Episode 2: Frogs, Fighting Bunnies, and Other Drollery

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.

Book of Hours, Bruges c. 1500
Walters Art Museum, Ms. W.427, fol. 68r
via Discarding Images

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.

Le Régime du corps, c. 1285
The British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts, Sloane 2435, f. 44v (Found in Keith Houston’s The Book.)

Other images we used in our game are:

The Queen Mary Psalter, c. 1310-1320
The British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts, Sloane 2435, f. 44v
Book of Hours, Bruges c. 1430-1445
Walters Art Museum, W.239, fol. 85v
Rylands Haggadah
John Rylands Library Special Collections, Hebrew MS 6, f. 29b

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.

Beatus of Liébana, Commentaria in Apocalypsin, before 1072
BnF, Latin 8878, fol. 184v
via Discarding Images

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’
Bonus:
‘Real Balloon Animals’

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