Wednesday, April 23

Medieval lecterns with turned supports, and how awesome they are.

I haven’t got the technical vocabulary for any of this, but I do spend too much time on the British Library web site and found a selection of images that might other wise have gone unnoticed . . . because of their obscurity. Never mind my geek points for this one. I’ve fulfilled my quota for the year already.

The following links are to images from the British Library, and depict lecterns and writing desks with wooden supports that I think are turned on a lathe. Ever since I found out about wood turning (chiefly through Robin and Robin) I’ve kept my eye open for artefacts in my research (archaeology and manuscript illustration, mostly), but I’m no expert and could easily be mistaken.

Writing desks were made in a variety of styles in the Middle Ages, some being very plain slanted platforms for secretarial work or dictation and some having elaborately carved panels, cushions, and even canopies. What I link to today are elegant but simple varieties of these; the type of stem used here was popular at least in manuscript illustrations if not in actual use.

Psalm 1 from the Breviary of John the Fearless
(Additional 35311, f. 8) Click on the picture to enlarge it. In this you can see the stand on the right, which is being written in rather then read from--in fact, it is a portrait of David writing the psalms, in 15th c. style.

Arundel 547 f. 94v Luke
This is Luke, who in liturgical tradition was Paul’s scribe, writing both the gospel according to Luke and the Book of Acts, which are full of adventures. The style is Byzantine, and it is from the late 10th century.

Harley 3061 f. 1v Author portrait
An ink drawing of a tonsured monk, who probably died c. 860 . . . you can see the stand has a cloth covering over the top, but it seems to be held by a frame of some sort on which is perched a zoomorphic inkwell. The spiral carving or decorative turning can only just be seen peeking out from under the cloth.

Yates Thompson 21 f. 69v Jean de Meun writing in his study
Late 14th c. portrait of the author; the story is Roman de la Rose. This is perhaps the clearest of all these images to display the form of the stand/lectern. I’d love to have one of these made one day.

And here is a page from a site called Medieval Writing, which incidentally has a nifty little exercise set for palaeography practice.

Anyway, thought that would be interesting to post. I might post a picture, too, if I can find the copyright stipulations in a genial mood.

Friday, April 18

Lies I have heard recently, with commentary.

“I love Mondays.” First of all, what person in their right mind would trust the guy who said that?

“If you’d done the right thing, you’d be feeling better about this.” If doing the right thing were comfortable, we’d do it more often.

“You like it! I knew you would.” Oooooh, dear.

“I’m fine.” HA.

“If they have to say to trust them, it is obvious that they are not worth trusting.” Pot calls the kettle black, most of the time, anyway. Begging for trust isn’t always something villains do.

“It’ll be alright in the end.” A nice thought . . . eschatologically speaking.

“No, no, no; you look great . . . nobody will notice.” The people you don’t want to notice usually do; it is people seeing what they want to see that covers your mistakes most of the time.

“Trust in your inner self.” I can’t remember where I heard this sentiment, but: how deep! What a deep, deep pile of £$&% that is.


I would like everyone to know that I am not fooled, that I have had four hours of sleep out of the last 48, and that I did something very uncharacteristic today by getting a manicure. I am now going to think about getting out of my chair and into a bubble bath but it will take awhile until the caffeine has set in before I will be able to lift my elbows from the table. Tomorrow I am going to conjure up some molasses cookies and work on curriculum planning. Joy.

Tuesday, April 15

Relational Cause & Effect

“And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years.

Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.

For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.”

Deuteronomy 8:2-10


By quoting this, I don’t mean that God is the reason that bad things happen to good people; I know that people make bad choices and that no one acts in a vacuum. Suffering, even when it is not a result of our own disobedience, is not always an evil, either.

I resist the urge to quote at length Paul (Romans 5:3-5) and Peter (what suffering can compare to the glory that awaits us?), and even Tolkien (does anybody remember Éowyn talking about how “it is not always good to be healed in body”) and Lewis (the bit where God “shouts to us in our pain”).

There is simply something real and true about knowing that my dependence upon God transcends my emotional stability or physical stamina and reaches into the core of my self. The whole connection relies on steadfast love that we’ve been promised and shown, and trust and obedience: a scary proposal for our side if anything is done with less than a whole heart.

. . . And NO, I’m not advocating self-flagellation. Calm down.

Tuesday, April 1

Ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes . . .

Today is the day on which many a medieval love-vision or historical tale begins: April is here. The world is opening up, the zodiacal signs are apparently all frolicking in their set order, and the earth itself is breathing in time to the music of the spheres--humanity was set in a system of thought that knew neither Darwinism nor Jean Jacque Rousseau but a complex system of detailed constructs with religion and speculation tied together in one inextricable knot . . . “in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

Thank you, Mr. Dickens. You may be seated.

I was going to post a bunch of really awesome links to some Chaucerian texts and criticism, but it will have to wait. My pillow calls.