Manuscript scholars have long marveled over the marginalia left in books, particularly handwritten books, and what the different layers of a text tell us about the people who made it. Look beyond the pages—to the bindings, the illustrations, the pages themselves—and a surprising material history reveals itself. Mary Wellesley, a tutor at the British Library, has written an ode to the ordinary people who wrote such manuscripts by hand, illustrated them, bound them, preserved them, and did all of the necessary labor to ensure that they survived the centuries intact, or perhaps only slightly nibbled by mice. She joins us on the podcast to talk about her new book, The Gilded Page.
Go beyond the episode:
- Mary Wellesley’s The Gilded Page: The Secret Lives of Medieval Manuscripts
- You can flip through the only known copy of Margery Kempe’s autobiography on the British Library website
- Or peruse Anne Boleyn’s elaborately illuminated Book of Hours, in which Henry VIII scribbled love notes, and her miniature girdle Book of Psalms:
- Geoffrey Chaucer’s manuscripts are so well-known to us because they were great, yes—but also because of his social and financial standing. Listen to our interview with Marion Turner, author of the first biography of Geoffrey Chaucer in a generation
Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.
Download the audio here (right click to “save link as …”)
Have suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes!
Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.