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I do so love getting new books! Just lashed out on these with a voucher from my kind in-laws. If you see me sitting impatiently by the post box, you know why:

de colore copeland hermeneutics

So said Jorge Luis Borges, apparently. I’d like to help reunite someone with their own little slice of paradise, and you can help me do it, gentle reader.

A large box of books has found its way into my office, posted from the Leeds International Medieval Congress in July. Monash colleagues and I posted quite a lot of books home from this conference – 24kg of them to be exact – and some of them have arrived, while some of them haven’t. The box in question has arrived, but it doesn’t contain books that any of us actually purchased. It’s a box of bookish orphans, in fact. We need help to locate the owner of these books so that a reunion can be effected. If you or your colleagues purchased a fairly large number of books from the collection of the late Elizabeth Williams, and have strong interests in Middle English and French romance literature and lyric, please alert us. If you can name four or more books that are likely to be in the box, we’ll try and sort out a way of reuniting you without costing either party too much extra.[1] If the owner can’t be identified within 3 months, I’m just going to donate them to the Monash library, because I can’t see another way around it.

Paradise: the State LIbrary of Victoria Domed Reading Room. From Wikimedia Commons. By John O'Neill, under creative commons licence.

Paradise: the State Library of Victoria Domed Reading Room. From Wikimedia Commons. By John O’Neill, under creative commons licence.

Meanwhile, if anyone has seen a large number of books on Maimonides, preaching and silence, marriage, chastity, gender or the figure of Penelope in medieval literature, please let me know! (None of these, as you may have gathered, were my books; all mine have, happily, found their way to me already.) I know a few readers who won’t find Elysian peace until they can be reunited with the said volumes.


[1] We haven’t had any success getting a response from Oxbow Books, who provide the postage service from Leeds. We greatly appreciate that they provide this service, but we’re frustrated by the radio silence after emails, online customer feedback forms and tweets over several weeks haven’t generated any communication. They may or may not have records that connect the books with the address to which they should have gone. If you work for Oxbow, please get in touch so we can get this sorted out together!

[Update: A colleague has finally had a response from Oxbow, who are looking into matters at their end, and the books will soon be heading back to them at their expense – with luck to be reunited with their owners.]

[Update 2: our missing items have arrived!!! Huzzah!]

My recent purchases have just arrived! This calls for celebration… and planning of future projects.

An image to make my heart sing...

An image to make my heart sing…


What do you buy for a bibliophile?

I’m in a happy position, but it’s complicated. I’ve got a *massive* book voucher to spend on anything I want. But what do I want? Not novels… I already own many hundreds more than I will probably ever find the time to read, and I have access to the even more substantial fiction collections of various family members. I want to spend my loot on something meaningful, and so this morning I’m pondering what exactly are the fundamental texts that any medievalist worth her or his salt ought to own. I already have my own copy of Lewis & Short’s Latin Dictionary – a lucky find on the Blackwell’s second-hand shelf about a decade ago; I own Latham’s Medieval Latin from British and Irish Sources; I’ve got one and a half sets of Tout’s Chapters in the administrative history of mediaeval England, and both medieval volumes from the English Historical Documents series; if you’ve been reading closely you know that I recently acquired Powicke on King Henry III and the Lord Edward, and I already have his The Thirteenth Century — another lucky second-hand find in York a couple of years back; I’ve also got both the earlier and later medieval volumes of the much more recent Social History of England, and a miscellany of royal biographies… In fact I have four full-height bookshelves of assorted medieval ‘stuff’, but I’m sure there are things I don’t have that I ought.

What would you do? Get something shiny and new, reflecting up-to-date scholarship? Or invest in the big reference tomes like the New Cambridge Medieval History? Primary sources? Readers for undergraduate teaching ideas? Specialist works? General surveys? What are the indisputable must-haves on your list? I need some inspiration, because for some perverse reason it’s much harder to know what to do with windfalls when they fall, than it is to dream about what you would do with the money when you haven’t any!

[Edit: it turns out it’s quite difficult, nay, impossible, to get second hand volumes through this outlet, so we’re looking at stuff that’s still in print on this occasion, folks…]

Before anyone complaints, let me just say some of my best friends work on accounts. Despite their dry and dusty reputation, there’s plenty to be had from them – the accounts, that is; obviously, friends don’t need justifying! I refer you, for example, to an extremely interesting paper recently published by Benjamin Wild drawing on the Wardrobe accounts of Henry III during his captivity (1264–65); and another, by Lars Kjær, drawing on the household accounts of Eleanor, Countess of Leicester, in approximately the same period. These papers show us how accounts can reveal much, much more than the spending habits of ‘the accounted’, and the anal retentiveness of accountants themselves (although, on reflection, I even find that interesting… I mean, after all, as I have said before and will no doubt say again, much of my work is administrative history, and I spend a lot of my life mining for socially-meaningful gold in what most people would regard as the medieval precursor to the form letter, so who am I to talk…?!) Properly read, accounts can actually tell us about ideals and mindsets. I’m presuming that, for those reading, this is hardly news.

What has today drawn my attention to how one reads accounts was my own annual tax return. The taxation year in Australia ends on 30 June, and returns are due in within a couple of months of this date, so I have been filling in my expenses spreadsheet (the one I began several months ago with every intention of being a conscientious and regular recorder, in solidarity with the medieval maintainers of the close or fine rolls).[1] When I established this record I decided, because that’s the kind of gal I am, to include every expense, and not merely those relevant for taxation purposes. So I’ve been going through the giant undifferentiated mass of receipts in my ‘receipts in’ folder. You know the one:

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I teach and research at the Centre for Medieval & Renaissance Studies in the School of Philosophical, Historial and International Studies, Monash University (Australia). Views expressed here are my own and not representative of the CMRS, SOPHIS or Monash.

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