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Picturing a World

Biscuit tin

A poor student in my current fantasy story occupies a sparsely furnished attic room and makes do with a storage chest for a desk. It was enchanting, therefore, to come across this 10th C illumination of St. John: William's desk leapt right out. I've been debating whether to give the young man a writing board or portable desk (I think I will), but what really caught my attention was that box the good saint is sitting on. It looks like a biscuit tin! I collect images of medieval scribes at work and room interiors, and I've never seen anything like it.


 
I'd love to know more about what the box with a face is intended to signify in the illustration; and if I were trying to write historical fiction accurate to a period, I would need to find out. But if I wanted to borrow it for my current story, I could make up my own explanation—have my student sit on a bit of architectural rubble, for instance. For a different fantasy, I could ask, In what kind of world would there be both biscuit tins and quill pens? As a prompt for a modern story, I can imagine a child sitting on a large biscuit tin in the secret place she has created for herself as a retreat. The point is, for a writer, it's always worth taking note of odd details and then figuring out how to use them.

 

For more about medieval desks and laptop writing surfaces, click here

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