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New Medieval Books: From Glass to Illuminations

Five more medieval books to read and reflect on.

Stained Glass at York Minster

By Sarah Brown

Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers
ISBN: 9781785510731

Excerpt: York Minster as the largest single assemblage of stained glass from the twelfth to the eighteenth century in the country. It still offers a glimpse of the medieval vision of the church on earth as a foretaste of the heavenly Jerusalem, a translucent structure ‘like unto clear glass’ (Revelation 21:18). The building of the medieval Minster and the glazing of its windows were a collaborative enterprise that brought together churchmen, kings and nobles, laymen and women and the craftsmen and citizens of York. The care of the windows continues to be a collaboration, in which the craftsmen and women of the YGT, the Chapter of York, and scholars all play their part. We hope that this book, published to celebrate many centuries of worship and work and our own fiftieth anniversary, will add to the enjoyment and appreciation  of the many thousands who will follow the medieval pilgrims and admire the stained glass at York.

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John II Komnenos, Emperor of Byzantium: In the Shadow of Father and Son

Edited by Alessandra Bucossi and Alex Rodriguez Suarez

Articles in this volume include: Life and reign of John II Komnenos (1118-1143): a chronology / John II Komnenos: a historiographical essay / John II Komnenos before the year 1118 / Narratives of John II Komnenos’ wars: comparing Byzantine and modern approaches / The political ideology of John II Komnenos / The triumph of 1133 / Emperor John II’s encounters with foreign rulers / From Greek into Latin: western scholars and translators in Constantinople during the reign of John II / Literary trends in the Constantinopolitan courts in the 1120s and 1130s / Seeking a way out of the impasse: the Filioque controversy during John’s reign / Architecture and patronage in the age of John II / Imperial impersonations: disguised portraits of a Komnenian prince and his father / Coinage, numismatic circulation and monetary policy under John II

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Myanmar in the Fifteenth Century: A Tale of Two Kingdoms

By Michael A. Aung-Thwin

University Of Hawai’i Press
ISBN: 978-0-8248-6783-6

Publisher’s Overview: When the great kingdom of Pagan declined politically in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, its territory devolved into three centers of power and a period of transition occurred. Then two new kingdoms arose: the First Ava Dynasty in Upper Myanmar and the First Pegu Dynasty in Lower Myanmar. Both originated around the second half of the fourteenth century, reached their pinnacles in the fifteenth, and declined before the first half of the sixteenth century was over. Their story is the only missing piece in Myanmar’s mainstream historiography, a gap this book is designed to fill.Renowned historian Michael Aung-Thwin reconstructs the chronology of this nearly two-hundred-year period while challenging a number of long-held beliefs. Contrary to conventional histories, he contends that Ava was the continuation of an old kingdom (Pagan) led by its traditional ethno-linguistic group, the Burmese speakers, while Pegu was a new kingdom led by more recent arrivals, the Mon speakers. Although both kingdoms shared many cultural components of the “classical” Pagan tradition, Ava was inland and agrarian, while Pegu was maritime and commercial, so that each was shaped by very different geopolitical and economic environments. In that difference rests the dynamism of their “upstream-downstream” relationship, which, thereafter, became a regular historical pattern in Myanmar history, represented today by in-land Naypyidaw and “coastal” Yangon.

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Scent from the Garden of Paradise: Musk and the Medieval Islamic World

By Anya H. King

Brill
ISBN:9789004336247

Excerpt: Musk had numerous practical applications in the medieval Middle East. Musk is appreciated at the most basic level because of its powerful scene and uses in perfumery. Must was ubiquitous in medieval Arabic perfumery, and thus it came to be a symbol of perfume in general. These perfumes were worn by members of both sexes. Their use by men was actually more important than their use by women on a social level, because men were expected to be perfumed when properly dressed. The use of perfume by women was a more private affair and was usually confined to the home. Perfuming was not confined to the human frame; food and drink were perfumed as well, for decoration and because it was believed that aromatics could prevent decay. In addition, musk and aromatics were added to ink. Besides its extensive use in perfumery, musk had a major importance in medicine. The introduction of musk into the classical medical tradition was largely accomplished in Islamic times. It was frequently used as a substitute for castoreum; this suggests that its use developed partly as a replacement for the substance.

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Illuminating Women in the Medieval World

By Christine Sciacca

Getty Museum
ISBN: 978-1606065266

Publisher’s Overview: When one thinks of women in the Middle Ages, the images that often come to mind are those of damsels in distress, mystics in convents, female laborers in the field, and even women of ill repute. In reality, however, medieval conceptions of womanhood were multifaceted, and women’s roles were varied and nuanced. Female stereotypes existed in the medieval world, but so too did women of power and influence. The pages of illuminated manuscripts reveal to us the many facets of medieval womanhood and slices of medieval life—from preoccupations with biblical heroines and saints to courtship, childbirth, and motherhood. While men dominated artistic production, this volume demonstrates the ways in which female artists, authors, and patrons were instrumental in the creation of illuminated manuscripts.  Featuring over one hundred illuminations depicting medieval women from England to Ethiopia, this book provides a lively and accessible introduction to the lives of women in the medieval world.

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