Glorious works of art as well as documents of bygone eras, painted an illuminated manuscripts supply perhaps the greatest and by far the best-preserved evidence of daily life during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. This Tiny Folio draws on one of the greatest collections in the world to illustrate the angels, demons, and everyday denizens of the medieval world.
This little treasure is one of a score of pocket-size tomes in the "Tiny Folio" series, which offers mini courses in art history based on the collections of the world's great museums. The nearly 300 pages, just four by four-and-a-half inches, hold almost that many full-color illustrations of the jewel-like illuminations that adorn Medieval manuscripts. This handy book is the perfect purse or pocket-stuffer, guaranteed to transport the reader to a paradise of unicorns and crimson-clad maidens, jousting knights, lute music, and gold-framed bestiaries. There are also the mouths of hell, Satan and the damned, and a hirsute "wild woman" rescuing a child from a curiously lamb-like dragon. All in all, it's a mesmerizing trip through five chapters: Biblical Scenes; Saints, Rites, and Rituals; Royalty, Pastimes, and Professions; Flora and Fauna; and The Supernatural, with a short essay to introduce each one. This is a great book to give as a gift or use as a visitor's guide to the Morgan Library, as the editors have provided thorough captions, an index to the illustrations, and a short but carefully chosen bibliography (which includes Roger S. Wieck's Painted Prayers: The Book of Hours in Medieval and Renaissance Art, a larger look, so to speak, at one particularly beautiful type of illuminated work in the Morgan Library's collection). Be warned that some readers may need to take a magnifier to these minuscule, detailed pages, which teem with brilliant colors, vividly drawn decorations, and scenes that range from the bizarrely imaginative to the pastoral and serene. --Peggy Moorman