bears a sticker for $65 on the back cover. I had never even seen the book outside of libraries, and had little hope of finding it for a reasonable price. I'm unfamiliar with the Crecy 1346 book, although I've read a good deal of more recent books on the topic, so I'm not sure about it, but it looks good. I don't know if it was written in English by the author, all of whose other books I can find are clearly French language texts, or if it is translated, but the translator is not named. We'll see. By the way, there are several books on the Battle of Crecy with almost identical titles; this one was published in 1987. I'm hoping for a strong French point of view, as most books on the topic are written from an English perspective.

On another occasion, comments on other good bookstores in Michigan.

Monday, August 04, 2008

War Over at Opening Ceremonies?

According to the Pennsic Independent, King Konrad of the East has conceded all 37 War Points to the Middle at the Opening Ceremonies yesterday.

That was unexpected! I have no idea what the story is here, although I'm sure there is one. From the count of kingdoms enrolled on each side, it looked like the East might be outnumbered. It appeared that mostly smaller and more distant kingdoms were fighting with the East and Atlantia, although I didn't see Meridies in either list. So perhaps the East felt it would make everyone on both sides happier to just fight and have a good time without a foreordained loss. But I don't know, that's the purest speculation; the Pennsic Independent didn't explain further. No doubt more details will become available.

I urge my readers to subscribe to PI if you are at home wondering what's going on at Pennsic; I know many of my friends are this year. Also, check out Master Rowan's page for lots of pictures every day.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Pennsic War 37

Once again I find myself unable to attend Pennsic, even briefly. I gave it some slight thought, but it seems impractical. We moved earlier this year into much more spacious and congenial quarters, and that cost a lot in time, effort and money; and I am in no way prepared to fight, camp or otherwise participate. And that's leaving aside the question of my work schedule, which makes Pennsic highly impractical. Can't just wander off and cancel classes during a nine-week term, and it's awkward to schedule substitutes during the summer. If the regular Econ guy were around this time of year to fill in for me, I wouldn't be teaching the classes to begin with! (I could afford the time to go to Pennsic, certainly, but my bank account would very much not appreciate it.)

However, in this day and age, it is increasingly possible to attend Pennsic in spirit, if not in person. One can keep up in the virtual world of the Internet. Here's my primary tool, the Pennsic Independent. This is the on-site daily newsletter of Pennsic, and they provide hard copies in the mail or .pdf copies. I prefer .pdf, as I can read them the same day.

And tonight I came across this web diary, at which the writer, one Rowan, who appears to be an old hand, promises to deliver photos and commentary on a daily basis.

Ok, it's not arming up and fighting in the field battle. One does what one can.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Jousting as a Sport

The Wall Street Journal has a front page story today on the revival of jousting as a genuine competitive sport, which they describe as "A far cry from the mock re-enactments at Renaissance fairs..." The story profiles Belgian jouster Fred Piraux, who seems to have quite the attitude. There is video at the link.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Weekly Standard on the Medieval Congress

The conservative magazine the Weekly Standard has a brilliant article by medievalist Charlotte Allen on Western Michigan University's annual Medieval Congress. I particularly enjoyed her merciless remarks on the dreary post modernism that has infected much medievalism.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sir Vitus and Caffeine

Sir Vitus Atzinger makes a humorous remark regarding proper behavior in the emergency Crown Tourney this weekend here. I laughed out loud.

Monday, May 19, 2008

MidRealm News

Well, actually, this probably isn't news to most people who might read my blog. But Their Royal Majesties, Lutr and Tessa, had their reign terminated by the Board of Directors of the SCA over the weekend. Their membership lapsed for three days during their term as Crown Prince and Princess. It seems that Lutr and Tessa discovered they'd lapsed after their check went astray, reupped online at once, and reported the lapse themselves. A class move which saves a lot of trouble and argument, that.

Duke Palymar and Duchess Aislinn were appointed regents for the kingdom. Fortunately, the timing is good, as Crown Tournament is set for this Sunday, the 25th. Palymar has announced that there will be two tournaments that day. One at 10 am whose winner will be crowned king at once, and the conventional tournament that afternoon as had already been planned. He specifically noted that Lutr is free to enter the morning tournament, along with whatever other eligible contestants are acceptable to the regents. I thought that was an interesting way to phrase it.

Unfortunately, I'll be busy that day, or this would be an unusually interesting event to attend. The Board has chimed in this morning on this topic. Notice that the Board, the regents and Lutr and Tessa all agree on what happened and what has been done. That's one of the reasons I like living in the Middle Kingdom. No drama, just an orderly, calm and courteous solution for the problem, everyone takes responsibility and moves on.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


We just spent a long weekend in Traverse City, Charlevoix and Petoskey, and I had a good food find. We visited the Traverse City wine tasting bar of Black Star Farms, a Leelenau Peninsula vineyard, and in the midst of examining their wines, I discovered a bottle of "Verjus" - verjuice, in other words. I posted about an earlier find here.

Now, when not cooking feasts or preparing dishes for local functions - long story, but I haven't been doing much with the SCA in recent months - one doesn't have a lot of call for verjuice, so I hadn't tried it yet. However, after getting the bottle of Black Star Farms Verjus home, I read the label more carefully, and discovered the following:

Verjus... the wine friendly alternative to vinegar. this unfermented juice of early harvested grapes offers a sweet-sour balance.

Use anyway you would use vinegar in salads, sauces and marinades or try our...

Virgo Cocktail
1-1/2 oz. Black Star Farms Verjus
1-1/2 oz. Club Soda
Add a squeeze of lime and serve on the rocks.

Well, I had to try that, of course, and it gave me an excuse to actually taste verjuice for the first time. It tastes mild, just a little tart. More reminiscent of vinegar than like it.

As for the cocktail? Well, it's ok. But I'll be using the rest of the bottle for cooking, I think.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

MidRealm Humor

Unlike most April 1 posts, this one is actually quite funny on several levels.

Monday, March 24, 2008

1381 The Peel Affinity

I have been eyeing this prospective book, which was due to be published in February, for some time. Remembering to check on it last week, I found that while Amazon has a page for the book, it doesn't have any copies. Windrose Armoury had six copies, though with a breathtaking amount for shipping, so I anted up. The volume arrived today.

The Peel Affinity does not disappoint. From a physical point of view, it is nicely bound with a handsome dust cover, a silk ribbon and slick paper with color photos on almost every page. The introduction says:

The book is divided into three sections. The first is a brief introduction to the world in which our characters live. In the central part, we take you through a year in the life of our fictional English knight and the people around him. The last part presents a more generalized view of campaign life and war as they might be experienced by our characters. Throughout you will find sidebars highlighting important aspects of medieval English life which affect the lives of our characters.

The book is provided by a historical recreation group called La Belle Compagnie, and depicts the band's impression of a late 14th century knightly family, that of Sir Geoffrey Peel. The photos are gorgeous, in places stunning (some interior room scenes at spots like pp. 40-1, for example). I haven't had time to read the book, but at a glance the text seems quite serious and accurate.

I'll have more comments later, after I've had more time with the book, but I'm delighted with the purchase.

Update: Oops, I missed the link to buy on this page, too.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Mead Makes a Comeback

Slate Magazine discusses the phenomenon here. The SCA is named-checked, but alas, not favorably.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Camera Lucida

An interesting SCA site which had hitherto escaped my notice is Camera Lucida.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Nuremberg Tournament Book

Amazon emails me (because I bought Prof. Muhlberger's Deeds of Arms) that the Nuremberg Tournament Book is available at this link. No pictures and little detail, but the book apparently has reproductions of some or all of the original manuscript illustrations plus modern commentary. The Metropolitian Museum of Art (which owns the manuscript) has a little detail and an illo here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Peel Affinity

1381: The Peel Affinity is about to be published in February 2008. I'm not sure what it will cost, but it looks interesting.

Thinkwell is Back

In the early 1990s, one of the more interesting and thought-provoking projects in the SCA was Thinkwell, a newsletter featuring commentary by SCA members on the organization and how to recreate the Middle Ages. It was put together by Sandra Dodd, AElflaed of Duckford, a long-standing peer and former president of the SCA, Inc.

My wife subscribed and we both enjoyed reading it at the time, and were sorry when it stopped publication. Now it's back in an online format with a blog and some of the old issues archived. I recommend it.

Update: I forgot to mention... in fact, I had altogether forgotten until I posted this... that I met Mistress AElflaed in 1990 at a SCA Board of Directors meeting in Cynnabar. I asked her a rather silly question during an intermission, and she gave me a very polite answer.