Go, medievalists!

A couple of years ago in this blog, we introduced Onfim. This thirteenth century child whose drawing on a piece of bark had been discovered by chance, among other archeological findings. Thanks to a growing number of medievalists researchers over the past few years, the images left by medieval children are no longer left to chance.

The advances in child psychology have long helped parents and educators. They now benefit medievalists, and it is great news for children’s drawing conservation. Deborah Ellen Thorpe holds a PhD in Medieval Studies from the University of York (GB). In 2016, her article Young hands, old books: Drawings by children in a fourteen century manuscript, LJS, MS. 361, was published in Cogent Arts and Humanities (Taylor & Francis). In it, she meticulously and convincingly argues that the hands that drew three drawings in the margins of a centuries-old manuscript were those of children. Her observations are strongly supported by the works of several researchers in child psychology and arts education.

Other reputed medievalists, such as Seth Lere (Devotion and Defacement: Reading Children’s Marginalia, University of California Press), and Nicholas Orme (Medieval children, Yale University Press) have been instrumental in nurturing a growing interest in what medieval children have left us.

Drawing by a child in the margin of a 14th Century manuscript. LJS 361, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania Libraries folio 26r. Source: National Library of Medecine, 9 August 2022.

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