Book Reviews

Book Reviews

Browse Books | Jump to Article Reviews | Dress Diaries | Written Articles | Home

A Renaissance Entertainment: Festivities for the Marriage of Cosimo I, Duke of Florence, in 1539.
Florence in the Forgotten Centuries 1527-1800
The Women of the Medici
The Court of the Medici
Princes of the Renaissance
Italian Renaissance Textile Designs
Florence, a Biography of a City
Art Treasures of the Medici
The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici
Dressing Renaissance Florence
The Wearing of Costume
The Book of the Courtier (1528)
Fortune is a River
Naples: A Travellers Companion
Renaissance Clothing and the Materials of Memory
Daily Life in Spain in the Golden Age
The Silk Industry of Renaissance Venice
Hispanic Costume 1480-1530
The Linen Trade, Ancient and Modern
The Cultural World of Eleonora di Toledo, Duchess of Florence and Siena
Portraits of the Medici: 15th through 18th Centuries
The Italian Cotton Industry in the Later Middle Ages 1100-1600
In the Wake of the Plague
Moda a Firenze 1540-1580
THe Book of Fine Linen


Giulio Clovio's Portrait of Eleonora di Toledo
Bronzino's Young Woman with her Little Boy
Catherine de Medici and her Florentine Friends
Spanish Brocade for Royal Ladies
Siegmund von Herberstein: An Italian Velvet in the Ottoman Court
Cotton and Cotton Trade in the Middle Ages


A Renaissance Entertainment: Festivities for the Marriage of Cosimo I, Duke of Florence, in 1539. Return to Top
Andrew C Minor and Bonner Mitchell
University of Missouri Press, Missouri (c) 1968
LCCN 68-11348

Table of Contents 1|2

This book is a very rare find! It details the festivities for Cosimo's marriage celebrations to Eleonora. It details her arrival at Leghorn, her travel to Florence, her arrival in the City, and the celebrations that followed. This account is in the form of a letter sent from Gaimbullari to Giovanni Bandini, the Duke's ambassador to Emperor Charles V. It includes the musical scores for the celebrations, as well as the script for the comedy play that was shown as well. The descriptions of the player's costumes and the singer's costumes were wonderful. Sadly, there is only one description of Eleonora's clothing on the day she entered the city. The decorations are described in detail, but the food is glossed over, and the dresses of the elite women are only listed as "appropriate". More attention is paid to the dressing of the horse she rode!
Besides it's greatness and it's weakness, it is a satisfying book. The bibliography is mostly primary sources, printed works of the time, and archived letters. There are extensive footnotes throughout the book, as well as the musical score translated into modern notation. All the pictures are in B&W, but are easy to see. The greatest strength of the book lies in its undercurrent of political life and how it affected the daily life of both nobility and commoners. It is a well recommended book for SCA persona development, but not for daily life details... more for what to expect on celebration days.

Florence in the Forgotten Centuries 1527-1800 Return to Top
Eric Cochrane
University of Chicago Press, Chicago (c)1973
ISBN 0266111504

Table of Contents 1|2

This book is valuable to anyone looking for more cultural and everyday life details of Florence and Pisa. It is broken down into 6 "books", covering the rulers of Florence, the Medici, from the first Grand Duke to the last. The books are written in a fluidic style, easy to read and understand. The bibliography is complete and full of contemporary and older sources. His notes are cited in their own separate chapter and are full of side explanations for claims made in the text. All pictures are in B/W, but are not pictures seen in most other books. The author also in his preface makes it known that if you want further proof of his notes, translations or anything in the text, that you can write to him and receive further clarification. All in all, a must have book to read if you have a persona from Florence in the 1540's onwards. Good for SCA, Golden Age, and 18th Century recreationists.

The Women of the Medici Return to Top
Yvonne Maguire
The Dial Press, New York (c)1927
ISBN not available

Table of Contents 1

A stunning read for anyone wanting to know about cultural renaissance history from a new perspective. It is an older work, but there really hasn't been anything more recently published to take its place. It covers the women who married into the Medici House from 1280 from its obscure beginnings, focusing on the time period of 1413 - 1519, to the younger generation c. 1500. The book focuses on Contessina de Bardi, Lucretzia Tourabuoni, Clarice Orsini, and Alfonsina Orsini de Medici. All the pictures and maps scattered throughout the text are in B/W. The book is written in a scholarly manner, with many notes and quotes from sources and letters. The bibliography is complete, and a large chapter is devoted to notes, translations and quotes. However, the bibliography cannot be all that much relied upon as it used sources from the 19th century and other, more contemporary books have replaced alot of his original bibliography. However, the value of this book can be measured from its many translations of actual Medici letters from the Medici archives in Florence. There are so many details of everyday life, descriptions of clothes, scandals, cost of things that it is a persona developers DREAM. If you have an Italian Renaissance persona from 1413-1519, this is a book you should look at. Good for SCA recreationists.

The Court of the Medici Return to Top
George Pottinger
Rowman and Littlefield, New Jersey (c) 1978
ISBN 0847660249

Table of Contents 1|2

A ho-hum kinda book. It rehashes the Renaissance in alot of the same ways as other books that focus on the Italian Renaissance. The pictures are in B/W, and it is a small book, only 134 pages long. Its bibliography is selective, and it does not introduce details about everyday life, or of everyday people. It does talk briefly about the wives of the Medici, but you would do better to invest your time in the book, "The Women of the Medici". I would also invest in reading "The Book of the Courtier" for better information than this book can provide. However, if you need a book to get you started in understanding the Medici, or is developing a persona that is in direct obligation to the Renaissance Medici, this would be a good starter book.

Princes of the Renaissance Return to Top
Orville Prescott
Random House, Hew York (c) 1969
ISBN not available

Table of Contents 1|2

This book is a true history book that focuses on the military, political, and marriageable history of some of the most influential financiers and rulers of Italy during the Italian Renaissance... defined in this book as 1369-1524. It covers in general terms the Houses of Aragon (Naples), Sforza (Milan), Gonzaga (Mantua), Este (Ferrara), Montefeltro (Urbino), Malatesta (Rimini), Baglioni (Perugia), Della Rovere (Rome), and Medici (Florence). There are many B/W pictures but no colour ones. The bibliography is detailed and complete, but there are few foot/end notes. Because the book covers so many people, the book includes a family tree of all pertinent players. The book is generally useful for families not usually mentioned in different areas of Italy in the Renaissance, but stops short of being particularly useful for the researcher of persona interests. A general history book full of dates, locations, and rulers.

Italian Renaissance Textile Designs Return to Top
Delores M Andrew
Stemer House Publishers, Maryland (c)1986
ISBN Not available

Cover Pic

This book is 15 pages of copyable art from the 15th century in Italy. The author gives permission for this artwork to be freely reproduced up to 15 designs by any one person. They are in B/W, easily photocopied, and easily traced. The downside is, even though there are many designs, they are not documentable to their sources. However, the author makes an introduction that describes in general terms about textile and lace patterns in Italy from its known inception to the end of the 18th century. It briefly talks about dyes, but does not elaborate. It would be a good tertiary source to quote from for textile information, but you would need to back up the claims some other way. All in all, this is a good book for enjoyment and inspiration for blackwork or lace designs.

Florence, a Biography of a City. Return to Top
Christoper Hibbert
Penguin Books, New York (c)1994
ISBN 0670842974

Table of Contents 1|2|3

The book is a cultural history of Florence, including the rulers, some of their achievements , and political careers. Some scandals, tales, and legends are indulged in this book. The pictures are in B/W, and the bibliography is extensive. However, there seems to be few primary sources listed, but most seems to be secondary sources. The book's merit however, is that it takes all the history every written about Florence up to that time and combines it into one book instead of looking at more general sources, or in several books. It covers the periods of history 59BC-1966. It does tend to focus on the Italian period of the Renaissance, 1400-1520. A good book for finding out the culture of Florence and how it developed. For persona work, it is an alright book, but there are better out there for information. However, this would be a good book to use as a lookup, or to note a chapter of worth in your research. Not good for looking for information on artists or colour pictures.

Art Treasures of the Medici Return to Top
Antonio Morassi
New York Graphic Society, Connecticut (c)1963
ISBN Not available

Cover Pic

A beautiful book full of colour pictures of pieces of work in the Medici collection that is now in the hands of the Italian state. Each picture is a colour plate physically mounted on the page. Some pictures seem to glow, the may have added shiny colour to some parts of the pictures to make them "illuminate". The majority of pictures in the book focus around goblets and vases. There are a few pictures of statues, reliefs, and other such things, but nothing noteworthy in terms of jewelry or other artistry useful to research for persona or costuming. The introduction gives us tantalizing clues as to everyday life and the way that artists interacted with the Medici. The intro is well documented with footnotes, but they are brief. All in all, the book is useful for the intro, but not for the pictures.

The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici Return to Top
Christopher Hibbert
Readers Union Group, Newton Abbot (c)1975
ISBN 0688003397

Table of Contents 1|2|3

A good, descriptive work on the House of Medici, how it started, how it ended and the fluctuations inbetween. Has fluid of writing and is easy to follow. The opinions sported in the book are backed by historical evidence, and where possible, with primary letters. The bibliography is complete, and well-rounded. There are a few footnotes in the text, however, full chapter is devoted to them in the end. A list of the major Medici players and thier major portraits (locations) are found in the back of this book. If your persona is tied to the Medici in anyway, this is a good book to find that out. Starting out with the 1400's and working it's way to the 1750's, it gives facts and anecdotes of both the financiers, rulers, wives, and children. It does not cover much on the way of clothes, or jewelry, but does offer some interest in household workings, intrigues, and familey ties. A good book for persona background and fun details.

Dressing Renaissance Florence Return to Top
Carole Collier Frick
John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore (c) 2002
ISBN 0801869390

Table of Contents 1|2|3

A FABOULOUS book! There are so many details in this book you cannot absorb them all in one reading. The book is a comparative study of the clothes of the elite of Florence in the 1400's. It covers the guilds, the tailors, the dyers, the edicts and laws, what clothing meant to the Florentines, and paintings of clothing. It also has an extended appendix section covering cloth amounts for some garments, a comparable trousseau of 2 girls, a listing of guilds and subguilds, and some notes about log books. It has an extensive bibliography, most of which seem to be primary sources (letters, log books, and paintings). The books pictures are in B/W, but are not hard to find on the internet, so colour is not a problem. Her conclusions seem to be well researched and thought out. It is a garb and persona DREAM. I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone interested in garb, fabric, or everyday life. (This is not a book about how to construct garb, but about the aspects of documentation that would help in a garb contest).

The Wearing of Costume Return to Top
Ruth M Green
Drama Publishers, New York (c) 1992
ISBN 089676141X

Table of Contents 1|2

Another really great book. It contains information you need to know about wearing the costumes you've made. Long skirts and wearing swords off your belt are not common to the everyday modern person. Therefore, it becomes necessary to conduct yourself differently when you wear garb. As the Author puts it, "...for when you have a fine tool, you need to know how to use it." There are many drawn illustrations of examples of wearing clothes in history, as well as practical considerations for managing long skirts, hats, cloaks, and other items. It is not a book limited to women... men and children are included too. Some of her dates for her drawing are a bit suspect, and there is not any documentation for the drawings, but the book is about how to wear your costume, so it is not a serious problem. I highly recommend this book for anyone who has made garb.

The Book of the Courtier (1528) Return to Top
Baldesar Castiglione (tr. Charles S. Singleton)
Anchor Books, New York (c) 1959
LCCN 59-12883

Table of Contents 1

This book, originally in Italian, was made in the court of the Duke of Urbino and in a series of letters and discussions, reveals the best way to conduct oneself at court and distinguish oneself from others of low education and birth. It is a VALUABLE book for persona development or any late period persona (1490+), as this book became THE conduct book for every court in Europe. It reflects social life, ethics, politics, humour, sports, and relations between the sexes. The pictures presented in the book are in B/W and grouped together towards the back of the book. There is no bibliography, but there are extensive notes and an index listing all persons mentioned in the text. I highly recommend this book for anyone serious about conduct and persona development.

Fortune is a River Return to Top
Roger D Masters
Peguine Books Ltd, New York (c)1999
ISBN 0452280907

Table of Contents 1|2

"Leonardo Da Vinci and Niccolo Machiavelli's magnificent idea to change the course of Florentine history". This friendship, set in a backdrop of sex scandals, political intrigues, volatile social currents, and artistic ambitions explores a time of Florentine history when Pisa did NOT belong to Florence. It covers the personal history of these 2 men from 1502-1525. It focuses on thier collaboration to divert the Arno river in order to "dry up" Pisa and create a Florentine canal leading directly to the sea. As you may guess, it was a failure, but the story is something to behold. There are numerous everyday life details woven into the story, and it is a bit of a dry read in some places, but worth it, if you want to learn more about Florentine History. The pictures are in B/W, and there is an extensive notes and sources section. An alright book for persona development. Good for the SCA'er.

Naples: A Travelers Companion Return to Top
Desmond Seward
New York, (c) 1986
ISBN 0689707126

Table of Contents 1|2|3|4

This book is a series of small letters, notes, excerpts, quotes, and selected readings from other works. While entertaining, there is not much of use for anyone pursuing persona or garb development. Its focus is mainly on the 1700-1850's. It has some interesting tidbits of everyday life and personal observances, but reads more like a disjointed history of the area. The book was originally intended to be used by a modern traveler visiting Naples who might want some background to the areas of the city they were traveling to, buildings they would look at, and places they might want further information on. I think if I was in Naples, I would find this book a godsend, full of all the things I would want to know. There are scarce amounts of pictures and of those that are there, they are in B/W. There are no end/foot notes, and the bibliography while complete, has alot of older sources from the turn of the century. There is evidence that original sources were quoted and consulted, and these are included in the bibliography as well. All in all, a mediocre book, not recommended for SCA use.

Renaissance Clothing and the Materials of Memory Return to Top
Ann Rosaline Jones and Peter Stallybrass
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (c) 2000
ISBN 0521786630

Table of Contents 1|2|3

This book alone is worth the bibliography! It lists more books than any other bibliography I've yet come across. However, having said that, the bibliography does tend to focus on the Elizabethan Age, the Elizabethan Stage, and Costumes in England. Next in volume would be Italian texts, and then a smattering of Dutch, German, Spanish, and a few works for eastern wear. The notes for the book are concise and to the point, referencing all quotes and assumptions made by the authors. The pictures are in B/W, but there is a large amount of them too. The book is full of information relating to the cultural aspects of clothing which is good for the re-enactor, but not as useful for the clothing re-constructionist. However, if you've made an outfit and are looking for documentation for different aspects of dress, this book would be helpful. I would recommend that you read the book, highlight or underline the text portions that are useful to your goal, and then refer back to it, rather than just look for what you need. The book focuses on the question "what did clothing really mean?" The authors attempt to answer that by looking at what was done with clothes, how and when they were worn, and what was done with them after. They also look at identity and honour, 2 things that emerged in the 16th century as important to the wearer of clothing. Ultimately, this book is good for documentation, good reading, and for fleshing out aspects of clothing you see in paintings. Good for SCA recreations.

Daily Life in Spain in the Golden Age Return to Top
Marcelin Defourneaux tr. Newton Branch
Praeger Publishers, New York (c) 1971

Table of Contents 1|2|3|4

This book is very valuable for everyday life. It is written in a style easy to read and understand. The book is broken down into aspects of life, and is filled with notes to back up claims made in the texts. There are a few pictures in B/W, and are spread throughout the book. Most of the book deals with the Nobility and what foreign observers saw when they were in Spain. However, the book does make some interesting claims about the lives of women and children. The book does talk politically about the time of the reconquest, but focuses it mostly on the long term consequences it had on daily life. The bibliography is lacking, but is made up for in the notes that have the sources quoted directly from the books and letters they were taken from. This is a good book for anyone who has a late period SCA persona, and even better for those who have a Spanish persona. This book is best for 17th-18th century personas. Recommended.

Bronzino Return to Top
Maurice Brock
tr. David Poole Radzinowicz and Christine Schultz-Touge
Flammarion: Paris, France (c) 2002
ISBN: 2080108778

Table of Contents 1|2|3

This book on the painting and lyrical verse of Agnolo di Cosimo, known as Bronzino (little bronze), is a complete work of almost all of his paintings that exist today. The book is broken up into sections, each dealing with a different aspect of his paintings: The female portraiture, the male portraiture, and the allegorical works. The book is very up-to-date, taking into account many different aspects of his life and influences that were not considered before, such as his poetry, recently published articles in English and French, and what the Renaissance world thought of Bronzino. For understanding and interpreting his paintings, this is a very useful book. Unfortunately, the book does not give a section on the life of Bronzino, but rather gives hints, excerpts, and ideas of his home life and chronology of events throughout the entire of the book. One must read the whole book to get to the details of the artist life. This book is about understanding Bronzino, not about his life and works. The book is big, full, and colourful, all pictures being in colour, but the overexposure of some of the pictures of the actual paintings themselves causes problems. Colour is darkened and misrepresents what is actually shown, and details of dark or shadowed areas are lost. Despite this, the pictures are complete and displayed in a manner easy to compare with other portraits of the time. The bibliography is good, but not extensive; the notes are numerous, but not detailed. It is possible to find the sources where the author got his knowledge from, but some are in English, French and Italian. Overall, this book is best used for recreation of a painter persona, or for details of pictures for studying Bronzino's portraits for dress recreations, best used by SCA recreationists, not good for overall persona development.

The Silk Industry of Renaissance Venice Return to Top
Luca Mola
John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore (c) 2000
ISBN 0801861896

Table of Contents 1|2|3|4

This book was an interesting one to read. While it's focus of study was Venice in the 16th century, it touched on other areas of Italy where the silk industry started or flourished. In order to study the silk industry, the author compares the achievements and progress of Venice with that of other centres in Italy who were involved with silk making and cloth production. The book covers topics such as types of fabric, widths of fabrics, care of silkworms, cottage industries, standards of production, frauds, supply and demand, new inventions, processes for silk production, as well as names of silk fabrics. For anyone studying fabrics, or history, this is a good book to be using. Since it touches on other Italian cities that produced silk and silk products, it is also useful to the renaissance wo/man looking to round out thier persona knowledge. The book details things like the processes used to glean the silk from the cocoons, what was done with the waste silk, the regulations involved with the quality of the silk cloths produced, and it's transportation to other markets for sale. The book is well written, easy to read and understand. The illustrations are easy to follow, but all the pictures are in B/W. The notes are extensive, and the Bibliography complete. Definitely useful for the historical recreationist, but not for persona development. Everyday details of life are not included in this work, and would only recommend this book for someone wanting to document fabric for a project, or proof that silk was in an area at a set time. Good book for reading in general, but only if you like facts and figures. :)

Hispanic Costume 1480-1530 Return to Top
Ruth Matilda Anderson
Hispanic Society of America, New York (c) 1979
ISBN 875351263

Table of Contents 1

This book is another great find! It is specifically tailored for the costumer that would like a detailed breakdown of Spanish Costume after the reconquest and before the assimilation of Western European Dress. It does not give patterns, but more accurately gives types of clothing worn and pictorial examples. The book is broken up into two main sections, Men's Clothing and Women's Clothing. It is further broken up into the occasions why the clothing was worn as well as some quotes and diary notes as to the occasions themselves. The mammoth amount of pictures that the book possesses are mostly in B&W, but are easily referenced for the person who would like to go hunting for the colour versions. There are a few coloured ones, and they are very well portrayed; the details are easily seen. The notes and bibliography are exceptional. Unfortunately, most are primary sources that are in Spanish or Italian. This is a good secondary source, but unless you NEED primary written sources, this is the next best thing. I really don't know how to say enough good things about this book! It is perfect for anyone wishing Spanish garb, and coupled with Alcega's Tailor Pattern book 1589, a Spanish persona would have no problems outfitting themselves correctly. Perfect for late period SCA use, and Golden Age as a background reference.

The Linen Trade, Ancient and Modern Return to Top
Alex J Warden
Frank Cass & Co, London, (c) 1967

Table of Contents: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

I must say that this book really is not as helpful as it could have been. It is truly a dated work, with no bibliography, pictures, or page notes, it is no more than a novel read. Most of the "other cultures" are referred to as barbaric. The author makes note in his preface that he felt that scholars could do a better job than he had done, but that he used the tools he had been given. As a result, the book is wonderful for anyone wanting accurate tables, measures, tools and methods used in the 19th century, but it is not much good for much else. As a result, the book deals primarily with the "modern" linen trade in Scotland in the mid 1850's... which, I suppose, is relevant to the fact that the book was first published in 1864. However, aside from that obvious fact, it is steeped in the Christian tradition of the Victorian Era. The book makes assumptions of linen methods used in the "ancient" times, glosses over the medieval era, and gives a slight nod to the renaissance. More attention is paid to the 1700's and 1800's, but it is not really useful to anyone studying the linen trade for SCA, Golden Age, or even the American Civil War era. The author uses "romantic" languages, calling the Early Germans, "Barbarians", the Early Celts, "uncivilized", and the Moors, "Heathens". The author makes many references to the Christian God, and using the term "antiquity" to mean anything between the birth of Earth to the fall of Rome. There is even a whole chapter devoted to references in the Holy Bible indicating that Linen was a part of God's culture. On the whole, this book is very unsatisfying to read. Not at all what a persona documenter or garb documenter would be looking for reference material.

The Cultural World of Eleonora di Toledo, Duchess of Florence and Siena Return to Top
Konrad Eisenbichler (ED)
Ashgate Publishing, USA (c) 1994
ISBN 0754637743

Table of Contents: 1 | 2

This book is truly amazing! This book came about because of a collaboration of scholars who felt that Eleonora was a remarkable woman who deserved to be known by more than just her famous portrait by Bronzino, "Eleonora di Toledo and son, Giovanni". AND it's in English! Besides the fact that it takes the Duchess of Florence and makes her a understandable person, the book is rich in details of life in late Renaissance Florence. It talks about court life, religious life, and everyday life. Although the focus is on Eleonora, it touches other aspects of real lives, her servants, home, finances, spirituality, loyalties, and other issues prevalent in Florence during her time as ruler. It also focuses on her death, the burial, and what impact it had on her subjects and family. The book is very helpful for the person looking for a Florentine persona of the late Renaissance. There is a special chapter dealing with just Eleonora's burial clothes, adding relatively unknown information about the conservations and aspects of the gown that were previously unavailable or out of print. The book is neatly laid out and easy to read. The meanings of all chapter authors are clearly expressed, and all chapters have reference notes, foot notes, and bibliographies. All pictures are in B/W which is unfortunate, as there are new pictures not often if ever seen before. This book is GREAT for SCA use for persona development, as a reference work for studies conducted about Eleonora di Toledo, or for just enjoyment reading about the times. Highly recommended.

Portraits of the Medici: 15th through 18th Centuries Return to Top
Karla Langedijk
Studio Per Edizioni Scelte (SPES), Italy (C) 1981

Table of Contents 1|2|3|4|5

Well, for a book that was suppose to be really good, it was really, really disapointing. The information contained in the 716 pages is a heavy weight to carry around with you for a few scraps of useful information. And this is just volume 1! The book boasts of over 4000 paintings for over 100 persons who were by blood or marriage, a Medici. While the book can be useful for rarely seen portraits, the information about the authors, sitters, or general history sources would need to be checked out for verification in both primary sources and current research books/journals, before being accepted as fact. The text and all pictures are in B&W, but not all 'catalogued' media listed in the text are reprinted in the volume. Some of reprints are grainy and may not have the detail needed for really good costume construction, but the book is an excellent way to understand the changing fashions over a 200 year period. There are better works out there for your ILL's, but, worth a look just to make sure you've covered all your bases. Can be pawed through in an afternoon. Not really recommended, but covers SCA, Golden Age and Privateer Eras.

The Italian Cotton Industry in the Later Middle Ages 1100-1600 Return to Top
Maureen Fennell Mazzaoui
Cambridge, Cambridge University Press (c) 1981
ISBN: 0521230950

Table of Contents 1|2

This book is an amazing but technical read. It starts off with a discussion of Asian beginnings of cotton, the 2 different types of cotton available, and how the trade developed into an industry with the West. However, the focus of the book is about the expansion of cotton industry in Italy. The other half of the book focuses on how Germany in the 16th century began to excel at cotton production and overshadow the Italians at the cotton trade. The book gives a cursory closing chapter to the period of time from 1600-Industrial Revolution. This book really should have been named, "The history of Cotton, 1100-1600, Italy and Germany." But it wasn't. With only 2 b/w pictures, this book's strength is in its EXTENSIVE notes and bibliographical section. A very good book for learning about width's of fabrics, lengths, and trade movements. Not good for garb construction, but perfect for documentation as the author makes very sound judgments. Good for SCA recreationists, but not for Golden Age or later groups. VERY recommended.

In the Wake of the Plague Return to Top
Norman Cantor
Harper Perennial,NY (C) 2002
ISBN 0060014342

Table of Contents HERE

This book is a mish-mash of fact and fiction. The first chapter attempts to explain in recent scientific terms about the black death, and makes some interesting points, but the information provided is not complete. Most of the sentances read like point form notes strung together, and the author tends to jump around with his paragraphs. He also advocates that the children's ryhme 'Ring around the rosies' is about the black death, but does not give any supporting evidence, even though there is solid evidence to the contrary found in other books and on the internet. The second chapter is mildly more interesting, but he tends to loose himself in side trips about great personages of the 11th and 12th centuries. The Best chapter is entitled "Women and Men of Property" and it is very interesting as it details how the black death created changes to families, law, inheritances, business practices, people, and employment. The Final chapter deals with the Jews, and thier role played in the Black Death. There are very few pictures, all in B/W, and no reference notes. He devotes a small section at the back of the book for bibilography notes, complete with commentary. This book is worth the read for persona ideas, but is not good for much else, not really recommended for documented use.

Moda a Firenze 1540-1580 Return to Top
Roberta Orsi Landini
Edizone Polistampa, Firenze (c) 2005
ISBN: 8883048679

Table of Contents 1 | 2

Wow. All I can say is, Wow! This book broadens horizons for persona development, as well as for the costuming obsessor. "Moda a Firenze" is full of all the details that you could hope for. The layout of the book is reminiscient of "Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlocked", all broken up into chapters dealing with specific aspects of a costume. All of the pages are full of colour pictures, some of which have not been seen in other books, or on the internet. All of the information is taken from pictorial works or from the wardrobe accounts of the Medici's during the time of 1540-1580. Some new statments are made, and her conclusions and rationalizations seem sound. This is an unusual book in that it is written in both Italian and English. Sometimes the English translation is hard to understand, but will not slow you down. The bibliography is extensive, and full of texts that are only in Italian and would otherwise be very difficult for us to consult. An acutal list of the wardrobe inventories is provided, but only in Italian. A glossary of hard to translate Italian words has also been printed for our better understanding. This is a very drool-worthy book, worth every penny. Very highly recommended. Perfect for costuming, great for persona devllopment, and Good overall for SCA recreations.

The Book of Fine Linen Return to Top
Francois de Bonneville
Flammarion (c) 2001
ISBN: 2080135570

Table of Contents 1

I must say, for such a large, glossy paged, colour book, I was dissapointed. What appears to be a valuable resource for understanding linen within the SCA time period, turns out to be not so useful. Every aspect of personal linens is covered, but only about 1/3 of the information in the text is related to the SCA time period. As well, there is little cross-referencing in the text to link up areas of commonality, and there seems to be contradictions in the text. Also, where there were no sources to provide information, the gaps were covered over with surmises and guesses. Unfortunetaly, there are no footnotes or references to seperate the guesses from the sources, making this book very difficult to use as reliable reference material. Even though there are dissapointments, the book does have some value to make it worthy to buy. While most of the information is scattered thoughout the text, Bedding, paintings, sacks, clothing, bathing, kitchen/tables, cording, and even about cloth washing and cleansing are all talked about, using medieval and renaissance death inventories, edicts, guild and custom records. Paintings that are published are ones not before seen, and are in colour. I liked the history of cotton, linen, and silk that was also included in the book, however, again, some of the information is a bit suspect. The bibliography is pretty good, many sources in French, so it may be difficult to follow in the authors footsteps. I would say this book is alright for the recreationist, and can be used by all time periods. 19th and 20th C recreationists will find it more useful than SCA or Golden Age groups.


Giulio Clovio's portrait of Eleonora di Toledo Return to Top
Robert B Simon, PhD
The Burlington Magazine July 1989, Vol: 131, pp 481-485
ISSN: 09510788

This article focuses on a misidentified miniature painting of Eleonora di Toledo, thought to be lost from the Medici inventory sometime after 1589. The miniature, resurfaced in a private collection in 1860. It was sold to a Duke of England in 1861 and has since remained. What is most intriguing about the painting is it's very clear artist and sitter identification. The visual reproductions in the article allow us to see the different, perhaps more real, image of Eleonora. The article includes a few more pictures of both Clovio's artwork for the Medici, as well as a few more images of Eleonora herself. It is a nice contrast to dynastic portraits that may be "touched" to convey a political aim, rather than life au naturale. The footnotes are extensive, and the references are easy to follow, allowing a reader for follow in the author's footsteps. Good for background information about dynastic portraiture and it's differences, but not really good for persona development, or garb reconstruction. Good start for reference work, though.

Bronzino's Young Woman with her Little Boy Return to Top
Janet Cox-Rearick
Studies in the History of Art, Vol 12, 1982, pp 67-79
ISSN: 0091-7338

This article focuses on the concept that renaissance paintings were often changed after completion, or altered after the first initial draft of the painting was commissioned. The articles focus was on Bronzino's early works, particularly the ones that had been recently cleaned and had modern technology applied to it. The paintings in question were "Woman with her Little Boy" and "Young Man". The author also focuses on the problematic idea of controversial dating based on costume. The article, in colour, and referenced, makes for interesting reading as well as some thought provoking ideas.... just how many other original artistry was "retouched"? Recommended for a broader understanding of Florentine art as well as the broader view of the changing demands of dress in Florence. Useful for all persona ages and broad enough in concept to be applied to other European geographical era's of the same time frame.

Catherine de Medici and her Florentine Friends Return to Top
De Lamar Jensen
The Sixteenth Century Journal, Vol 9, Issue 2, 1978, pp 57-74
ISSN: 03610160

The author hoped with this article to dispel some of the negative press Catherine de Medici, Queen of France received during her lifetime and posthumously from other historians, choosing instead, to show Catherine as a loyalist to both her adopted country and her family ties. The article follows Catherine's childhood from early years in Florence, to pre-teen years in Rome, and Queen in France by 14. The author argues that Catherine as queen lived in turbulent times in France, and the need for diplomacy was crucial. The article makes use of never before published letters between Cosimo, Catherine and their designated ambassadors. Cosimo had very clearly aligned himself with Spain, and was officially at war with France. However, Catherine was family. It was a fine line for both of them to walk down, and the author makes the politics easier and clearer to understand. A good read for anyone wanting to know a bit about how ambassadorship worked: political loyalties, and family ties. The notes are extensive, but alas, most are in native French or Italian. But, still recommended reading for those with a early 1500's French persona.

Spanish Brocade for Royal Ladies Return to Top
Florence Lewis May
Pantheon, Vol 23, 1965, pp 8-14
ISSN: 0720056

The focus of this article was to compare 3 fabrics all similar in design, color, and class identification. Two examples are of painted nobility, and the 3rd an extant fabric example housed in America. The author is quick to note the concept that the fabrics are most likely complex and costly, thus identifying it with nobility wear. Almost all the images depicted in the article are black and white, and most likely never before seen by the general public. The article continues on with the idea that the fabrics all seem to have come from Spain, either given as gifts or purchased by the Spanish themselves. The article also mentions other paintings not depicted in the article, but a search could be made, as there are good foot notes to refer to. The article ends with the concept the pomegranate motif theme seen in each fabric example was an enduring one, spanning all of Europe, not just Spain. This article is a good starting point for learning about fabric history, but not at all good for persona development of any era. Best for the SCA costumer.

Siegmund von Herberstein: An Italian Velvet in the Ottoman Court Return to Top
Jennifer Wearden
Costume, Vol 19, 1985, pp 22-29
ISSN: 05908876

This is an interesting side article that tries to focus on the significance that Italian velvets played in the court of Suleyman, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire during the 1500's. Using other extant samples of already dated velvets in museums, and consulting drawings made of the velvets worn on the Ambassador of Spain, Siegmund, the author concludes that the velvets used in the Ottoman court were of Italian origin. The authos spends some time describing the velvets and their commonalities, and the article does include pictures of the velvets in question. All in all, a good article, but not detailed enough in any one area to be really useful. Good for fabric referencing if you have elaborate figured patterns on your fabric, and need some documentation, but is best used as backup or tie-in research. The entire article is heavily footnoted, and you can use the notes to further look up the information presented in the text. Interesting reading.

Cotton and Cotton Trade in the Middle Ages Return to Top
H. Wescher
Ciba Review, No.6, Feb 1948, pp 2321-2360 (Now known as Ciba-Geigy) Basle, Switzerland. CIBA Limited.
ISSN: 0578-2481

The article can be found here

While the scope of this article is wider than the book by Mazzaoui, its research is more limited as it was compiled and printed in 1948. Alot of information has been uncovered and researched since that date. The article does trace the beginnings of cotton from the Asian area to Europe and then to the Americas, but tends to focus on Spain as the center of Industrial expansion. The article does not focus on just Europe, but Asia as well. With many pictures, it is a good article to read for a nice, broad beginning understanding of the existence of cotton and the cotton industry. However, what classes of society would have used cotton, or what it was made into, would be better researched in the Book, "The Italian Cotton Industry in the Later Middle Ages", by Mazzaoui. The notes section at the end of the article is complete, but brief. A pleasant article to read, good for all recreation groups.

Top of Page


This website is the created authorship of Brandy Dickson, also known in the SCA as Lady Desamona Villani. Copyrighted 2004-2008. Any questions or comments about the construction or contents of this website can be directed to her.