Tag Archives: middle ages

RESOURCE: medieval art in CORSAIR, the Morgan Library’s catalog

Scholars looking for medieval illuminations to illustrate their arguments need look no further than the Morgan Library.  The Morgan has digitized and cataloged every image in its vast holdings of medieval manuscripts.  While an image search can be made in CORSAIR, the general catalog of manuscripts and printed books, there is a specific area of the site for searching solely the medieval and Renaissance images in the collection.

Find images in a number of ways:

  • by manuscript number (e.g. MS M.25, selected from a drop-down menu)
  • search by subject term (e.g. archer)
  • browse by category of manuscript (e.g. psalter), by country of origin,  and by century (also, both, selected from a drop-down menu)

Browsing by manuscript is also possible.

Results of searches display in a vertical list or as a "lightbox" grid, five panel across. The cataloging metadata for each image is extensive, and there are often multiple views of a given illumination. 

For example, the page below, a single folio from a twelfth-century English psalter (MS M.724):

also offers four additional detailed images of the upper half of the page and of selected panels, such as this closer look at the third panel in the top row, or "zone":

with extensive accompanying description:

3a) Moses: Burning Bush, and Moses, Miracle of Rod changed to Serpent — Beside burning bush, serpent crawls toward Moses as Shepherd, with head draped, stands with leprous right hand raised, beside five sheep on hill.

3b) Moses: Miracle of Rods, and Aaron: Miracle of Rods — Pharaoh, crowned, seated on cushioned bench, extends right hand toward Moses, with rod in left hand, and Aaron; three serpents on ground at their feet; behind Aaron, two men, possibly magicians.

Scenes in frames decorated with abstract ornament.

Clicking through to the CORSAIR record for this image, one can see the highly granular subject analysis applied to the image:

Psalters –England –Canterbury –Illustrations. 1155-1160.

Pharaoh –commanding Shiphrah and Puah.

Crown –worn by Pharaoh.

Arms and Armor –Sword.

Furniture –Bench.

Jochebed 2. Scene.

Moses –Birth.

Moses –in Bulrushes.

 Furniture –Bed.

Moses –brought to Daughter of Pharaoh.

Moses –Child at Court of Pharaoh.

Crown –worn by Moses as Child.

Furniture –Throne.

Moses –Burning Bush.

Moses –Miracle of Rod changed to Serpent.

Moses –Leprous Hand.

Moses –as Shepherd.

Moses –Miracle of Rods.

Aaron –Miracle of Rods.

Figure, Male –Magician.


For further information on searching CORSAIR, or finding medieval images, please feel free to contact Karen Green, the librarian for Ancient & Medieval History.

New Books in Butler Provide a Different View of the Middle Ages

Challenge your pre-conceptions about the Middle Ages (don’t you call them Dark!) with books recently added to the Butler Library collections.

Motherhood Religion and Society in Medieval Europe  Motherhood, religion, and society in medieval Europe, 400-1400 is a collection of essays, edited by Oxford University’s Conrad Leyser and Lesley Smith, that honors the work of scholar Henrietta Leyser (appropriately enough, Conrad’s mother).  In works such as Medieval Women: a social history of women in England, 450-1500, Leyser sought to bring women out from behind the shadow cast by the towering male political and ecclesiastical figures of most medieval historiography.  In this Festschrift collection, a wide range of scholars examine aspects of medieval motherhood from Augustine’s somewhat conflicted relationship with his mother Monica, to the question of whether medieval mothers taught their children to read, to the primacy of noblewoman Joan de Mohun in a 14th-century French-language chronicle.

Representing medieval genders and sexualities in Europe  Another new acquisition is Representing medieval genders and sexualities in Europe: construction, transformation, and subversion, 600-1530, likewise a collection of essays, this time inspired in part by a 2005 meeting of the Gender and Medieval Studies Conference.  A nice array of female scholars explore male saints’ virginity, female power through two Flemish countesses, and the way the imagery on Italian “birth trays”—painted trays given to celebrate a birth—confounds traditional gender roles by showing women in dominant behavior.

Sin and filth in medieval culture  And now for something completely different: Martha Bayless’ Sin and filth in medieval culture: the devil in the latrine.  This title made me think of the line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail: “He must be a king; he hasn’t got shit all over him.”  Bayless looks past the predominant iconography of medieval spirituality to look at omnipresent “emblems of material corruption”: “Excrement was not merely used as a figure of speech but was central to a popular medieval metaphysics…it embodied sin.”  Her subtitle, “the devil in the latrine,” is quite literal; she examines the “moral connotations of filth within a theological framework.”

So, stop by Butler to check out some unexpected views of medieval history—and ask Karen Green, the librarian for Ancient & Medieval History and Religion, to help you find others!

New database: Medieval Family Life

Just added to the Columbia Libraries roster of medieval resources, Medieval Family Life contains scanned images of 15th- and 16th-century correspondence along with full transcriptions.  The papers of the Paston, Cely, Plumpton, Stonor and Armbrugh families are accompanied by additional resources such as concurrent historical and family chronologies, an interactive map, family trees, and many more.

The letters are useful for, among other disciplines, social, political, and economic history, women’s studies, and as aides for late-medieval palaeography training.

Medieval Family Life

Bookmark http://www.columbia.edu/cgi-bin/cul/resolve?clio7992371 or search for "Medieval Family Life" in the Libraries Databases listings.

For questions, contact the Ancient & Medieval History and Religion Librarian, Karen Green, at klg19@columbia.edu.