So I bought a copy of the Early English Text Society edition of The South English Legendary:
(Ever notice how you feel smarter already when you buy a book that comes in multiple volumes, the last of which is exclusively notes and commentary?)
What is even cooler than the book(s) is that the set arrived with its own history tucked inside. The inscription of the original owners:
Okay, fine, I hear you, lot of books have their first (and sometimes subsequent) owners’ names written inside. Tough crowd.
But then there was this:
A letter from the EETS editor, to the original purchaser, and mentioning the Kennedy assassination. Complete with coffee mug stains from either sender or receiver.
The bill of sale from when the set was bought used, having somehow made its way to British Columbia from Los Angeles.
Not to mention the bill of sale I was actually expecting:
(Close-eyed observers will note that this set had misplaced volume 3, no doubt on the hard trek to British Columbia. I ordered it separately.)
Either the owner(s) have an unusual commitment to history, keeping the sales receipts with the book(s), or this is a book that tends to be purchased more than read.
Weelll, it is a collection of edifying saints’ lives. Make up your own minds. Could go either way.
So I’m reading this book at the moment:
I will probably will be reading it for months. It’s vast. But I’ve learned some seriously interesting stuff so far.
From the very first page: the high, pointy roof construction of most early medieval Irish churches means that the height difference between the churches and round towers beside them would be much less noticeable originally than it seems now, when in many cases the round tower is intact but the church is gone.
From chapter 1: Written and art sources suggest that many early Irish churches were wooden, but of course wood churches are considerably less permanent than stone ones. O Carragain mentions a recent excavation, though, at Balriggan, County Louth, which probably is the remains of one. This is of course nifty both for itself and for being in my favorite county in Ireland. For both the wooden churches and high-gabled stone ones, the pitch of the roof is so steep that the church ends up being as high as they were long.
There’s more in chapter one, but the next bit is so awesome I think I’ll save it for its own post.
So I was guest blogging this week at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers about the Book of Kells and what’s involved in creating illuminated manuscripts.
I know, I know, the Black Death was a medieval phenomenon.
It comes back every so often. Like here. The difference, of course, between modern inconvenience and medieval catastrophe is antibiotics.
(Why, yes, school DID just start again…it’s no accident I haven’t posted since June 13th, when school got out for the summer. It’s difficult to think, let alone type, with children chattering at your elbow. So many of their sentences this summer started with “HeyMomCanI..” I was beginning to think I’d acquired a new nickname.. Anyhoo. Back for the school year…)
It’s taken me several months to read David Griffiths’ Vikings of the Irish Sea (2010) but that’s my fault, not the book’s. Mostly. It is a detailed, academic treatment, possibly not a good fit for a general audience and certainly not a place to begin reading about the Vikings’ forays into the British islands. And absolutely not a book to be trying to get through with short people chanting “HeyMomCanI…” in the background. Your brain starts blinking Insufficient attention available at this time.
That said, the book is very good at what it’s meant to be–a corrective to how we usually think about Vikings and their interaction with the British islands. Griffith makes the point that crossing the Irish sea is much easier and faster than, say, crossing Ireland by land. Trading and raiding–and not just by Vikings–crisscrossed the Irish sea, and we would do well to adjust our thinking accordingly.
The added bonus for anyone interested in Linn Duachaill is that this book came out as the first-round excavations were planned or perhaps underway, and so is a snapshot of the state of our knowledge just before that significant discovery. It’s worth noting that Griffiths had enough information at his disposal even before the discovery of the longphort to caution against assuming that Lisnarann was where the Vikings made camp: “the longphort…could equally well be associated with the monastery, as also seems the case at St. Mullins” (32).
This, of course, has turned out to be precisely the case.
Now, of course, I want to do some reading about St. Mullins as an analogue for Linn Duachaill.
So here’s another, longer article about the Viking Ship burial, complete with ill-fated crew, discovered in Estonia in 2008.
I have a soft spot for Estonia. We visited in 1998. The medieval city walls of Talinn were stunning. Also, the sea was rough and the ferry bounced a lot. For months after you could ask my then-2 year old son, “What happened on the boat?” and he would say sadly, “I coughed.”
This burial may cause us to rethink our dates for Viking activity. Traditionally we talk about Viking raiding as beginning late 8th century, but these burials are from roughly 50 years earlier.
I find this more entertaining than maybe I ought…I particularly like Hipster Shakespeare.
So a reputed Viking navigational tool may actually have existed. Ignore the silly bit about how the Vikings may have reached North America before Columbus. They most certainly did, as has been known since the 1960s, when the site was excavated.
Learned everything you need to know about how the middle ages handled wrong-doers from Hollywood? A terse but on-target corrective.