Medieval Book Bag

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I saw this medieval book bag at the UPenn Religious Studies Tumblr site and thought it was cool. Worn under the belt, I like how The Consolation of Philosophy is wrapped up in rough letter. Here’s what Erik Kwakkel tells us about this thing:

Medieval book culture is known in particular for the sizeable books written and kept by monks. Such chunky volumes were efficient as they held a lot of information: one or more very long texts. They were not particularly handy, however, for taking information with you on the road. If that was necessary, the texts were written in girdle books, small objects that could be attached to the owner’s body. This example from Yale’s Beinecke library is a rare example of a girdle book that contains its original binding – the knot was slipped under the owner’s belt, where the object would dangle until needed. It is a delightful specimen that looks very attractive in spite of the plain material that was used – undecorated leather. The book it covers was written in England during the fifteenth century (though the binding may be continental). It contains Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy, written in the sixth century and discussing such topics as free will, virtue, and justice. These may not be the usual topics to have ready at hand while walking the streets of a late-medieval city, but someone found such use important enough to have the text fitted in a crafty binding.

Pics: New Haven, Beinecke Library, MS 84 (England, 15th c). Check out the complete manuscript and other great (zoomable) images here.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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