Gargoyles · Manuscripts · Medieval Art and Architecture

Demons in Pen and Ink

In one of my last posts, I promised that I would talk about non-architectural grotesques. So meet the Hours of Jeanne d’Evreux, a fourteenth-century illustrated French prayer book by Jean Pucelle. It now resides at the Cloisters in New York, and I highly recommend going to see it. It is certainly not the only medieval manuscript to have grotesques, but it is the one I am most familiar with.

The Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux, photo from
The Hours of Jeanne d’Evreux, photo from

The margins of the book are decorated with a variety of little people and creatures, some of which are very gargoyle-like.  It is difficult to know what to make of them. The entire manuscript is less than four inches in any direction, so the marginal illustrations are tiny! I’ve seen the book in person, and trust me, they are almost too small to make out, which makes scholars wonder why they appear there at all. Do they tell some story that is now lost to time, or do they serve another purpose altogether? They may be related to architectural gargoyles, or they may not be. As with architectural gargoyles, multiple interpretations exist. Some are similar to the theories I mentioned in my “Gargoyles Galore” post and others are very different, but none have won general acceptance thus far.

Close-up of grotesques in the Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux, photo from
Close-up of grotesques in the Hours of Jeanne d’Evreux, photo from


Marginalia (Marginal Illustration) – Day Eleven of Medieval Manuscripts

The term “marginalia” refers to the little illustrations or other markings in the margins of illuminated manuscripts. We’ve already seen marginalia in many of the manuscripts we’ve looked at during the past ten days, and in my opinion, marginal illustration is easily the most fascinating aspect of medieval manuscripts. The little people, animals, objects, plants, and other symbols…

Nerd Candy: Doodles in Medieval Manuscripts

I loved medieval graffiti, and now I find out that there are medieval doodles, too! What more could a history nerd want? I just came across an article on Colossal (a very cool site, by the way, so be sure to follow it) about some work being done by Erik Kwakkel, a manuscript historian at Leiden University. Kwakkel is…

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