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A&S 50 Challenge

Welcome to my A&S 50 page with my fifty book reviews for my Arts and Science personal challenge for the fiftieth anniversary of the SCA. As I've decided I will be scribing away anyway, I wanted to push myself to deepen my research and understanding of both scribal arts and my persona. I will be posting my book reviews here for posterity and later review.

Books will be posted in categories and then alphabetically.

Scribal Books

  1.  The Alchemy of Paint: Art, Science, and Secrets from the Middle Ages - Spike Bucklow - Bucklow presumes to analyze the philisophical and metaphysical importance of various pigments in the artists' pallette in the middle ages. For example, the heavenly meaning of Lapis as a perfect blue, used for Mary's gown and other heavenly depictions.  While some of the philosophy was interesting, particularly quoted material relating the processes by which some of the more dangerous pigments are made - I enjoyed the relation of the workman who accidentally posioned his workshop with mercury fumes as he made vermillion - most of the "meat" of the book is spent with pedantic repetition of the philisophical "theme" stated in each chapter.  I ended up reading the whole thing but could just as easily have skimmed the first few pages of each chapter for the same information.
  2.  Il Libro dell' arte - The Craftsman's Handbook - Cennino Cennini - period source - One of the first scribal books I read, The Craftsman's Handbook is a sixteenth century instruction manual for painters, for fresco, illumination, and several other art forms.  The book is one of the few extant instruction manuals on mixing paint and making various other artists implements, as well as painting technique. This is an absolutely invaluable book for researching period art methods and documenting period techniques. The instructions are typically specific enough to recreate the processes without additional resources although they sometimes take some experimentation to get correct.  Reading this itself was very dry but ultimately informative and I did a lot of note taking and underlining and tabbing for later read through during art sci projects.
  3. Illuminated Manuscripts from Belgium and the Netherlands - J. Getty Museum - while primarily pictorial, the introduction of this book is lengthy and has a great deal of information on the manuscript production of Belgium and the Netherlands. In particular, it addresses peculiarities of style to those areas as well as the influence of the trade markets on the illumination of the area and how it allowed those styles to spread to other nations.
  4. Italian Illuminated Manuscripts in the J. Paul Getty Museum - J. Getty Museum - Again, primarily pictorial, the beginning introduction covers the rise of Italian illumination in brief, in particular the court developments that lead to Italy's vibrant and often elaborate illumination style. One of the main centers of European trade and, as a result, pigment sourcing, the introduction talks about several of the major families, painters, and influences on Italian illumination and the Italian renaissance.
  5. The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting - Daniel V. Thompson - I admittedly didn't find this as instructive as I might have after reading Cennini.  While Thompson provides a nice clear break out of several pigments and materials and their use in period, much of it was translated "observation" and theory from his translation of Cennini and I'd prefer to just work from the period source. Of most interest was the analysis of pigment cost and locations of origin for various pigments.
  6. Merrifield Translations - Vol. 1 - period source (compiled) - A series of treatises on the arts translated by Merrifield. Daniel V. Thompson has done some extensive work using this information in his redactions and essays but the originals are well worth the read. These are occasionally repetitive as different artists would have similar recipes but I found, in general, a great deal of new information to add to processing of pigments, preparation of surfaces etc. The translations of these volumes are readily available for download online.
  7. Merrifield Tranlsations - Vol 2 - (see above) - I figured at 300 pages each, the two separate volumes could count as two books.
  8. On Divers Arts - Theophilus - period source - Often a "companion guide" recommended with Il Libro dell' arte, this is another period instruction manual that has a fairly extensive explanation of pigments and their uses and art technique, but also extends into other art forms with glass, metal, and sculpture as well. For scribal arts, the most useful parts are the pigments and gilding portions but the others provide useful information for combination technique projects as well.  Like Cennini, this particular book isn't precisely a thrilling read, but it is informative and instructional.  Again, I went through this with note taking and tabbing for later read through during art sci projects.

    Persona Books
  9.  The Canterbury Tales - while English in origin and several decades earlier than my persona, The Canterbury Tales is a vital examination of the rise of the middle merchant class and the faults and virtues in medieval society. Chaucer is scathing on some cases and praise worthy on others, but it is an excellent view into the strata of medieval society.
  10.  City of Ladies - Christine de Pizan - one of the great original feminist treatises and particularly relevant to my 1430's French persona as a series of investigations into the proper behavior of women but also on the merits and excellent qualities of women. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this as a period evaluation on what womanly behavior should be like and found it actually fairly free in its estimation.  Noted famous women were warriors, mythological, strong rulers, and intelligent.  An emphasis on chastity as a virtue was placed but given the time period that's extremely apropos.


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