The Original Zelda MS Revealed! (Mmm… Marginalia #57)

Here’s a little something I worked up tonight:

Voilà: the opening crawl of the NES classic The Legend of Zelda mocked up as a gothic manuscript page of the sort I’m always going on about in my Mmm… Marginalia posts. It demonstrates a few things about the way professional manuscript houses in England and France serving the nobility in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries put a page together. Chiefly…

  • The space a text fills is as important as the text itself. It should be as close to a solid wall of letters as possible.
  • Words can be compressed or split up in order to make the text fit the space.
  • They can also be abbreviated, as I have done with ‘before’, ‘darkness’, and ‘into’ above.’
  • Medievals used Roman numerals and their own capricious system of punctuation.
  • In general, the decorative border should be vegetative, and it should usually not cover all four sides around the text.
  • Nearly everything on the page should be connected to everything else.
  • The page should be drawn as though gravity pulls everything from the top of the page into the lower margin. Nothing can be unsupported.
  • Though gravity is active, weights can be inconsistent.*
  • Almost always, it’s only the main illumination on a page that concerns the subject of the text directly.
  • The marginalia can be anything else your heart desires.
  • I just now realized I left out the fancy “S” I’d planned for “SHE”, even though I left a little space for it. Believe it or not, you see planned but omitted decorations all the time in medieval manuscripts. So let’s just forget I ever admitted it was a mistake… Fixed it!

I make learning fun!

By the by, here are the two reference images I used in making this:

And yeah, I used a reference that violates half my little rules, but it’s a much smaller book from a different region than the deluxe ones I’m talking about, and I needed something with a simpler layout to copy.

P.S. Image now available in magnet form, for a limited time.

*Large initials like the ‘G’ can be held up by Guile’s hair just fine, thank you very much.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Tawrin

    I particularly like the abbreviated 'into'.

  • Matthew Gabriele

    Fantastic, Carl. A link to this is going up in my medieval intro course…

  • Derek

    Yeah, but won't your students think of this as just a mash up of two ancient cultures: Medieval Europe and First Generation NES?

  • Sheryl

    I make learning fun!
    Yes. Yes, you do.

  • Gilraen

    This is brilliant. Anytime a concept can be expressed through the language of Zelda, it should be.

  • Chris


  • Owlfarmer

    I've finally stopped laughing long enough to compose a comment on your hi-larious blog. I'm not sure how I found it (I was futzing around on Google looking for things on Pugin and ended up here), but I'm glad I did. Unfortunately, unless you specifically prohibit me from doing so, I'm going to link posts here and there to slide lists and blog posts of my own where appropriate. With luck my students won't give you too much trouble.

    I teach history of art & design to art and design students and one of their projects is to illuminate a text (bits from Dante, Shakespeare, Gilgamesh, Homer, and Beowulf). I think this particular post will be helpful to them (your rules are much livelier than mine), and you've definitely (with all the talk of monkeys)put the droll back in drollery.

    I also appreciate your mentioning the boingboing post and your response (far snarkier than I, the queen of snark can usually muster), since I just got through ranting about textbooks in general last week on The Owl of Athena. You've offered what I think is a perfectly reasonable take on the subject, even though it doesn't really match mine. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to actually go read the boingboing thingie, and post a note on my blog directing my students to go read yours.

    Thanks for the hearty belly laugh. And for all the monkeys. I'll come back when I've got serious time to spend.

  • Bonzuko

    Found you through Boing-boing, and I'm glad I did. Love this!

    Jenn Zuko

  • Got Medieval

    Derek – Ja, this post is really best for teaching people who were in college ten years ago. But I hear the kids, they like the retro gaming, too.

  • Christina Barrera

    If you like real Medieval manuscripts you should check out the Walters Art Museum's website. You can page through Western and Islamic medieval manuscripts. or, you can follow them on twitter (MedievalMSS or Walters_Museum)it's really cool!

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