Doctrina pueril: a window into the 13th century

Ramon Llull (ca. 1232-1316) is one of mediaeval Europe’s most unique and complex figures. Linked from an early age to the court of the King of Majorca, when he turned thirty his life underwent a radical change as a result of his concern for the salvation of non-Christians and his involvement in the reform of Christianity. Over the course of fifty years, he wrote more than 250 works in Latin, Catalan and Arabic. Of special note are those which he devoted to the Art, his system of discussion and knowledge in which, instead of resorting to the Holy Scriptures, he used logical rational arguments. Great thinkers in later periods, such as Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Nicholas of Cusa, Giordano Bruno and G. W. Leibniz read and commented on his books.

Doctrina pueril (1274-1276) is not a work for great philosophers or one intended for theological debate, but rather a book conceived to provide basic yet broad training for laymen, in particular Christian laymen. This is why he wrote it in his own language, Catalan. The greater part of the contents of the book, which has been considered a little encyclopaedia, is connected with catechistic instruction. Christians were to be able to justify the basic articles of their faith in all situations and also to conduct themselves and to order their lives in accordance with these principles.

This book is not merely a catechism, however. It also contains a substantial body of succinct and easily understandable information on the other religions of the Mediterranean of its times, the main academic disciplines of the mediaeval university, the various social classes, and such special matters as the care and instruction of small children. It also deals with scientific aspects, like the four elements, generation and corruption, the history of humanity, the functioning of the human mind and body, and the opposition between destiny and fortune.

Ramón Llull [Lully] Line engraving, approx. 1235-1315. Credit: Wellcome Collection.

With this work, Ramon Llull sought to offer his readers an all-embracing education, an overview, even if on a small scale, of the world in which they lived. The mediaeval world. Therefore, for the reader of today, this book is an open window on the reality of the 13th century, an introduction to the Middle Ages by one of the most original authors and thinkers of the times. The version which we present here, the first to appear in the English language, has benefited from the broad experience and knowledge of Professor John Dagenais of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), who also wrote the notes accompanying the text.

This is not the first work by Ramon Llull to have been produced in collaboration between Tamesis Books and Editorial Barcino. Two other works have been previously published: A Contemporary Life, which is the autobiography that Llull dictated shortly before his death, and the Romance of Evast and Blaquerna, in which Ramon Llull novelised his proposals for universal reform and included his most important mystical work, the Book of the Lover and the Beloved.

Other books published as a result of the endeavours of Tamesis and Barcino to disseminate, in the English language, the foremost works of Catalan literature include a bilingual anthology of the poet Ausiàs March; the exciting Catalan Expedition to the East, drawn from the Chronicle of Ramon Muntaner; a compilation of texts on education by the Franciscan scholar Francesc Eiximenis; the 14th-century cookery book known as The Book of Sent Soví; the philosophical narrative in verse entitled Book of Fortune and Prudence by Bernat Metge; a selection of passages from the only known mediaeval female author writing in Catalan, Isabel de Villena; the 16th-century Dialogues of Cristòfol Despuig, and the Romantic poem Mount Canigó by Jacint Verdaguer.

This is a selection of titles providing access in English to the Catalan literary tradition, which has often been silenced despite the quality and ambition evidenced by the works which have been published up to now.

This guest article was written by Barcino-Tamesis editor, Joan Santanach, who also wrote the introduction to John Dagenais’ translation of Doctrina pueril.

Ramon Llull (1232-1316) was a mystic, missionary, philosopher, and author of narrative and poetry. He is credited with writing the first major work of Catalan literature.

John Dagenais is a senior professor of Medieval literature and specialist in Hispano-Latin manuscript culture at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Doctrina Pueril is available in paperback February 2019,
9781855663091, £19.99.
Get 25% off your order with promo code BB685.

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Boydell and Brewer: Golden Year(s)

It’s true. I know we don’t look it, but this year Boydell & Brewer will be 50! That’s fifty years of leading-edge research, groundbreaking studies, and unique publishing projects. Fifty years of uncompromising independent publishing, with all the attendant benefits and risks. Fifty years of great authors and committed staff. Fifty years of editing, preparing, printing and marketing books that individually have added to our sum of knowledge and collectively have pushed boundaries, opened fresh fields of research, established new approaches and, we hope, inspired yet more authors, scholars, students and readers.

Those years have taken us from the earliest days, with Richard and Helen Barber, Derek Brewer and the invaluable backing of a handful of fine friends, to the trans-Atlantic company of today with a truly global reach, publishing and marketing hardcovers, paperbacks, and eBooks, monographs, collections, translations, editions, and multi-volume sets.

Boydell has – and remains – an unusual company, a blend of caution (wisely in the case of all things financial) and boldness (being very early adopters of eBooks and all manner of bibliographical technology, for one example). But one single overarching ambition guides everything: to publish the very finest new research from the best authors, editors and contributors. That impeccable standard has never changed and, we trust, never will.

This month we begin our year-long celebrations. Please join us because without our community we could not have done this.

On Instagram we will be charting Boydell in 50 Pictures with snapshots from our past and pictures of our present. There will be some lovely things to see so please follow us there.

Soon you’ll start hearing from current staff recalling the first B&B book that they worked on. But this is also the story of our authors and readers, so if you would like to send us your thoughts on the first B&B book that you read, bought, borrowed, referenced or even wrote please do! We would really love to hear your stories. You can email them to Sean at

Boydell and Brewer 50th Logo

For this wondrous occasion, we had a specially designed logo created by the very talented Simon Loxley. Hear Simon’s thoughts behind his design:

“For the fiftieth anniversary of Boydell & Brewer I wanted to express in the logo the diversity of the imprints under the Boydell ‘umbrella’, the range of subjects and ideas that can be found in their books. So I decided against rendering 50 in numerals, and spelt it out instead – this gave me the capability to spread that diversity across five characters rather than two. With an ‘f’ in the middle of the word, there was the opportunity to use a long italic f, always an attractive, sweeping letterform, which immediately gave the design both weight and panache at its centre. Then the first ‘F’ was a serif letter, the ’t’ a sans serif. The ‘i’ I decided to make more geometric, almost abstract. I moved the dot off-centre, which then located it more evenly in the space between the two ‘f’s, but also suggested the unconventional, the free-spirited and the free-thinking, all qualities which can be found in Boydell books. Finally I rendered the ‘y’ in a medieval blackletter face, as a tribute to this founding element of the Boydell list when it began in 1969, and which remains such a cornerstone of its publishing today.” ⠀

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The re-discovery of Julius Eastman’s compositions

Provocative and controversial, the minimalist composer Julius Eastman’s seminal trio of pieces, Crazy Nigger, Evil Nigger, and Gay Guerrilla, enjoyed an underground following when they were created in the 1970s, with no commercial recognition. In the second of our posts on this notable American artist, author Mary Jane Leach discusses the re-discovery of Eastman’s compositions.

A lot has happened since the 2005 New World Records release of Unjust Malaise, a three-CD collection of archival recordings of compositions by Julius Eastman. At that time his music was generally unknown, as there were no recordings or scores available. Since then his music has gradually experienced increasing recognition, building towards what could be called Eastmania today.

With the re-emergence of his powerful music, a missing gap in the history of contemporary music has been filled. He wrote what can be categorized as minimal music, but also wrote “post-minimal” music before minimal music was fully established. His pieces straddle the two main styles of minimal music—rhythmic/pulse driven music (Steve Reich and Philip Glass) and spectral drone music (La Monte Young and Phill Niblock). While using process and rhythmic patterns, there is a flexibility that lends a breathing, organic feel to his music, a muscularity missing in a lot of other music from that time.

Crazy Nigger, Evil Nigger, and Gay Guerrilla, which will soon be released on vinyl on the Milanese Blume label, form a trio of pieces that occupies a high point in Eastman’s compositions. They were the culmination of his mature style. Crazy Nigger is a sprawling sonic study, the last section exploring canonic form both harmonically and rhythmically. The other two pieces are each about half the length of Crazy Nigger, and are more tightly organized. Evil Nigger starts at a blistering pace, and progresses from primarily tonal, to multi-tonal, to an untethered ending with sparse notes drifting off into the ether. Gay Guerrilla, follows a more dramatic arc than the other two pieces, climaxing with a musical quote from A Mighty Fortress is Our God, a queer call to arms, both sacred and secular. Usually performed on four pianos, these three pieces can also be performed on melody instruments from the same family (e.g. strings), or even in some cases for mixed ensemble (“usually of the same family,” as Eastman stated in a speech introducing these three pieces at their premiere at Northwestern University in 1980). Crazy Nigger was written in 1978, while the other two were written in 1979. All three pieces appear on Unjust Malaise, as well as his spoken introduction explaining the controversial titles.

The issuing of these three pieces on vinyl prompts me to re-appraise Eastman’s work and the media they have appeared on. The disappearance and re-appearance of these pieces mirror the trajectory of sound media. They were written when vinyl LPs were the dominant commercial format for music. And now, along with the re-discovery and wide-spread acceptance of Eastman’s music, vinyl is also experiencing a re-emergence.

Created in the late 1970s, these three pieces should have been released on vinyl at the time they were written. However, that was not to be, and they, and other pieces of Eastman’s, were unavailable commercially. Instead, they were shared on cassettes, copied and passed from one admirer to another, a kind of underground musical distribution by aficionados.

Today the titles seem shocking and they offended some people when they were written, but they were also of the time, with Richard Pryor’s That Nigger’s Crazy and Bicentennial Nigger, as well as Patti Smith’s “Rock N Roll Nigger,” being written contemporaneously. Although the titles for the three four-piano works are provocative and controversial, the music isn’t, and they secured Eastman’s reputation as an exciting and essential composer.

Mary Jane Leach is a composer and freelance writer. She is the co-editor of Gay Guerrilla, Julius Eastman and His Music with Renée Levine Packer. The paperback edition was released by the University of Rochester Press in October 2018.

You can read a piece by her co-author Renée Levine Packer on Proofed here.

Gay Guerrilla
Julius Eastman and His Music
Edited by Renée Levine Packer and Mary Jane Leach
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Books to look out for in January 2019

Looking for a new read to titilate the mind this new year? Here are our five biggest titles hitting the shelves this month – from the role of the occult in Nazism to the neglected aspects of Ralph Waldo Emerson. What subject piques your fancy?

Until next time!

Military Society and the Court of Chivalry in the Age of the Hundred Years War

by Philip J. Caudrey

The Court of Chivalry was England’s senior military court during the age of the Hundred Years War (1337-1453), but unfortunately its medieval registers are now lost and only a bare few cases survive. This book explores three of the best preserved of those cases: Scrope v. Grosvenor (1385-91), Lovel v. Morley (1386-7) and Grey v. Hastings (1407-10), disputes in which competing knightly families claimed rightful possession of the same coat-of-arms. Hundreds of witnesses gave evidence in each of these cases, in the process providing vivid insights into the military, social, and cultural history of late medieval England.

Limpopo’s Legacy

Student Politics & Democracy in South Africa

by Anne Heffernan

In 2015 and 2016 waves of student protest swept South African campuses under the banner of FeesMustFall. This book brings an historical perspective to the recent risings by analysing regional influences on the ideologies that have underpinned South African student politics from the 1960s to the present. Organized around the stories of several key political actors, the book introduces the reader to critical spaces of political mobilization in the region.

Revisiting the “Nazi Occult”

Histories, Realities, Legacies

Edited by Monica Black and Eric Kurlander

Scholars have debated the role of the occult in Nazism since it first appeared on the German political landscape in the 1920s. After 1945, a consensus held that occultism – an ostensibly anti-modern, irrational blend of pseudo-religious and -scientific practices and ideas – had directly facilitated Nazism’s rise. This new collection of essays promises to re-energize the debate on Nazism’s occult roots and legacies and thus our understanding of German cultural and intellectual history over the past century.

A Liberal Education in Late Emerson

Readings in the Rhetoric of Mind

by Sean Ross Meehan

Sean Meehan’s book reclaims three important but critically neglected aspects of the late Emerson’s “mind”: first, his engagement with rhetoric, conceived as the organizing power of mind and, unconventionally, characterized by the trope “metonymy”; second, his public engagement with the ideals of liberal education and debates in higher education reform early in the period (1860-1910) that saw the emergence of the modern university; and third, his intellectual relation to significant figures from this age of educational transformation: Walt Whitman, William James, Harvard president Charles W. Eliot, and W. E. B. Du Bois.

Written under the Skin

Blood and Intergenerational Memory in South Africa

by Carli Coetzee

Coetzee argues that a younger generation of South Africans are developing important and innovative ways of understanding South African pasts, and the challenge narratives have over the last decades. The author uses the image of history-rich blood to explore these approaches to intergenerational memory. Blood under the skin is a carrier of embodied and gendered histories and using this image, the chapters revisit older archives, as well as analyse contemporary South African cultural and literary forms.

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