Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Girdle Books

I think these things are the neatest little innovations and at some point I'm going to make one for myself.

What is a girdle book?  Wikipedia has a reasonable definition, but for all intents and purposes they were books that were connected to a reasonable length of leather so as to allow the individual to wear it from their belts or girtles and make the book easily readable at any given time.  It is claimed they were in use from the 14th - 16th centuries and that they were worn primarily by monks, clergymen, and aristocratic nobles.

Where were girtle books found normally? According to the article entry:
At least part of the reason for the small number of surviving examples stems from the fact that the use of the girdle book was largely confined to a narrow area from the Netherlands to the Upper Rhine Valley. -- A Fifteenth Century Girdle Book, Pg 481
That says to me primarily Germanic.

I had performed research on girtle books a while ago, but apparently I'd never put the information online.  Sad, sad business when you have to do your own research more than once.  In any case, I was skimming through Hans Holbein the Younger's Dance of Death (1538) when I ran across an example of a girtle book.
Dance of Death: XXIII The Mendicant Friar by Hans Holbein the Younger (c1538) - Girtle Book Detail
A little history on Hans Holbein the Younger... He was born in Augsburg, which is my primary area of study, but he spent most of his career in Basel, which is easily a 3 days walk from Augsburg (no clue how far that would be by horse) and situated directly on the Rhine River.  On top of that, he spent a good many years in England (1532-1540) as the court painter for King Henry VIII.  Dance of Death was supposedly produced while he was in England if the dating of Dance of Death is correct.

For a really good article on girdle books, I suggest reading Margit J Smith's work (below).

Oh yay!  Another project to work on for my A&S 50 Challenge. :D

Articles and Construction of Girtle Books

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