Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts: Twelve Journeys into the Medieval World

Christopher de Hamel. Penguin Press, $45 (640p) ISBN 978-1-59420-611-5
De Hamel, a renowned British authority on medieval manuscripts, reveals his devotion to his trade in a glorious book about 12 documents, including the Gospels of Saint Augustine (late sixth century) and the Hengwrt Chaucer (ca. 1400), that surpasses its title’s promise. Despite the somewhat obscure subject matter, de Hamel pulls readers in with his unmistakable passion for every facet of these handcrafted treasures. “I want to know who made them and when and why and where,” he writes. De Hamel travels to far-flung archives, waits for guardians to produce a book and lay it on the reading table, and then he pauses a moment to absorb the splendor before gently opening. He sensually describes the feel of vellum pages, the joy at discovering bits of marginalia, and the frustration of trying to discover what an erasure has hidden. De Hamel details each document’s idiosyncrasies while contextualizing its time and place of creation. The author shares his adventures with wry humor. For instance, his first attempts to see the Codex Amiatinus (ca. 700) were refused, though he learns that in Italy “the word ‘no’ is not necessarily a negative.” He also shares his befuddlement during a visit to the “bewilderingly infinite” Getty Museum in Los Angeles. De Hamel’s delightful book is bound to inspire a new set of medievalists. Color illus. Agent: Caroline Dawnay, United Agents. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/07/2017
Release date: 10/24/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 978-0-698-16338-6
Paperback - 640 pages - 978-0-14-311080-4
Show other formats
Discover what to read next