The Book of Miracles–1552

I’ll be hoping to get a little cash for Christmas, as I have my heart set on another lush book from Taschen, a reproduction of The Book of Miracles (Wunderzeichenbuch), printed in Augsburg in 1552.

Taschen Miracles1

The book only came to public light in 2007, when it turned up at a German auction house. The artwork is extraordinary. Study these vibrant images and you’ll never have to create your own nightmares again.

taschen_bookofmiracles3  TaschenMiracles 2

These images and a discussion of the book can be found at BrainPickings.

An amazing Pinterest Board of 50 images and translation of the text can be found HERE.

The Book of Miracles is a 16th-century equivalent of the National Enquirer, but the art will leave you breathless even if the miracles don’t.

Research in Fiction

The whole point of a historian is to reconstruct, as imaginatively as you can, with all the insights you can get on the basis of the available evidence, and see if you can give a picture that’s as true as is possible, given all those preconditions. And it’s a difficult job and it’s a constant challenge to all of us, all the time, whatever we’re writing about.   –John H. Elliott 

For a novelist, there is always the question, how accurate must I be, since this is fiction? Historical fiction spreads across a wide spectrum from ridiculously inaccurate to meticulously researched. I hope to fall as much as possible toward the latter, knowing I will miss things and make mistakes, even if I try my best. Nevertheless, the truth of history is so much richer than anything we can invent, and the reader, while he may fall for a ruse, will feel himself enriched by the truth when it is presented with skill by a good storyteller.

Cornelis Dusart

Renaissance Deodorant

On the Ornaments of Women

Written by Giovanni Marinello

published with privilege in Venetia (Venice)
by John Valgrifio, 1574

translated into English by

Courtney Hess-Dragovich

If you wash your armpits frequently in wine in which is boiled nutmeg, mace or, if you desire, grains of musk, you will stop the smellreleasing a gentle scent.                          

This blog is a treasure, but my favorite posts are the deodorant recipes

16th Century Food in Spain

Jake & Katharina are now in Spain. What shall they eat?

Wonderful resource here. A 16th-century Spanish cookbook! Two recipes below.

I might try the first, but not the second.



You will take goat milk, and almond milk, and then take the flower of wheat flour, and rosewater, and sugar, and egg yolks, and let all this be well-mixed; and make paste from it which is neither very soft or very hard, but moderate; and then make from it little cakes; and take hazelnuts, and pine nuts, and yolks of hard-boiled eggs, and grind them all together; and then take raw eggs, and blend them with said hazelnuts and pine nuts; and this moderately, so that it is neither very thin nor very thick.  And then take sugar, and rosewater, and cinnamon, and a little ginger, and make little cakes of all this mixture with that paste; and fry these little cakes with lard and with fresh melted pork fat, in a casserole of  tinned copper or bronze; and when this lard is well heated, cast in the little cakes; and after they are fried, take them out with a skimmer, and put them on a plate; and cast into it rosewater and honey; and when they are to be eaten, cast sugar and cinnamon on top of them.


You will take a cat that is fat, and decapitate it.  And after it is dead, cut off the head and throw it away because it is not for eating, for they say that eating the brains will cause him who eats them to lose his senses and judgment.  Then flay it very cleanly, and open it and clean it well, and then wrap it in a cloth of clean linen.  And bury it beneath the ground where it must be for a day and a night; and then take it out of there and set it to roast on a spit. And roast it over the fire.  And when beginning to roast it, grease it with good garlic and oil.  And when you finish greasing it, whip it well with a green twig, and this must be done before it is well-roasted, greasing it and whipping it.  And when it is roasted, cut it as if it were a rabbit or a kid and put it on a big plate; and take garlic and oil blended with good broth in such a manner that it is well-thinned.  And cast it over the cat.  And you may eat of it because it is very good food.


No wonder Renaissance ladies were so proud of their needlework. Or that it took so much time. They created truly amazing and beautiful garments with no computerized smocking machines or automated pleaters.

Thanks to Genoveva von Lubeck for her series on historic pleating. The researchers in The Society for Creative Anachronism are a novelist’s best friends, and I adore them for the hours they spend collecting and analyzing images on all topics. The SCA rocks!

Photo copyright Grace Vibbert

Photo copyright Grace Vibbert

Colors of 16th-Century Hosen

“Pinks, beiges and flesh tints.”

Italian hose, 1500-1510)

Italian hose, 1500-1510)

Doe’s Belly

Brown Bread

Merry Widow

Amorous Desire


Lost Time

Sad Friend

Monkey’s Smile

Dying Monkey

Mortal Sin

Colour of Hell

Sick Spaniard

and my personal favorite:  Resuscitated Corpse

This is not quite our period, (the image is), but I just can’t resist. These are the names of colors given to hose in a dyer’s advertisement from Neufchateau in Lorraine, (printed in 1607), according to “A History of Hand Knitting” by Richard Rutt, Bishop of Leicester, (pub. B T Batsford Ltd, 1989.)