A Nota Bene Pile-Up (Mmm… Marginalia #47)

Usually, I feature images from sumptuously illustrated gothic manuscripts here at Got Medieval, mostly because I am an unrepentant medieval art snob.* This week, take a gander at the lower righthand margin of British Library MS Sloane 746, a much less ornate manuscript:


Even though the artist is working with simple pen and ink, the medieval tendency to fill every available space with weirdness is in full display. It looks to me like the scribe started by drawing a manicule, one of those helpful pointing hands that say “hey, pay attention to this,” but his attention drifted until he’d produced a mish-mash of pictures that ensured that the last thing people would be paying any attention was the text.

Just a cursory inventory of things he drew to fill up the empty space on the page includes a pig playing the bagpigpes, a guy playing the flute, a jester playing with himself, a man with a dragon for a hat talking to a cow, a pygmie sitting on a miniature building (or a giant pygmie sitting on a normal-sized building), and a flower growing out of a nut.

*IE, I like the pretty pictures.

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