BibliOdyssey: Michael of Rhodes

BibliOdyssey: Michael of Rhodes

I just adore old books and manuscripts. Even if I can’t read the language, to be able to flip through a book that is 300 years old is something that has always turned me on. Illuminated manuscripts have always been a particular favorite of mine … there is art inherent without even considering the content or subject material. An illuminated manuscript is at least 2 works of art in one, IMO … the art that comes from the content, and the art that comes from the layout, the design, the arrangement of text and pictures, the calligraphic flourishes.

The blog I linked to above is called BibliOdyssey, and on it he scans old manuscripts from a variety of sources. He recently did several days worth of postings on biology and nature texts from the past, with some absolutely stunning nature artistry. The other day scanned in a huge number of Esotonian illustrators, and as a fan of old maps as well, I was absolutely drooling over his post on the Portolan Atlas.

His current entry is for the remarkable manuscript of Michael of Rhodes. A travelogue of sorts, this manuscript details the life of a medieval mariner as he travels the globe, rises trough the ranks, and fights in some major sea battles. While the artistic qualities of the illustrations don’t hold up well to others posted at BibliOdyssey, the ‘crudeness’ of them lends to the personal feel of this manuscript.

In fact, Michael of Rhodes incorporates most of what I find compelling about old books. For me, its about travelling to places in the distant past, about examining the lives of people who, but for the fate of a few hundred years, might have been like any one of us. The most interesting old manuscripts, to me, are ones that tell a specific story and/or shed light on the state of humanity or human knowledge at a particular time. As a personal biography of a naval officer who travels the world, Michael of Rhodes covers almost all those bases.

Beyond the images scanned on BibliOdyssey, there is a website up that has all the scanned pages of the manuscript as a flash animation. There’s more detail in his life and times, and tons of detail on the manuscript itself. Its a great companion to the BibliOdyssey scans, especially if you are a sucker for detail, like me :).

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