Friday, 10 July 2009

Off the shelf: Medieval Pageant 1

Sometimes I buy books just for research, which clutter up my shelves until I rediscover them later. One such I bought years ago when I was working on yet another one of my legion of unfinished projects – a cartoon book on the myth of King Midas (the remains of which may end up on this blog eventually). The idea was that it would be printed in black and gold, so I was on the lookout for books and ephemera that used gold ink.
In a second-hand bookshop that had turned into a remaindered bookshop, thus losing all it’s character and charm, I found a book called Medieval Pageant, by Bryan Holme, published by Thames & Hudson in 1987.
The book, printed in four colours plus gold, is full of really wonderful medieval book illustrations, many of which have been completely ruined by the extra colour. It’s not much good as a source of information about the illustrations either, but these days I look at it quite often as a source for inspiration. I thought I’d post a few of my favourite images from it over the next few days, mostly for their cartoony qualities.
To start, this one, according to the caption, is an illumination from the Breviary of Isabella of Castile, Flemish c. 1497, the original of which is in the British Library:
‘Outdoor concert.
In the Netherlands at this time, a public musical performance would lie almost exclusively in the province of the court or the larger place of worship where a fund might be laid aside for singers and musicians. In this unusual miniature, a large group of instrumentalists are conducted in a free concert on the steps of a cathedral.’
I like the assortment of characters in this and particularly the man in the blue hat, framed by the arch and playing a long trumpet. He looks as if he might be glass-blowing instead.

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