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Picturing a World

Moon and Lady Fortuna

Gobsmacked—that's my reaction. You could work out the iconography of Lady Fortuna. The moon is cyclical and fickle. Right, right, right. All the same…?!? The page comes in a treatise devoted to astronomy and astrology toward the end of a 15th C Netherlandish manuscript on natural history. (For the page, see image 00249). The treatise is bound with a description of a journey to the Holy Land. That's all I know, and I can't even come up with a writing exercise to go with it. Over to you.

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Alice and Martin Provensen

Cover, The Art of Alice and Martin Provensen (2021)

Alice and Martin Provensen were a devoted and charming married couple who were also both first-rate illustrators. They worked in tandem, mostly on children's books; and theirs was a true partnership of artistic equals. They never divulged which of them did what on their joint projects. After Marin died, Alice continued to produce imaginative books. The Art of Alice and Martin Provensen is the first monograph on the pair. It's a delight, with essays, photographs like a scrapbook of theirs and their daughter's lives, and generous high-quality reproductions from their many, many books. To flip through it, click here.

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Snowdrop

My recent interest in book jackets led me to an excellent group biography, Ravilious & Co: The Pattern of Friendship. Eric Ravilious lived and worked among artists and designers many of whom had studied or taught at the Royal College of Art in the 1920's. Contemporaries of the Bloomsbury set, they were just as bohemian and just as dedicated to their work; but they were not so, well, self-important. One artist who didn't make it into the biography, or at least under the name Claudia Guercio, designed the cover and this illustration for Ariel Poem #20, A Snowdrop by Walter de la Mare.

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Sybilla von Bondorff

Seeking diversion from the sorrows of war, I clicked on a British Library blog post on Medieval and Renaissance Women. What did it include? a medieval woman artist whose name is known! Sybilla von Bondorf. The post has a link to a manuscript she illustrated, and the British Library holds another from which this image of St. John composing the Book of Revelation comes.

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Altar of love?

I admit I don't know a thing about Martin Le Franc's Book of the Ladies' Champion and forgot to research it for today's post, but isn't this a delicious image for Valentine's Day?

Via Jesse Hurlburt's Manuscript Art.

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Artists' dust jackets

While I was Buchaning around the web recently, Rockwell Kent's art for Mountain Meadow landed me in The Illustrated Dust Jacket, 1920–1970 by Martin Salisbury. I borrowed a copy from the library. As soon as I opened it, I was bowled over by the feel of its paper, the beauty of its page design, the clarity of its reproductions—not to mention the quality of the jacket designs it reproduces.

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Snowstorm

A nor'easter predicted for the East Coast this weekend makes a 16th C image of a snowstorm in MIlan snow timely. It's supposed to be grim, but isn't it lovely? The Augsburger Book of Miracles in which it appears records that "in the year A.D. 1162 snow fell twelve times in succession upon Milan, so that the people fell into despair and no one was able to go and see anyone else." (Sounds like the effect of the pandemic, too!) Well, I'm stocked up on groceries and have begun rereading The Idea of North by Peter Davidson. Good luck to any of you caught in the worst of the storm!

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Deep Secret

Charles Vess, cover sketch, Deep Secret (ca. 2001)

I have just reread Diana Wynne Jones's Deep Secret in the 2002 paperback edition with Charles Vess's perfect cover (a favorite author, favorite illustrator). What fun, then, to find this preliminary sketch with Vess's notation, "Irene—I like this idea: the hotel lobby w/ s/f con people (as well as our principle [sic] characters) checking in as Rob the centaur bursts from air. This is a pure white background w/ design elements a la Saturday Evening Post. Charles"

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Medieval mice take the castle!

The solid black silhouette startled me first when I saw a stick figure in a 14th C bas-de-page illustration. I can't remember ever seeing anything like it in a medieval manuscript. Then I realized it was a mouse. A mouse with a catapult! A mouse attacking a castle! A castle held by a cat? Turn the page and there's more. It's really like a cartoon strip running along the bottom of eight pages of this 14th Book of Hours. The sense of humor is recognizable from the period; so is a narrative sequence in these decorations. But those black mice! Something for fantasy or historical fiction, for doggerel verse or a children's book (provided, I suppose, that you brought the cat back to life), or, for that matter, a little serious historical research.
 

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Mole Family's Christmas

Russell Hoban is one of my favorite authors, with his offbeat imagination and mastery of style. He's best known for the dazzling, post-apocalyptic Riddley Walker. (My favorite may be the quieter Turtle Diary.) Anyway, sometime this year, I bought a used copy of The Mole Family's Christmas, put it aside unread, and forgot about it—then, luckily, found it again in time to read it last night as a Christmas Eve bedtime story.

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