Postcards on Parchment


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The Social Lives of Medieval Books

Kathryn M. Rudy

View Inside Format: Hardcover
Price: $60.00
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Medieval prayer books held not only the devotions and meditations of Christianity, but also housed, slipped between pages, sundry notes, reminders, and ephemera, such as pilgrims’ badges, sworn oaths, and small painted images. Many of these last items have been classified as manuscript illumination, but Kathryn M. Rudy argues that these pictures should be called, instead, parchment paintings, similar to postcards. In a delightful study identifying this group of images for the first time, Rudy delineates how these objects functioned apart from the books in which they were kept. Whereas manuscript illuminations were designed to provide a visual narrative to accompany a book’s text, parchment paintings offered a kind of autonomous currency for exchange between individuals—people who longed for saturated color in a gray world of wood, stone, and earth. These small, colorful pictures offered a brilliant reprieve, and Rudy shows how these intriguing and previously unfamiliar images were traded and cherished, shedding light into the everyday life and relationships of those in the medieval Low Countries. 

Kathryn M. Rudy is senior lecturer in the School of Art at the University of St. Andrews. 

Postcards on Parchment is a cornucopia of deeply researched case studies and images”—Nicolette Zeeman, Times Literary Studies

“[Kathryn Rudy's] study is both provocative and well documented, generously illustrated and appealingly written, with a lively awareness of the medieval practices that are likely to draw in non-specialists as well.”—Elizabeth J. Moodey, Historians of Netherlandish Art

“[An] exuberant study . . . Rudy is an agile spelunker of books, delving with brio into their recesses. The abundant details that emerge from these excavations never seem to grow ponderous, and they are always leavened by Rudy’s effervescent prose.”—Sonja Drimmer,

"That Yale University Press lavished such care and so much color on the production of this beautiful book helps no less in bringing this largely forgotten genre of image to life.That the often humble images Rudy studies with such insight, if sometimes with a tad too much fancy, acquire such eloquence, speaks not only to their importance to their makers and recipients but also to the author’s historical imagination."—Jeffery F. Hamburger, Common Knowledge

“[Postcards on Parchment] is an impressive study . . . a fascinating analysis of the intersecting lives of books, texts, images, paintings, readers, and communities.”—Elizabeth L’Estrange, Renaissance Quarterly

“[Postcards on Parchment is a] monumental accomplishment, a book from which every scholar of the medieval manuscript should draw inspiration. The author offers us nothing less than a new lens for the examination of the medieval codex.”—Richard A. Leson, Manuscripta
ISBN: 9780300209891
Publication Date: August 11, 2015
362 pages, 220 x 280
80 color + 140 b/w illus.