“Do not let your adorning be external”*…
In 2011, textile conservators discovered fragments of medieval manuscripts lining the hems of dresses at the Cistercian convent of Wienhausen in Northern Germany. The dresses in question, made by nuns in the late fifteenth century, clothed the convent’s statues.
The medieval dresses were made of patches of different cloth such as linen, velvet and silk, some in the form of lampas, a luxurious material, and sported rabbit fur trim. To achieve drapery-like folds in the fur, the nuns stiffened the hems by lining them with strips of parchment gathered in folds by means of a thread. The parchment… was not brought into the Convent for the purpose of lining. In fact, the manuscript fragments that have been discovered are recycled materials that include liturgical manuscripts and legal texts. Book recycling was common in the late fifteenth century, as evidenced by a manuscript from the Bodleian’s own collection (below). Because this was a period of religious reform, liturgical texts became outdated particularly quickly, accounting for their use as dress lining…
Read more at the Bodleian Library’s Conveyor, in Nora Wilkinson’s “Texts and Textiles: Finding Manuscripts in Unusual Places.”
* 1 Peter 3:3
As we wear it well, we might recall that it was on this date in 1374 that Geoffrey Chaucer received an annual pension of 10 pounds from John of Gaunt. Chaucer was fresh back from a military expedition to Italy, during which he is believed to have met Petrarch and/or Boccacio, and to have encountered the forms of medieval Italian poetry which he would use in later work like The Canterbury Tales. Earlier in the year Gaunt’s brother, King Edward III, granted Chaucer “a gallon of wine daily for the rest of his life” for an unspecified task– an unusual grant, but given on a day of celebration, St George’s Day (April 23rd), when artistic endeavors were traditionally honored, it is assumed to have been for an early poetic work. It is not known which, if any, of Chaucer’s extant works prompted the reward, but the suggestion of him as poet to a king places him as a precursor to later poets laureate.