Women, Manuscripts and Identity in Northern Europe, 1350–1550  book cover
1st Edition

Women, Manuscripts and Identity in Northern Europe, 1350–1550

ISBN 9781138246515
Published August 26, 2016 by Routledge
266 Pages

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Book Description

Author Joni M. Hand sheds light on the reasons women of the Valois courts from the mid-fourteenth to the mid-sixteenth century commissioned devotional manuscripts. Visually interpreting the non-text elements-portraits, coats of arms, and marginalia-as well as the texts, Hand explores how the manuscripts were used to express the women’s religious, political, and/or genealogical concerns. This study is arranged thematically according to the method in which the owner is represented. Recognizing the considerable influence these women had on the appearance of their books, Hand interrogates how the manuscripts became a means of self-expression beyond the realm of devotional practice. She reveals how noblewomen used their private devotional manuscripts as vehicles for self-definition, to reflect familial, political, and social concerns, and to preserve the devotional and cultural traditions of their families. Drawing on documentation of women’s book collections that has been buried within the inventories of their fathers, husbands, or sons, Hand explores how these women contributed to the cultural and spiritual character of the courts, and played an integral role in the formation and evolution of the royal libraries in Northern Europe.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Female book collectors in the Valois courts; Women and religious manuscripts: identity expressed through patronage; Visual demonstrations of identity; Women and legacy: the generational transference of identity; Conclusion; Appendices; Bibliography; Index.

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Joni M. Hand is an Assistant Professor of Art History at Southeast Missouri State University. She specializes in manuscripts produced in Northern Europe and gender in the late Middle Ages.


'The area of medieval women's literacy, patronage, and engagement with books and visual culture more broadly is one that warrants continued expansion, and Joni M. Hand's book undoubtedly makes an important contribution to this field. Furthermore, it also stands as a worthy model of scholarly work that straddles medieval and Renaissance or Early Modern studies. Especially in art history, these fields remain surprisingly and unfortunately distanced from one another, and projects like this one are key to alleviating this gap.' Sehepunkte

'By looking deeply at these manuscripts, the reader is able to learn much about the self-expression and self-definition of the women who commissioned and used these materials.' Magistra

'Hand’s study will have special appeal to graduate students and scholars new to the area of women’s patronage studies in this French milieu, for she provides encapsulated biographies of the many women who owned, commissioned, gave, inherited, or even borrowed manuscript books.' Speculum

'...a thoroughgoing survey of female book-owners in the late Middle Ages... Hand's detailed examination of specific examples, generously illustrated, allows her to explore the personal meaning that many of these books may have had for their owners.' Medium Aevum

'Readers from many disciplines will appreciate the extensive overview Hand provides ... intriguing associations between the images, the women who owned the manuscripts, and the richness of their religious and personal context.' Early Modern Women Journal

'Hand's argument is compelling. She offers to art historians, book historians, and literary scholars both a useful synthesis of existing scholarship and an insightful new perspective on how noblewomen actively participated in the literary and cultural life of their courts.' SHARP News