20 Weird, Rough, and Weird Sketches of Medieval Manuscripts

Many medieval manuscripts are works of art with devotional passages written in fine calligraphy, accompanied by vivid illustrations and ornate and decorative borders. But equally captivating is Marginal – Sketches and doodles in text margins – which range from the ordinary to the grotesque and outrageous and just grotesque.

Medieval manuscripts are filled with farting, defecation, immorality, and fighting people, animals, and creatures of all kinds. From penis monsters to naughty nuns, breech horns, and killer beasts, these medieval texts are full of surprises!

The tired king.  A king shits on my head human-like creatures.  Add MS 10294/1 f.1dr |  Source: British Library.

The tired king. A king shits on my head human-like creatures. Add MS 10294/1 f.1dr | source: British Library .

    Naked man putting his finger behind him distracts from the more serious illustration of some noble men and women playing chess.

Naked man putting his finger behind him distracts from the more serious illustration of some noble men and women playing chess. “Les voeux du paon”. Northern France or Belgium, ca. 1350 AD
MS G.24 vol. 25 volts

There are an astonishing number of killer rabbits in medieval scrolls!  Rabbit killer in Smithfield Decretals, c.  1300, British Library, London, UK.  the details.  (British Library / CC BY 4.0)

There are an astonishing number of killer rabbits in medieval scrolls! a killer rabbit In Smithfield Decretals, c. 1300, British Library, London, UK. the details. (British Library / CC BY 4.0 )

Strange monkey work.  Jean de Wavrin, Recueil des croniques d'Engleterre, Bruges 1471-1483.  British Library, Royal 15 H IV, p.  192 p

Strange monkey work. Jean de Wavrin, Recueil des croniques d’Engleterre, Bruges 1471-1483. British Library, Royal 15 H IV, p. 192 p

A battle between a knight and a snail as described in the margins of the Gorleston Psalter.  (British Library)

battle between knight and snail As shown in the margins Gorleston Psalter . ( British Library )

penis tree.  A nun harvesting rods from a tree in Romain de la Rose, c.  1325-1353.  (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS. Fr. 25526, f. 106v.)

penis tree. A nun harvesting rods from a tree in Romain de la Rose, c. 1325-1353. (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS. Fr. 25526, f. 106v.)

A nun appears disgusted by the sight of a bleeding man from behind from The Romance of Alexander, 1338-1410.

A nun appears disgusted by the sight of a bleeding man from behind from The Romance of Alexander, 1338-1410.

Two decapitated men have a fight in the summer volume of Breviaries Reno and Margaret de Bar, Metz California.  1302-1305.  (Verdun, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 107, f. 99v.)

Two decapitated men have a fight in the summer volume of Breviaries Reno and Margaret de Bar, Metz California. 1302-1305. (Verdun, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 107, f. 99v.)

Woman riding a phallic monster.  Decretum Gratiani with Commentary by Bartolomeo da Brescia, Italy 1340-1345.  Lyon, B.M., Ms. 5128, vol.  100 p

Woman riding a phallic monster. Decretum Gratiani with Commentary by Bartolomeo da Brescia, Italy 1340-1345. Lyon, B.M., Ms. 5128, vol. 100 p

A man plays music from both sides.  Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum history, Saint-Omer c.  1294-1297.  Boulogne-sur-Mer, Municipal Library, MA.  131, paper.  202 p

A man plays music from both sides. Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum history, Saint-Omer c. 1294-1297. Boulogne-sur-Mer, Municipal Library, MA. 131, paper. 202 p

Pleasure to the sad eye!  Detail of a marginal scene of a man showing his anus.  (Britt Lieb, MS Supplementary 49622, p. 61f)

Pleasure to the sad eye! Detail of a marginal scene of a man showing his anus. (Britt Lieb, MS Supplementary 49622, p. 61f)

A naked bishop reprimands a clergyman for defecating in the Psalter Gorleston, c.  1310-1324.

A naked bishop reprimands a clergyman for defecating in the Psalter Gorleston, c. 1310-1324.

A man smells or blows air at the back of a monster.  Unknown manuscript.

A man smells or blows air at the back of a monster. Unknown manuscript.

A Fiesty Nun defies a demon in The De Brailes Hours, Oxford California.  1240 BL, add 49999, sheet.  40 volts

A Fiesty Nun defies a demon in The De Brailes Hours, Oxford California. 1240 BL, add 49999, sheet. 40 volts

suspicious business.  Page (folio) from the Maastricht Book of Watches (BL Stowe MS17), an illuminated manuscript primarily known for its vivid depictions of animals and semi-animals.  1300 - 1325 AD.

suspicious business. Page (folio) from the Maastricht Book of Watches (BL Stowe MS17), an illuminated manuscript primarily known for its vivid depictions of animals and semi-animals. 1300 – 1325 AD.

A man puts a trumpet on the back of a horse.  Unknown manuscript.

A man puts a trumpet on the back of a horse. Unknown manuscript.

King Philip of Macedon looks at his wife as she performs a dragon in Les faize d'Alexandre (translation of Historiae Alexandri Magni of Quintus Curtius Rufus), Bruges, California.  1468-1475 BL, Burney 169, fol.  14 p

King Philip of Macedon looks at his wife as she performs a dragon in Les faize d’Alexandre (translation of Historiae Alexandri Magni of Quintus Curtius Rufus), Bruges, California. 1468-1475 BL, Burney 169, fol. 14 p

Papal birdman of Guillaume Durand, Avignon, before 1390 Paris, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, ms.  143, paper.  145 volts

Papal birdman of Guillaume Durand, Avignon, before 1390 Paris, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, ms. 143, paper. 145 volts

get ready.  towards.  Release!  Macclesfield Psalter, England ca.  1330-1340 Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 1-2005, paper.  236 p

get ready. towards. Release! Macclesfield Psalter, England ca. 1330-1340 Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 1-2005, paper. 236 p

Accurate hit of the target!  Monkey archer in the papacy by Guillaume Durand, Avignon, before 1390 Paris, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Ms.  143, paper.  145 volts

Accurate hit of the target! Monkey archer in the papacy by Guillaume Durand, Avignon, before 1390 Paris, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Ms. 143, paper. 145 volts

Top image: Strange image of a ghoul shooting an arrow into the back of another creature from the Rutland Psalter, c. 1260. (British Library Royal MS 62925, p.87v.)

By Joanna Gillan

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