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S. A. Brown, The Bayeux Tapestry (George T. Beech)

Francia-Recensio 2014/3 Mittelalter – Moyen Âge (500–1500)

Shirley Ann Brown, The Bayeux Tapestry. Bayeux, Médiathèque municipale: Ms. 1. A Sourcebook, Turnhout (Brepols) 2013, CVI 316 p. (Publications of the Journal of Medieval Latin, 9), ISBN 978-2-503-54917-0, EUR 85,00.

rezensiert von/compte rendu rédigé par

George T. Beech, Kalamazoo, MI

In 1988 Shirley Ann Brown (SAB) published a bibliography of scholarly writings on the Bayeux Tapestry, then in 2004 she updated this with regard to publications since 1988. Here she has come out with a bibliography of writings on the tapestry from the outset – the discovery of the hanging in the early 18 th century – until the present along with several essays on related topics. She begins with a brief (p. XVII–XIX) »Physical Description« of the tapestry, then, just as she did in her 1988 Bibliography, she tells the fascinating story as to how this monument, apparently unknown to contemporaries from the 11 th to the 17 th century, was discovered in the cathedral of Bayeux early in the 18 th : »The History of the Bayeux Tapestry« (p. XXI–LII). Step by step she recounts how successive generations of scholars down to the 20 th century gradually came to appreciate how extraordinary this embroidery was as a work of art and historical document, the first finders having been unaware of how old and important it was. From 1842 to the present the tapestry has been housed in public buildings (the library) in Bayeux, and in a short chapter, »The Bayeux Tapestry and its Curators«, SAB writes about its curators, several of whom made significant contributions to its study as well as to its exhibition. For instance the current curator, Sylvette Lemagnen, had a basic role in the discovery of documents in Germany clarifying the intentions and actions of a team of German scholars who undertook a detailed study of the tapestry after the Nazi occupation of France in 1940.

Aside from the bibliography itself the most significant part of this book is SAB’s thirty page essay, »Bayeux Tapestry Studies 1720–2013: état de la question« (p. LXVIII–LXIX). In this she addresses, one after another, the main scholarly questions surrounding the study and understanding of the tapestry, the ones to which the tapestry itself does not furnish explicit answers, and about which scholars have often differed. First of all uncertainty about how the tapestry was produced. Was there a single designer or several, for the nine separate strips of linen, and who might he/she have been? And where was the stitching done, in England or Normandy, or elsewhere? Equally relevant is the question – who first conceived of the creation of such an enormous tapestry and then commissioned it? And to whom did he/she give it, and what did the recipient do with its after its production – keep it in a cathedral, Bayeux, or in a chateau for private view only, or have it circulated for display to different groups of viewers? Then the pictorial narrative: what is the function of the figures – humans, animals (Aesop’s fables), etc. – in the borders above and below the central succession of scenes? How accurate is the tapestry’s presentation of events leading up to William’s victory at Battle compared with the accounts of contemporary historians? Shirley Ann Brown lists these in her »Primary Literary Sources« (p. CIII–CVI). The above questions are the main ones in any discussion of the tapestry today, but there are many more and SAB touches upon them in this essay. Due to the many still unanswered questions the Bayeux Tapestry continues to attract attention as is well shown by the striking number of new books and articles about it in just the last few years. SAB’s summary of these in this essay will be of exceptional value to future scholars of the tapestry.

The core of this book is the »Annotated Bibliography« (p. 1–268), which is not arranged by subject matter but in chronological order from the earliest publications in 1724 down to 2013. After the citation of each book or article comes SAB’s annotation, the distinctive feature of this bibliography. First a description of the nature of the publication with a summary of its main contents, anywhere from one to ten lines in length, followed by a listing in parentheses of the principle characters, objects, places, etc., figuring in it. Almost never do these annotations express the author’s own assessment of the quality, accuracy, relevance, etc., of the work in question, rather they seek to summarize what it is proposing. However, SAB does refer the reader to other publications which accept or criticize what is being advanced. In particular, citation of book reviews will lead the reader to find out how others have reacted to this publication. It would be difficult for me to exaggerate the value of these annotations to any potential scholar interested in the tapestry. Normally when one comes across a book/article new to him/her, after reading it he/she must to search elsewhere in order to learn how others have reacted to it. Here one often finds the very references he/she is searching for, and this quickens the process. And of course the chronological arrangement of citations means that the author of a 1999 article on the tapestry would not normally have known at the time he/she was writing, of another one on the same subject published ten years later.

After this bibliography SAB adds a short section entitled: »The Bayeux Tapestry: Documents and Archives« (p. 269–278), a list of documents and archival materials relevant to the study of the tapestry and to be found today in libraries and archives in France, Germany, the USA, and the UK.

Ever since the tapestry came to light in the 18 th century admirers have sought to recapture it through partial and sometimes complete reproductions in stitched facsimiles, and in painted and photographic representations, and a surprising number of these survive today in museums and libraries. SAB gives a catalogue of these in »Facsimiles and Reproductions« (p. 279–289). She ends her book with a list of modern tapestries, not duplicates but ones based at least in part on that of Bayeux: »Spinoffs« (p. 291–298).

This combination of introductory essays and commentaries plus bibliography, written by one of the most knowledgeable experts on the tapestry, makes available to any interested scholar, the latest views on the subject. A splendid piece of work.

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PSJ Metadata
George Beech
S. A. Brown, The Bayeux Tapestry (George T. Beech)
Frühe Neuzeit (1500-1789), Frühes Mittelalter (600-1050), Hohes Mittelalter (1050-1350), Spätes Mittelalter (1350-1500)
Bibliotheks- und Informationswissenschaft (Allgemeinbibliographien), Geschichte allgemein
20. Jh., 21. Jh., Neuzeit bis 1900
4015701-5 4127642-5 4006432-3
Europa (4015701-5), Bayeux-Teppich (4127642-5), Bibliografie (4006432-3)
PDF document brown_beech.doc.pdf — PDF document, 96 KB
S. A. Brown, The Bayeux Tapestry (George T. Beech)
In: Francia-Recensio 2014/3 | Mittelalter - Moyen Âge (500-1500) | ISSN: 2425-3510
URL: https://prae.perspectivia.net/publikationen/francia/francia-recensio/2014-3/MA/brown_beech
Veröffentlicht am: 25.09.2014 13:25
Zugriff vom: 27.01.2020 00:44
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