Mario and Medieval Manuscripts

Thanks to boing boing, an old post at Got Medieval is getting some fresh attention, and it’s well worth a look at the whole thing. Carl Pyrdum uses the modern conventions of 2D platform-jumping game art to explain the internal logic of medieval illumined manuscripts. His point is that marginal objects in these manuscripts have platforms under them, as though the objects have weight and need to somehow be “attached” to the page:

Deluxe Gothic manuscript pages are drawn as though the figures on them are subject to a force of gravity that pulls them down towards the open space in the lower margin. Consequently, you almost never see figures stranded out in the middle of open white space. Marginal men, women, and beasties may hang from beneath the page’s decorative borders or run along the top of them–as Mario and his rabbit friend above are doing–but if they stray too far into the margin and away from the border, they require some additional support. Usually, that support takes the form of patches of ground, like those underneath these figures I’ve shown you before (from the Ormesby Psalter):

In order to keep the man and his goat in the middle from falling right on through the bottom of the page, the artist draws in little patches of ground beneath them. Mario, no stranger to platforms that hang in the air as if bolted to the background, would feel right at home with this arrangement. And vice versa:

There’s more, so check it out.

About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.


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