...in which I share some of my favorite medieval research resources and methods for the benefit of others interested in also writing about the Middle Ages

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Change in Comment Settings

Due of a stream of "anonymous" comments to my last post having nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, I have (hopefully temporarily) reset my comment settings to "registered users". I know from experience that this setting makes it harder for many people to leave comments on blog postings, but I don't know any other way, short of screening every comment, to put a stop to Mr. Anonymous. I'm hoping that he/she will grow tired and take his/her annoying behavior elsewhere and that I will be able to reinstate the "general" comment setting soon. In the meantime, thank you for your patience!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Winner of "A Medieval Herbal"

Congratulations to Jaimey Grant! Jaimey has won my duplicate copy of A Medieval Herbal. Merry Christmas and Happy Writing, Jaimey!

And a very Merry Christmas to everyone who entered my drawing!

Monday, December 21, 2009

One More Gift Book Title

It's amazing what one stumbles across while cleaning house for the holidays. No, alas, it's not another duplicate book, so no contest involved here. (Though my contest for a copy of A Medieval Herbal is still on going through Christmas Eve!) It is, however, a copy of Through the Glass Window Shines the Sun: An Anthology of Medieval Poetry and Prose, edited by Pamela Norris. This is a little larger than the gift books I referred to previously. Okay, so maybe it's quite a bit bigger at 7.5" X 7.5". But it's still very much in the style of the gift books I described in my previous post on that subject, designed with the text on one page and a beautiful period painting reproduction on the facing page.

Through the Glass Window... begins with an introduction by Pamela Norris. In her own words, this book: "...brings together writing and painting from across the spectrum of medieval life, spanning a period of around 350 years, from the late twelfth century to the reign of Henry VIII."

Ms Norris divides her book into four sections:

  • "The Queen of Heaven", focusing on medieval religious prose and poetry
  • "My True Love and Lady", focusing on secular love between men and women
  • "In Peace and War", focusing on "the diversity of medieval life"
  • "Marvelous Tales", with excerpts from the sort of fantastical stories that men and women of that age enjoyed wiling the hours away listening to on a cold winter's night. (Many of which might equally well wile away many a winter's evening of our own...or spring's, or summer's, or fall's, for that matter!)

As I warned you to be the case with most of these beautiful gift books, this one, too, is currently out of print, but used copies are available on Amazon, and it never hurts to Google the title for additional options.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas Contest for Yet Another Duplicate Book!

I just finished holding a contest over on my sister blog, JDP NEWS, and it hardly seems fair that I should neglect you, my faithful Medieval Research with Joyce followers, from a Christmas contest of your own. Fortunately for you, I have rounded up...yes!...another duplicate book from my medieval  library!

This one is called A Medieval Herbal. It is a small gift book size (5" X 6.5"), hard bound, and to quote from the back cover blurb: "With lavish period illustrations and engaging lore from authentic botanical texts, A Medieval Herbal offers a fascinating glimpse into the traditional art of herbal healing." (See my prior post on Gift Books for more information.)

From what I can tell on Amazon, this book is out of print, so this isn't something you'd have the good fortune of stumbling across in a bookstore, like I did several years ago!

How can you enter to win a copy of this book? It's Christmas time, we're all busy, so I'm going to keep this one simple! Simply leave a comment on this blog telling me why you'd like to win this book. AND either include your email address with your comment so I can contact you if you win, or if you'd rather keep that personal, email me your email address (mailing address are good, too!) to jdipastena@yahoo.com, with "Medieval Research with Joyce Contest" in the subject line. Deadline for entering will be midnight PST, December 24th, with the winner announced on December 25--Christmas Day!

Don't Overlook the Value of Gift Books

I'm talking small (5" X 6.5"-ish), hardbound, beautifully illustrated little books you'll find, not in the history section of your bookstores, but in the "gift section"-- if you're lucky enough to stumble across such a book and if your favorite bookstore has such a section. These are mostly books I've discovered "accidentally", for you never know when they will appear and often it does feel like pure "luck" to be in the right place at the right time just as one of these little jewels is available. For that is how I view these books, as "jewels" in my research collection.

Many of these "jewels" come in the form of A Book of Days. Two such examples in my collection are:

Medieval Lovers: A Book of Days and Medieval Gardens: A Book of Days. Both of these books are filled with reproductions of contemporary medieval paintings, tapestries, etc. These reproductions "show", rather than "tell", what life was like during this period. But there is "telling", too! "Telling" in the form of contemporary quotes, whether medieval verses about love (in Medieval Lovers) or medieval advice about gardening (in Medieval Gardens). The lovely thing in both cases is that the text accompanying the pictures is "contemporary". We hear the medieval voice itself on these subjects!

A Medieval Herbal also contains contemporary medieval pictures and text, but this one is not a Book of Days. This gift book contains a modern introduction, followed by short medieval treatises on a variety of herbs, such as betony, fennel, marigold, wormwood, and many, many more. There are also sections on "In the Wood", "The Seven Herbes That Have Great Vertue", "In the Monastery Garden", "Gathering Herbs", "Drying and Storing", and "In a Pleasure Garden".

Last, but very much not least in my gift book collection, is Love and Longing in the Age of Chivalry. This is my smallest jewel of all, at only 4.5" X 5.5". It varies from the books mentioned above in that the artwork is a combination of contemporary medieval art and Pre-Raphaelite paintings. (If you're unfamiliar with the Pre-Raphaelite painters, then you are in for a treat. Click here to read about the Pre-Raphaelite painters and here to see examples of their paintings.) The text is also a mixture of medieval poets (Chrétien de Troyes, Bernard de Ventadour, Chaucer, etc), and more modern poets, such as Sir Thomas Mallory and John Donne. The former far outnumber the latter, however, once again giving you plenty of opportunities to sample the medieval "voice" in  matters of love!

Now for the bad news. Many of these "jewels" in my collection now seem to be out of print. Most have used copies available on Amazon, however, so there is hope for some of you to track down copies of your own. (And Google searches can usually help you find other buying options, too.) The lesson? If you are fortunate enough to happen across one of these little gift books, run, don't walk, with it to the cash register! If you delay, thinking you can come back and buy it just any old time, it not only might be gone when you come back, it might be out of print!

And the good news? Once again, I just happen to have a duplicate copy of one of these books in my research library. To find out how you can win a copy of A Medieval Herbal, click here.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Excerpt from "An Epiphany Gift for Robin" in Stolen Christmas and Other Stories of the Season

Here's just a short excerpt from my medieval short story, "An Epiphany Gift for Robin", included in the new Christmas anthology, Stolen Christmas and Other Stories of the Season. I have to keep it short, since it's from a short story. Too many words and I'd give the whole story away! :-)


    The food was long gone now, along with the merry games played by the villagers to keep warm in the winter snows. The ivy and holly so gleefully gathered and hung by the children to brighten their tiny thatched cottage had grown dry and crisp, crackling off their garlands and crushed by shoes to form a fine, fragrant dust on the earth-beaten floor. Today, Epiphany, the day the Magi had presented their gifts to the Christ child, was the last day of respite her family would have from the backbreaking work in the baron’s fields.
     “What foolish thing have you done?” Marriot demanded of her husband. Gifts were only given to small children on Epiphany, especially among the poor. 
     Her husband’s dark eyes danced with that mischievous gleam that had won her heart ten years ago. “Sometimes a bit of foolishness is just what a man needs to bestow on the woman he loves.”
     She heard a trio of high-pitched giggles from the children.
     “Open it, Ma, open it!” little four-year-old Lottie trilled.
     “Aye, Ma. Da’s been ready to bust for days, waiting for you to see it,” said Robin.
     Marriot cast a suspicious gaze at her middle child. He bounced excitedly on the balls of his feet, the exact image of his father at the same age with his black hair and bright dark eyes.
     “Do you know what this is, Robin?”
     Robin smiled slyly, but neither shook nor nodded his head.

Stolen Christmas and Other Stories of the Season is available at the following sites in the following formats:

Hard copies from CreateSpace and Amazon.com
E-copy formats from Smashwords

They'll make great Christmas gifts!