A Medieval Miscellany, containing over 200 excerpts from medieval literature translated into modern English and accompanied by manuscript art, presents a past world in a stimulating package which ensures popular appeal. It can be enjoyed superficially or studied in detail according to the reader's level of interest.
Outwardly a facsimile gift book, lavishly reproduced in simulated parchment, the introduction by Professor Le Roy Ladurie and the editor's preface show that its aim is to be more than merely decorative. Whilst the excerpts give only the briefest impressions of the individual works, the amalgamation of a wide range of material illustrates a sense of cultural cohesion present across time and geographical space, revealing the slow pace of change which must have brought a measure of order and stability to an otherwise precarious existence.
Though we may be amused at medieval social conventions, be sceptical of superstitious beliefs and shocked at brutal justice, we can still smile at the humour in this book and empathise with the suffering and the fun which it communicates. And we might still agree that students "excel at parties", just as they did in the 12th century, and may yet recognise Englishmen, from Froissart's description of over half a millennium ago, who "live on mild-flavoured food and good, heavy ales"! --Karen Tiley