Friday, February 17, 2012

Carl Pyrdum on medieval "doodles"

This may not be part of your mental picture of the Middle Ages:

Put aside the issue of errant agency clause,* because it’s the word “doodle” that really riles my pedantic dander. Granted, it’s not the first time that a marginalia post of mine has been disseminated to teh wider internets under the heading of “doodle,”** but it still irks me, because, as I try to make clear, the images I post here on Mondays*** weren’t scribbled into the margins by surreptitious snarkers whilst no one was looking. They were explicitly commissioned by the manuscript’s patrons as part of the project from the very beginning. For the well-heeled noble, ordering a book was not just a matter of selecting the text; deciding on size, presentation, illustration, and ratio of naked dudes to non-naked dudes in the margins was all part of the process of getting a book made.

For this page, somebody sat down and sketched out a rough draft, showed it to somebody else, possibly even multiple somebodies. There were meetings. Consultants were brought in. The client was consulted. And at some point somebody said, “Yes, that’s very nice, the nuns smuggling that dude into their nunnery. Very topical. But I don’t like that blanket. Too drab. Can we get someone to put some flowers on it? 

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