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Our Medieval books offer a fascinating glimpse into this important historical period.

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Medieval History Books

  • William I (Penguin Monarchs)

    Marc Morris

    Product Code: BPZUO
    Paperback
    Part of the Penguin Monarchs series: short, fresh, expert accounts of England's rulers - now in paperback On Christmas Day 1066, William, duke of Normandy was crowned in Westminster, the first Norman king of England. It was a disaster: soldiers outside, thinking shouts of acclamation were treachery, torched the surrounding buildings. To later chroniclers, it was an omen of the catastrophes to come. During the reign of William the Conqueror, England experienced greater and more seismic change than at any point before or since. Marc Morris's concise and gripping biography sifts through the sources of the time to give a fresh view of the man who changed England more than any other, as old ruling elites were swept away, enemies at home and abroad (including those in his closest family) were crushed, swathes of the country were devastated and the map of the nation itself was redrawn, giving greater power than ever to the king. When, towards the end of his reign, William undertook a great survey of his new lands, his subjects compared it to the last judgement of God, the Domesday Book. England had been transformed forever.
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  • Henry II (Penguin Monarchs)

    Richard Barber

    Product Code: BPYZT
    Paperback
    The acclaimed Penguin Monarchs series: short, fresh, expert accounts of England's rulers - now in paperback Henry II (1154-89) through a series of astonishing dynastic coups became the ruler of an enormous European empire. One of the most dynamic, restless and clever men ever to rule England, he was brought down both by his catastrophic relationship with his archbishop Thomas Becket and his debilitating arguments with his sons, most importantly the future Richard I and King John. His empire may have ultimately collapsed, but in Richard Barber's vivid and sympathetic account the reader can see why Henry II left such a compelling impression on his contemporaries. Richard Barber has written for Penguin The Penguin Guide to Medieval Europe, The Holy Grail and Edward III and the Triumph of England. He is a major figure in medieval studies, both as a writer and as a publisher.
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  • Stephen (Penguin Monarchs)

    Carl Watkins

    Product Code: CCMQE
    Paperback
    'Stephen risked being seen as a man who never quite transcended the essential flawed-ness of his claim to be king. His actions betrayed uneasiness in his new skin' Remembered as a time in which 'Christ and his saints slept', Stephen's troubled reign plunged England into anarchy. Without clear rules of succession in the Norman monarchy, conflict within William the Conqueror's family was inevitable. But, as this resonant portrait shows, there was another problem too: Stephen himself, unable to make good the transition from nobleman to king.
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  • Medieval Illumination

    Kathleen Doyle

    Product Code: CCANQ
    Paperback
    Illuminated manuscripts from England and France are among the greatest masterpieces of medieval European art. This beautiful book showcases dozens of the finest examples, some of which have never before been exhibited and are rarely reproduced. It reveals the close artistic and intellectual connections between Anglo-Saxon and Norman England and medieval France, where scribes and illuminators often shared stylistic ideas and subjects. We include a wide range of important texts and illuminations from the collections of the British Library and the Bibliotheque nationale de France, including ornamented initials, delicate line drawings and fully painted scenes on gold grounds, illustrated with more than 75 full-page colour images.
    • £11.99
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  • Richard I (Penguin Monarchs)

    Thomas Asbridge

    Product Code: BWLYN
    Paperback
    Richard I's reign is both controversial and seemingly contradictory. One of England's most famous medieval monarchs and a potent symbol of national identity, he barely spent six months on English soil during a ten-year reign and spoke French as his first language. Contemporaries dubbed him the 'Lionheart', reflecting a carefully cultivated reputation for bravery, prowess and knightly virtue, but this supposed paragon of chivalry butchered close to 3,000 prisoners in cold blood on a single day. And, though revered as Christian Europe's greatest crusader, his grand campaign to the Holy Land failed to recover the city of Jerusalem from Islam. Seeking to reconcile this conflicting evidence, Thomas Asbridge's incisive reappraisal of Richard I's career questions whether the Lionheart really did neglect his kingdom, considers why he devoted himself to the cause of holy war and asks how the memory of his life came to be interwoven with myth. Richard emerges as a formidable warrior-king, possessed of martial genius and a cultured intellect, yet burdened by the legacy of his dysfunctional dynasty and obsessed with the pursuit of honour and renown.
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  • Edward II (Penguin Monarchs)

    Christopher Given-Wilson

    Product Code: BWLYD
    Paperback
    The reign of Edward II (1307-27) was a serious of total disasters, making him unsuccessful to an extent almost without equal. At some level Edward simply did not inspire trust or respect. He failed to be kingly, preferring ditching and cart-racing to jousting and falconry. He relied on favourites and seemed to alienate even the most natural supporters of the throne. His reign was convulsed by rebellion and attempts to reform the king's behaviour. In an attempt to throw off the spectre of his regal, soldierly father, Edward I, he invaded Scotland and suffered catastrophic defeat at the Battle of Bannockburn. After twenty ruinous years, betrayed and abandoned by most of his nobles and by his wife and her lover, Edward was imprisoned in Berkeley Castle where he was murdered. Christopher Given-Wilson's remarkable book gives a glimpse into the abyss: the terrors of kingship - where royal authority is based around strict succession by the eldest son, what happens when that eldest son is incapable of doing the job?
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  • Making Medieval Manuscripts

    Christopher de Hamel

    Product Code: BKPUF
    Paperback
    Many beautiful illuminated manuscripts survive from the Middle Ages and can be seen in libraries and museums throughout Europe. But who were the skilled craftsmen who made these exquisite books? What precisely is parchment? How were medieval manuscripts designed and executed? What were the inks and pigments, and how were they applied? This book looks at the work of scribes, illuminators and book binders. Based principally on examples in the Bodleian Library, this lavishly illustrated account tells the story of manuscript production from the early Middle Ages through to the high Renaissance. Each stage of production is described in detail, from the preparation of the parchment, pens, paints and inks to the writing of the scripts and the final decoration and illumination of the manuscript. This book also explains the role of the stationer or bookshop, often to be found near cathedral and market squares, in the commissioning of manuscripts, and it cites examples of specific scribes and illuminators who can be identified through their work as professional lay artisans. Christopher de Hamel's engaging text is accompanied by a glossary of key technical terms relating to manuscripts and illumination, providing an invaluable introduction for anyone interested in studying medieval manuscripts today.
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  • The Normans

    Trevor Rowley

    Product Code: CCYZQ
    Paperback
    The Normans were a relatively short-lived cultural and political phenomenon. They emerged early in the tenth century and had disappeared off the map by the mid-thirteenth century. Yet in that time they had conquered England, southern Italy and Sicily, and had established outposts in North Africa and in Levant. Having traced the formation of the Duchy of Normandy, Trevor Rowley draws on the latest archaeological and historical evidence to examine how the Normans were able to conquer and dominate significant parts of Europe. In particular he looks at their achievements in England and Italy and their claim to a permanent legacy, as witnessed in feudalism, in castles, churches and settlement and in place-names. But equally from the political stage. The reality is that, even within this short time-span, the Normans changed as time and place dictated from Norse invaders to Frankish crusaders to Byzantine monarchs to Feudal overlords. In the end their contribution to medieval culture was largely as a catalyst for other, older traditions.
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  • Henry VI (Penguin Monarchs)

    James Ross

    Product Code: BWLDY
    Paperback
    Henry VI, son of the all-conquering Henry V, was one of the least able and least successful of English kings. His long reign, which started when he was only nine months old, ended in catastrophe, with the loss of England's territories in France and a bankrupt England's long decline into civil war: the wars of the Roses. Yet, failure though Henry undoubtedly was, he remains an enigma. Was he always, as he became in the last disastrous years of his rule, a holy fool, simple-minded to the point of insanity and prey to the ambitions of others? Or was he more active and, as some have suggested, actively malign? In this groundbreaking portrait, James Ross shows a king whose priorities diverged sharply from what England expected of its monarchs, and whose fitful engagement with government was directly, though not solely, responsible for the disasters that engulfed the kingdom during his reign.
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  • Henry III (Penguin Monarchs)

    Stephen Church

    Product Code: BWLDX
    Paperback
    Henry III was a medieval king whose long reign continues to have a profound impact on us today. He was on the throne for 56 years and during this time England was transformed from being the private play-thing of a French speaking dynasty into a medieval state in which the king answered for his actions to an English parliament, which emerged during Henry's lifetime. Despite Henry's central importance for the birth of parliament and the development of a state recognisably modern in many of its institutions, it is Henry's most vociferous opponent, Simon de Montfort, who is in many ways more famous than the monarch himself. Henry is principally known today as the driving force behind the building of Westminster Abbey, but he deserves to be better understood for many reasons - as Stephen Church's sparkling account makes clear. Part of the Penguin Monarchs series: short, fresh, expert accounts of England's rulers in a highly collectible format
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  • Medieval Bodies

    Jack Hartnell

    Product Code: BUHXN
    Paperback
    A SUNDAY TIMES HISTORY BOOK OF THE YEAR Just like us, medieval men and women worried about growing old, got blisters and indigestion, fell in love and had children. And yet their lives were full of miraculous and richly metaphorical experiences radically different to our own, unfolding in a world where deadly wounds might be healed overnight by divine intervention, or the heart of a king, plucked from his corpse, could be held aloft as a powerful symbol of political rule. In this richly-illustrated and unusual history, Jack Hartnell uncovers the fascinating ways in which people thought about, explored and experienced their physical selves in the Middle Ages, from Constantinople to Cairo and Canterbury. Unfolding like a medieval pageant, and filled with saints, soldiers, caliphs, queens, monks and monstrous beasts, it throws light on the medieval body from head to toe - revealing the surprisingly sophisticated medical knowledge of the time in the process. Bringing together medicine, art, music, politics, philosophy and social history, there is no better guide to what life was really like for the men and women who lived and died in the Middle Ages. Medieval Bodies is published in association with Wellcome Collection.
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  • Queens of the Conquest

    Alison Weir

    Product Code: BRLYU
    Paperback
    Full of passion and betrayal, murder and war, the first volume of an epic new series from bestselling historian Alison Weir, bringing five of England's medieval queens to life. A Daily Telegraph Book of the Year Love, murder, war, betrayal This is the story of the five extraordinary queens who helped the Norman kings of England rule their dominions. Recognised as equal sharers in the royal authority, their story is packed with tragedy, high drama, even comedy. Heroines, villains, stateswomen, lovers Beginning with Matilda of Flanders, who supported William the Conqueror in his invasion of England in 1066, and culminating in the turbulent life of the Empress Maud, whoc claimed to be queen of England in her own right and fought a bitter war to the end, the five Norman queens are revealed as hugely influential figures and fascinating characters. In Alison Weir's hands, these pioneering women reclaim their rightful roles at the centre of English history.
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  • Henry V (Penguin Monarchs)

    Anne Curry

    Product Code: BPZUM
    Paperback
    The acclaimed Penguin Monarchs series: short, fresh, expert accounts of England's rulers - now in paperback Henry V's invasion of France, in August 1415, represented a huge gamble. As heir to the throne, he had been a failure, cast into the political wilderness amid rumours that he planned to depose his father. Despite a complete change of character as king - founding monasteries, persecuting heretics, and enforcing the law to its extremes - little had gone right since. He was insecure in his kingdom, his reputation low. On the eve of his departure for France, he uncovered a plot by some of his closest associates to remove him from power. Agincourt was a battle that Henry should not have won - but he did, and the rest is history. Within five years, he was heir to the throne of France. In this vivid new interpretation, Anne Curry explores how Henry's hyperactive efforts to expunge his past failures, and his experience of crisis - which threatened to ruin everything he had struggled to achieve - defined his kingship, and how his astonishing success at Agincourt transformed his standing in the eyes of his contemporaries, and of all generations to come.
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  • Richard II (Penguin Monarchs)

    Laura Ashe

    Product Code: BQAFY
    Paperback
    The acclaimed Penguin Monarchs series: short, fresh, expert accounts of England's rulers - now in paperback Richard II (1377-99) came to the throne as a child, following the long, domineering, martial reign of his grandfather Edward III. He suffered from the disastrous combination of a most exalted sense of his own power and an inability to impress that power on those closest to the throne. Neither trusted nor feared, Richard battled with a whole series of failures and emergencies before finally succumbing to a coup, imprisonment and murder. Laura Ashe's brilliant account of his reign emphasizes the strange gap between Richard's personal incapacity and the amazing cultural legacy of his reign - from the Wilton Diptych to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Piers Plowman and The Canterbury Tales.
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  • The Templars

    Dan Jones

    Product Code: BMNAY
    Paperback
    The Templars by Dan Jones is an eye-opening history book all about the Knights Templar - the wealthiest, most powerful and most secretive of military orders.

    Heading back to the crusading era Middle Ages, their story encompasses international conflict, finance and a swift rise in wealth and influence that was quickly followed by a sharp and humiliating fall.

    Jones looks beyond the mysteries that continue to fascinate and inspire writers of both fiction and non-fiction.
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  • She-Wolves

    Helen Castor

    Product Code: ACCZS
    Paperback
    When Edward VI - Henry VIII's longed-for son - died in 1553, extraordinarily, there was no one left to claim the title King of England. For the first time, all the contenders for the crown were female. In 1553, England was about to experience the 'monstrous regiment' - the unnatural rule - of a woman. But female rule in England also had a past. Four hundred years before Edward's death, Matilda, daughter of Henry I and granddaughter of William the Conquerer, came tantalisingly close to securing her hold on the power of the crown. And between the 12th and the 15th centuries three more exceptional women - Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France, and Margaret of Anjou - discovered, as queens consort and dowager, how much was possible if the presumptions of male rule were not confronted so explicitly. The stories of these women - told here in all their vivid humanity - illustrate the paradox which the female heirs to the Tudor throne had no choice but to negotiate. Man was the head of woman; and the king was the head of all. How, then, could a woman be king, how could royal power lie in female hands?
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  • A Fistful of Shells

    Toby Green

    Product Code: CDHWE
    Paperback
    Winner of the Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding 2019 Shortlisted for the Cundill History Prize and the Pius Adesanmi Memorial Award 'Astonishing, staggering' Ben Okri, Daily Telegraph A groundbreaking history that will transform our view of West Africa By the time of the 'Scramble for Africa' in the late nineteenth century, Africa had already been globally connected for many centuries. Its gold had fuelled the economies of Europe and Islamic world since around 1000, and its sophisticated kingdoms had traded with Europeans along the coasts from Senegal down to Angola since the fifteenth century. Until at least 1650, this was a trade of equals, using a variety of currencies - most importantly shells: the cowrie shells imported from the Maldives, and the nzimbu shells imported from Brazil. Toby Green's groundbreaking new book transforms our view of West and West-Central Africa. It reconstructs the world of kingdoms whose existence (like those of Europe) revolved around warfare, taxation, trade, diplomacy, complex religious beliefs, royal display and extravagance, and the production of art. Over time, the relationship between Africa and Europe revolved ever more around the trade in slaves, damaging Africa's relative political and economic power as the terms of monetary exchange shifted drastically in Europe's favour. In spite of these growing capital imbalances, longstanding contacts ensured remarkable connections between the Age of Revolution in Europe and America and the birth of a revolutionary nineteenth century in Africa. A Fistful of Shells draws not just on written histories, but on archival research in nine countries, on art, praise-singers, oral history, archaeology, letters, and the author's personal experience to create a new perspective on the history of one of the world's most important regions.
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  • Baron John Maltravers 1290-1364 'A Wise Knight in War and Peace'

    Caroleen McClure

    Product Code: CDGUX
    Hardback
    The first Baron John Maltravers led an extraordinary life. Knighted at the age of sixteen, he was taken prisoner at Bannockburn a few years later. As an associate of Roger Mortimer, he was a jailer of the deposed Edward II. On the fall of Mortimer, Maltravers was tried for treason and sentenced to death, but he had already fled abroad. His involuntary exile continued for twenty years. No attempt was made to capture him or to bring him to justice. By the time he returned to England, his only son had died in the Black Death, and Baron John's heirs were his two granddaughters. His surviving granddaughter, Eleanor, married into the noble Arundel family, and by a quirk of fate her descendants became Earls of Arundel, as well as Barons Maltravers, titles which are borne by their descendant, the Duke of Norfolk, to this day. This fascinating history contains references to both published and unpublished sources, setting the lives of the Maltraverses in the context of national events. Illustrated with maps, photographs and family trees, the book provides readers with a detailed account of life in these turbulent times.
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  • The Lost Archive

    Marina Rustow

    Product Code: CDBPM
    Hardback
    A compelling look at the Fatimid caliphate's robust culture of documentation The lost archive of the Fatimid caliphate (909-1171) survived in an unexpected place: the storage room, or geniza, of a synagogue in Cairo, recycled as scrap paper and deposited there by medieval Jews. Marina Rustow tells the story of this extraordinary find, inviting us to reconsider the longstanding but mistaken consensus that before 1500 the dynasties of the Islamic Middle East produced few documents, and preserved even fewer. Beginning with government documents before the Fatimids and paper's westward spread across Asia, Rustow reveals a millennial tradition of state record keeping whose very continuities suggest the strength of Middle Eastern institutions, not their weakness. Tracing the complex routes by which Arabic documents made their way from Fatimid palace officials to Jewish scribes, the book provides a rare window onto a robust culture of documentation and archiving not only comparable to that of medieval Europe, but, in many cases, surpassing it. Above all, Rustow argues that the problem of archives in the medieval Middle East lies not with the region's administrative culture, but with our failure to understand preindustrial documentary ecology. Illustrated with stunning examples from the Cairo Geniza, this compelling book advances our understanding of documents as physical artifacts, showing how the records of the Fatimid caliphate, once recovered, deciphered, and studied, can help change our thinking about the medieval Islamicate world and about premodern polities more broadly.
  • The Grace of the Italian Renaissance

    Ita Mac Carthy

    Product Code: CDBNW
    Hardback
    How grace shaped the Renaissance in Italy "Grace" emerges as a keyword in the culture and society of sixteenth-century Italy. The Grace of the Italian Renaissance explores how it conveys and connects the most pressing ethical, social and aesthetic concerns of an age concerned with the reactivation of ancient ideas in a changing world. The book reassesses artists such as Francesco del Cossa, Raphael and Michelangelo and explores anew writers like Castiglione, Ariosto, Tullia d'Aragona and Vittoria Colonna. It shows how these artists and writers put grace at the heart of their work. Grace, Ita Mac Carthy argues, came to be as contested as it was prized across a range of Renaissance Italian contexts. It characterised emerging styles in literature and the visual arts, shaped ideas about how best to behave at court and sparked controversy about social harmony and human salvation. For all these reasons, grace abounded in the Italian Renaissance, yet it remained hard to define. Mac Carthy explores what grace meant to theologians, artists, writers and philosophers, showing how it influenced their thinking about themselves, each other and the world. Ambitiously conceived and elegantly written, this book portrays grace not as a stable formula of expression but as a web of interventions in culture and society.
  • The Relics of Thomas Becket

    John Butler

    Product Code: CDBDD
    Paperback
    In a ceremony of great solemnity in July 1220, almost fifty years after his murder in December 1170, the relics of Saint Thomas Becket, Canterbury's most famous archbishop, were taken from the tomb in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral where they had lain for fifty years and placed in a magnificent bejewelled shrine in the cathedral's Trinity Chapel. The shrine, which became the focus of pilgrimage and veneration for generations of travellers to Canterbury, remained in the Trinity Chapel for more than 300 years until its destruction in September 1538 by commissioners acting on the orders of King Henry VIII. The fabulous jewels and precious metals were carted off to the king's treasury in London, but no authentic record has come to light of the fate of the mortal remains - the holy relics - of Saint Thomas. There are many stories but few hard facts. This book marks the 800th anniversary of the translation of Thomas Becket's relics in 1220 from the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral to the shrine in the Trinity Chapel. In it, John Butler carefully sifts the evidence about the fate of Becket's bones when the shrine was destroyed in 1538, and he explores a series of probing questions. Did the monks of the cathedral attempt to hide the relics before King Henry's commissioners arrived in Canterbury? Were the bones burnt on the orders of Pope Paul III, as many believe, or did they somehow survive? What is the significance of the grave discovered in the crypt of the cathedral in 1888? Against a background of church politics and carefully referencing all his sources, John Butler pieces together an intriguing story of faith, science and romanticism that will appeal to all who relish a true-life mystery.
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  • The A-Z of the Knights Templar

    Gordon Napier

    Product Code: CCYZP
    Paperback
    The Knights Templar were among the most famous of Christian military orders. Created after the First Crusade of 1096 and endorsed by the Catholic Church in 1129, the Order grew rapidly in membership and power. Templar knights were some of the best equipped, trained and disciplined fighting units of the Crusades. But when the Holy Land was lost and the Templars suffered crushing defeats, support for the Order faded and rumours about their secret initiation ceremony created mistrust. When the Order suddenly disappeared, disbanded by the Pope, it gave rise to speculation and legends which have kept the name 'Templar' alive. From Aaron to Zion, The Pocket A-Z of the Knights Templar is an invaluable reference of the places, people, and themes of the Crusades, the Knights Templar and their legacy.
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  • Freydal. Medieval Games. The Book of Tournaments of Emperor Maximilian I

    Stefan Krause

    Product Code: CCINR
    Hardback
    Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519) treated the spectacle of his tournaments, hastiludes, and mummeries as an art form unto itself. One of modern Europe's most important sovereigns, he shaped the continent's political map well into the 20th century, not least due to his keen awareness of the power of a good public display towards diplomacy and networking. From 1512 to 1515, Maximilian commissioned a massive, exquisitely detailed and illustrated manuscript of the 64 tournaments. The 255 elaborately gilt and silvered miniatures were more than just a collection of jousting scenes from the Habsburg court-from the grand melee and tilting at the lists to foot combat and closing ceremonies-they were an allegorical epic telling the story of an intrepid hero, a knight errant who is no other than Maximilian himself. In the guise of his literary alter ego "Freydal", the Emperor jousted to prove his love for a noble lady. The story ends with the lady agreeing to marry him-she is no other than Mary of Burgundy, whom Maximilian wed in 1477 at Ghent.Produced under the direct supervision of Maximilian himself, Freydal is an invaluable record of late-medieval chivalry, one which introduces us to the jousts that the Emperor revived and even invented-such as the spectacular Rennen mit geschifften Tartschen, where shields would be catapulted into the sky and disintegrated into metal wedges. To this day, it remains the largest extant tournament book from the Late Middle Ages and the essential source on European courtly festivities of the early modern era. Much too fragile to be on permanent display, the miniatures are safely locked away in the vaults of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. To commemorate the fifth centenary of Emperor Maximilian I's death, TASCHEN reproduces the complete 255 miniatures in full-color photographs, making the unique manuscript accessible to all for the very first time. The astounding collection is introduced by Stefan Krause, director of the Kunsthistorisches Museum's Imperial Armoury, who tells its fascinating story.
  • Old English Lives of Saints, Volume II

    Aelfric

    Product Code: CBYBJ
    Hardback
    Old English Lives of Saints, a series composed in the 990s by the Benedictine monk Aelfric in his distinctive alliterative prose, portrays an array of saints-including virgin martyrs, married virgins, aristocrats, kings, soldiers, and bishops-for a late Anglo-Saxon audience. At a turbulent time when England was under increasingly severe Viking attack, the examples of these saints modeled courageous faith, self-sacrifice, and individual and collective resistance. The Lives also covers topics as diverse as the four kinds of war, the three orders of society, and whether the unjust can be exempt from eternal punishment. Aelfric intended this series to complement his Catholic Homilies, two important and widely disseminated collections used for preaching to lay people and clergy. The translation is presented alongside a new edition of Lives of Saints, for which all extant manuscripts have been collated afresh.

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