Drollery, the strange and fanciful marginal illustrations found in illuminated manuscripts, is the topic of our latest podcast. Fighting rabbits? Check. Hybrid creatures? Check. Faces coming out of, um, unexpected places? Check.
The word droll comes from the French drôle, meaning something humorous or funny. Drolleries were common appearances in margins from the mid-13th to 15th century; but although we have many examples of drolleries, we don’t always know what they were supposed to express to readers. Just what was the joke?
These clever images are not unlike today’s memes. Memes are jokes that are easy to understand now, but will make very little sense in a few centuries. (A meme encyclopedia may be in order?)
So, we decided to caption drolleries as though they were memes, with a bit of inspiration from the party game What Do You Meme and Classical Art Memes.
Other images we used in our game are:
You can listen to our discussion by following the link. And let us know your favorite droll images and, of course, your meme-like captions.
To read more about drollery and illuminated manuscripts, see:
Smithfield Decretals (Decretals of Gregory IX, ca. 1340)
Sexy Codicology, ‘the Adventures of Medival Bunny, Part I: The Killer Rabbit’
Smithsonian ‘Why Were Medival Knights Always Fighting Snails?’
John Rylands Library Special Collection Blog, ‘Life on the Edge: Marginalia’
‘Real Balloon Animals’