Weird Medieval Marginalia

I guess it’s nice when the internet discovers the much-better-than-the Renaissance-or-Enlightenment awesomeness of the Middle Ages, but like schoolboys searching for the dirty words in the dictionary, they often only seems to find the bizarre or outrageously sexual stuff. Case in point: Buzzfeed’s 20 Bizarre Examples of Medieval Marginalia. Please, please, PLEASE do not click that link if you are easily offended. You have been warned, so I don’t want to hear about, okay?

Here is the least offensive thing I could use:

Honestly, though, for those not familiar with weirdness in Medieval illustration, it’s a decent primer of just how weird some can get, and proof that all those celibates hunched over candles illustrating religious texts got seriously punchy now and then.

If you want a large collection of medieval manuscript art, I recommend Masterpieces of Illumination. It doesn’t have as many sodomite monkeys or butt-trumpets as Buzzfeed, but it is a good selection of fascinating art at a reasonable price.

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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.

  • Brian Sullivan

    Some of these look like two different people drew them. As Lt. Bookman said: “Maybe we can live without libraries, people like you and me. Maybe. Sure, we’re too old to change the world, but what about that kid, sitting down, opening a book, right now, in a branch at the local library and finding drawings of pee-pees and wee-wees on the Cat in the Hat and the Five Chinese Brothers? Doesn’t HE deserve better? Look. If you think this is about overdue fines and missing books, you’d better think again. “

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    “1971: bad year for libraries, bad year for America.”

    Maybe it was rivals defacing each others’ work.

  • Margaret Catherine

    #19 (being the least offensive, and maybe the strangest) needs context desperately. What Psalm or lesson was that illustrative of?

  • Clare Krishan

    Not sure if this is an appropriate use of the comment box – but wondered if you had followed the (late) medieval archeology in Leicester culminating in today’s announcement of the ID of the mortal remains of King Richard III in the Greyfriars choir? “The Search for King Richard III – The Genealogy”
    Note the serendipity of the scientific timing – after a long line of passing down their maternal DNA the distaff regal descendents now have come to a [culture of death] dead end: either (a) no children or (b) no more girl children. Would Paul VI feel vindicated?

  • Clare Krishan
  • Thomas L. McDonald

    I have, but it spread so fast I didn’t get a chance to write about it! Thanks for the links. I may have a chance to write it up tomorrow.