Reading in Restraint: The Last Chained Libraries
In the Middle Ages, books were incredibly scarce, and although many wanted to share knowledge with the masses, they didn’t quite trust the public. So the chained library was born, and while most of these restrained reading collections have vanished, a rare few still exist, looking much as they did centuries ago.
I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse
I will make you shorter by the head
The last page of a medieval book is usually a protective flyleaf, which is positioned between the actual text and the bookbinding. It was usually left blank and it therefore often filled up with pen trials, notes, doodles, or drawings. This addition I encountered today and it is not what you’d expect: a full-on drawing of a maiden playing the lute, which she holds just like a guitar. A peaceful smile shines on her face. I love this rockstar lady, so unexpectedly positioned at the end of the book, trying to catch the reader’s attention as he is closing it.
Pic: London, British Library, Sloane MS 554 (more here).
And they’ll never know how often
Fear and hope freeze and burn our hearts,
Or understand how both men and gods
Tremble before the arrows with which you’re armed
Medieval Hair Care
- So that hair might grow wherever you wish. Take barley bread with the crust, and grind it with salt and bear fat. But first burn the barley bread. With this mixture anoint the place and the hair will grow.
- Cook down dregs of white wine with honey to the consistency of a cerotum and anoint the hair, if you wish it to be golden.
- If the woman wishes to have long and black hair, take a green lizard and, having removed its head and tail , cook it in common oil. Anoint the head with this oil. It makes the hair long and black.
- If, needed, you wish to have hair soft and smooth and fine, wash it often with hot water in which there is powder of natron [Native hydrous sodium carbonate] and vetch.
- Take some dried roses, clove, nutmeg, watercress and galangal. Let all these, powdered, be mixed with rose water. With this water let her sprinkle her hair and comb it with a comb dipped in this same water so that [her hair] will smell better. And let her make furrows in her hair and sprinkle on the above-mentioned powder, and it will smell marvelously.
("De Ornatu Mulierum /On Women’s Cosmetics." in The Trotula : A Medieval Compendium of Women’s Medicine (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2001))
image: Lorenzo Costa, Portrait of a Woman