Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts (Hardback)
  • Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts (Hardback)

Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts (Hardback)

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Hardback 640 Pages / Published: 22/09/2016
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Winner of the Wolfson History Prize 2017

Shortlisted for the Waterstones Book of the Year 2016

The majority of the greatest medieval manuscripts are now almost never on public display at all, even in darkened display cases, and if they are, you can only see a single opening… The idea of this book, then, is to invite the reader to accompany the author on a private journey to see, handle and interview some of the finest illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages.

This is a book about why medieval manuscripts matter. Coming face to face with an important illuminated manuscript in the original is like meeting a very famous person. We may all pretend that a well-known celebrity is no different from anyone else, and yet there is an undeniable thrill in actually meeting and talking to a person of world stature. The idea for the book, which is entirely new, is to invite the reader into intimate conversations with twelve of the most famous manuscripts in existence and to explore with the author what they tell us about nearly a thousand years of medieval history - and sometimes about the modern world too.

Christopher de Hamel introduces us to kings, queens, saints, scribes, artists, librarians, thieves, dealers, collectors and the international community of manuscript scholars, showing us how he and his fellows piece together evidence to reach unexpected conclusions. He traces the elaborate journeys which these exceptionally precious artefacts have made through time and space, shows us how they have been copied, who has owned them or lusted after them (and how we can tell), how they have been embroiled in politics and scholarly disputes, how they have been regarded as objects of supreme beauty and luxury and as symbols of national identity.

The book touches on religion, art, literature, music, science and the history of taste. Part travel book, part detective story, part conversation with the reader, Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts conveys the fascination and excitement of encountering some of the greatest works of art in our culture which, in the originals, are to most people completely inaccessible.

Christopher De Hamel has spent a lifetime in the company of rare manuscripts and in this delight of a book he invites us to meet them with him. A visual feast and a genre-defying mixture of history, memoir, and travelogue held together by the author’s inimitable charm, Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts is the book we’re all now feverishly adding to our Christmas lists. A unique slice of publishing and a deeply fascinating read.

"De Hamel’s book, scholarly but unfailingly readable, is the beginning of wisdom in all things scribal and scriptural." - The Guardian

'An endlessly fascinating and enjoyable book.' - Neil MacGregor

'Full of delights.' - Tom Stoppard

Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
ISBN: 9780241003046
Number of pages: 640
Weight: 1509 g
Dimensions: 247 x 166 x 54 mm

Christopher de Hamel's exploration of medieval manuscripts - a dozen peaks from St Augustine to Chaucer and beyond, gorgeously and copiously illustrated - is itself an extraordinary book, a work of scholarship and history salted with the author's excitement as he conducts us among the great libraries of Western civilization. It is full of delights -- Tom Stoppard
A book of marvels -- John Banville * Financial Times *
Great manuscripts are the reclusive stars of European cultural history; to be close to one is to enter a secret garden to which few have ever been granted access. With scholarly elegance, Christopher de Hamel opens the door and invites us to join him for the intellectual expedition of a lifetime. As he introduces us to twelve star manuscripts in their sanctuary homes, these complex creations emerge as major players in the great game of ideas and power. They are agents as well as creatures, with histories that embrace and explain our own. This is an endlessly fascinating and enjoyable book. -- Neil MacGregor
Spectacular ... If I could walk you to your nearest bookshop, take GBP30 from your wallet, and place this wonderful book in your hands, I would -- Peter Thonemann * Sunday Times *
Truth, as this entrancing book proves, is wonderfully stranger than fiction. Christopher de Hamel's learned adventures amid some of the West's greatest manuscript treasures effortlessly outclass Eco's The Name of the Rose in elegance and excitement. They are also much funnier. -- Diarmaid MacCulloch
One of the cultural highlights of the autumn is an edge-of-the-seat tale inspired by Medieval Manuscripts. Christopher de Hamel has turned a lifelong obsession with ancient literature into a book that critics are comparing to A History of the World in 100 Objects and the wonderful The Hare with Amber Eyes. -- Kirsty Wark * Newsnight *
Reading is my life, but only about once a decade do I find a book that seems to tilt the world, so afterwards it appears different. -- Fiammetta Rocco * The Economist '1843' *
De Hamel's book, scholarly but unfailingly readable, is the beginning of wisdom in all things scribal and scriptural -- Ian Thomson * Observer *
Christopher de Hamel's outstanding and original book pushes the boundaries of what it is and what it means to write history. By framing each manuscript of which he writes as the story of his own personal encounter with it, he leads the reader on many unforgettable journeys of discovery and learning. Deeply imaginative, beautifully written, and unfailingly humane, Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts distils a lifelong love of these astonishing historical treasures, which the author brings so vividly to life. It is a masterpiece. -- David Cannadine

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“Brilliant book”

I bought this for my father for Christmas and he was very pleased with it. I started reading it too (after I'd given it!) and wish I'd bought a copy for myself. It is a beautifully put together book from the... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 90


It is not often that I purchase non-fiction books but was instantly captivated whilst standing in a Waterstones that I had to buy it.. this is the type of book that only comes along once in a blue moon.. Accessible... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 85

“A gem for every booklover's shelf.”

I wanted to read this from cover to cover as de Hamel takes you by the hand and shares the physical excitement of visiting its library home and then handling each of his chosen twelve manuscript books, before he... More

Paperback edition
Helpful? Upvote 31

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