Mary Wellesley (2021)

Everyone associates mediæval manuscripts with monasteries and monks, but nuns had an enormous part to play as well, including in some of the best-known works. That’s the central observation of this extremely enjoyable book. It’s niche in the sense of really appealing to caligraphers and classicists, but it also serves to show (once again) that the Middle Ages (and before) were a socially richer period than we often imagine.

As well as Latin, we’re exposed to a lot of Old and Middle English, carefully translated and glossed to make the context comprehensible. I can imagine that experts might object to some of the modernisation, but for an non-specialist it was quite clarifying.

About the only negative point was that I suspect the book emerged from Mary Wellesley’s PhD thesis – and that sometimes shows in places where she feels the need to justify herself vaery carefully against the existing literature. None of that spoils the readability and insightfulness, though.

5/5. Finished Friday 1 September, 2023.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)