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Image on the Edge

The Margins of Medieval Art

What do they all mean – the lascivious ape, autophagic dragons, pot-bellied heads, harp-playing asses, arse-kissing priests and somersaulting jongleurs to be found protruding from the edges of medieval buildings and in the margins of illuminated manuscripts? Michael Camille explores that riotous realm of marginal art, so often explained away as mere decoration or zany doodles, where resistance to social constraints flourished.

Medieval image-makers focused attention on the underside of society, the excluded and the ejected. Peasants, servants, prostitutes and beggars all found their place, along with knights and clerics, engaged in impudent antics in the margins of prayer-books or, as gargoyles, on the outsides of churches. Camille brings us to an understanding of how marginality functioned in medieval culture and shows us just how scandalous, subversive, and amazing the art of the time could be.

Distribution by the University of Chicago Press only to customers in the USA and Canada. Customers elsewhere should visit the UK website of Reaktion Books.

176 pages | 13 color plates, 73 halftones

Essays in Art and Culture

Art: Art--General Studies

Culture Studies

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“A handsome, entertaining account of the peculiar fashion for grotesque, obscene, and humorous presences on the margins of medieval illuminated manuscripts.”

Times Higher Education

“Looking at medieval manuscripts more and more closely, peering with pleasure into the borders of bunnies and monkeys, whether we seek deliberate smut or idle whimsy, it makes Image on the Edge well worth reading. It is an entirely diverting and unusual book.”

Art Newspaper

“If the study of medieval art is not to remain an esoteric and elitist discipline then more books like this must be written.”

Burlington Magazine

“Camille’s polymathic essays undoubtedly will provoke such studies and will expand the field of questions we ask . . . and in this he will have made a valuable contribution.”

Oxford Art Journal

"This is an interesting book that will make the reader examine manuscripts and sculpture more carefully and understand the Middle Ages more comprehensively. . . . It is a book that will broaden your idea of medieval art in an enjoyable way."

Yorkshire Gazette and Herald

Table of Contents

1. Making Margins
2. In the Margins of the Monastery
3. In the Margins of the Cathedral
4. In the Margins of the Court
5. In the Margins of the City
6. The End of the Edge
List of Illustrations

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