We have received a number of requests for information for younger people, or beginning re-creationists, about the Middle Ages, and since Patsy is a public library cataloger, we have easy access to a great deal of what is currently available IN CHILDREN"S BOOKS.
The annotations are based on our personal evaluations of the material in books we have inspected for the purpose of constructing this list . . . Illustrations are noted as being period or modern; error rates are estimated based on ca. 25 years of private research. For your information, some of our benchmark errors include, but are not limited to: "spices in cooking were used to cover the taste of rotten meat" (the Biesty statement on this is correct); blacksmith equipment (Gary does, and has researched period equipment); "armor was so heavy a knight couldn't mount by himself" (actually haven't found this one much so far); costuming foibles in general; and mixing periods in the modern illustrations . . .
We have limited the early editions of this list to generic middle ages, knights and castles. As time allows, we may expand the coverage of the list. We welcome your comments and additional nominations for the list. Please try to provide as much information about additional titles as you can. Information is usually available on the back side of the title page.
Aliki. A Medieval Feast. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1983. (ISBN 0-690-04245-0)
Drawings in a semi-child/naive style describing "the preparation and celebration of a medieval feast held at an English manor house entertaining royal guests", circa 1400. Not bad, no glaring errors. A good style for children (and adults). Recommended.
Bergin, Mark. A Medieval Castle. (Magnifications (SERIES)) Columbus: Peter Bedrick Books., 2003. (ISBN 1-57768-980-1)
Nice example of the illustrations with enlarged cameos style. Generally quite nice. A few minor items. Overall, Recommended.
Biesty, Stephen. Castle. (Stephen Beisty's Cross-sections (SERIES)) New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1994. (ISBN 1-56458-467-4 LC 93-30158)
Drawings in a semi-cartoon style. Extremely detailed and sometimes amusing. Petty good.
Caselli, Giovanni. The Middle Ages. (History of Everyday Things (SERIES)) New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1988. (ISBN 0-87226-176-X LC 87-27105)
Drawings of numerous material objects including tools, architecture, and technical processes. Redrawings of numerous well known period images show no noticable errors or distortions. No errors noted. Quite good.
Caselli, Giovanni. The Renaissance and the New World. (History of Everyday Things (SERIES)) New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1985. (ISBN 0-87226-050-X LC 85-22900)
Drawings of numerous material objects including tools, architecture, and technical processes. Perhaps half the book covers matters beyond the Renaissance. No errors noted. Quite good.
Caselli, Giovanni. The Roman Empire and the Dark Ages. (History of Everyday Things (SERIES)) New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1981. (ISBN 0-911745-58-0 LC 84-6480)
50 BC to 1300 AD. Drawings of numerous material objects including tools, architecture, and technical processes. No errors noted. Quite good.
Clare, John D., ed. Fourteenth-Century Towns (Living History (SERIES)). San Diego: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1993. (ISBN 0-15-200515-3 LC 92-13760)
See series note below. Despite the title the contents skip around over two or three centuries. The error rate seems somewhat higher than the series average.
Clare, John D., ed. Knights in Armor (Living History (SERIES)). San Diego: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1993. (ISBN 0-15-200508-0 LC 91-2766)
See series note below.
Cole, Joanna. Medieval Castle (Ms. Frizzle's Adventures (SERIES)). New York: Scholastic Press, 2003. (ISBN 0-590-10820-4)
Classic Magic Schoolbus style illustrations. Gets all the major food references right. Recommended.
Dawson, Imogen. Food and Feasts in the Middle Ages. New York: New Discovery Books, 1994. (ISBN 0-02-726324-X LC 93-27200)
Photos of period illustrations. Looks quite good with background in agriculture and culture.
Eyewitness Books ; Dorling Kindersley publishers
Much good material, all illustrations are color photographs of artifacts, period illustrations, surviving architecture, and reproductions. Error rate varies among titles but is uniformly low. Costume information ditto. Recommended.
Gail, Marzieh. Life in the Renaissance. New York: Random House, 1968. (LC 68-29585)
Uses only period illustrations in black and white, halftones, and full colours. 6 to 8th grade? Seems wordy.
Gibson, Michael. All About Knights (An All Color Fact Book (SERIES)). St. Paul: EMC Publishing, 1983. (ISBN 0-8219-0016-1)
A good basic overview of knighthood in the Middle Ages. Manuscript illuminations and useful original drawings. No noticable errors. Recommended.
Gravett, Christopher. Knight (Eyewitness Books (SERIES)). New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993. (ISBN 0-679-83882-1 LC 92-1590)
See series note. The costume reproductions are slightly theatrical.
Gravett, Christopher. Castle (Eyewitness Books (SERIES)). New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994. (ISBN 0-679-86000-2 LC 93-32594)
See series note. What is mystifying is the very occasional glaring error. The costume reproductions are rather theatrical.
Green, John. Life in a Medieval Castle and Village Coloring Book. New York: Dover, 1990. (ISBN 0-486-26542-0)
Modern realistic drawings. A few small questionable items. Alright, not my cup of tea.
Greenblatt, Miriam. Charlemagne and the Early Middle Ages. (Rulers and their times (SERIES)). New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2003. (ISBN 0-7614-1487-8)
Quite good. Lots of period illustrations. Lots of text, middle-school level? Recommended.
Gregory, Tony. The Dark Ages (The Illustrated History of the World (SERIES)). New York: Facts on File, 1993. (ISBN 0-8160-2787-0)
Overview of the late classical and early middle ages societies world wide. Good looking illustrations, but a lot of problems, inaccuracies, and outright errors. Not recommended.
Hart, Avery and Paul Mantell. Knights & Castles, 50 Hands-On Activities to Experience the Middle Ages. Charlotte VT: Williamson Publishing, 1998. (ISBN 1-885593-17-1)
TOO simplified, even though a wide variety of ideas are covered. Howlers in the food section, and many other places. Not recommended.
Hindley, Judy. The Time Traveller Book of Knights and Castles. Tulsa: Hayes-Usborne,1976.
An overview approach using slightly cartoony or sketch-like illustrations. Scattered errors, but overall a good accessible work.
Hinds, Kathryn. The City (Life in the Middle Ages (SERIES)). New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2001. (ISBN 0-7614-1005-8)
We liked it. 99% period illustrations. Teen-age reading level. Recommended.
Howarth, Sarah. The Middle Ages (See Through History (SERIES)). New York: Viking, 1993. (ISBN 0-670-85098-5 LC 92-56930)
Mostly original drawings. A few errors. Fairly good.
Howarth, Sarah. Renaissance Places. Brookfield, Conn.: The Millbrook Press, 1992. (ISBN 1-56294-089-9 LC 92-7537)
Fairly accurate, with photographs of actifacts and period illustrations. A bit dry for our taste and perhaps also for the intended age group (? middle school/11-13).
Jones, Madeline. Knights and Castles (How It Was (SERIES)). London, UK: Batsford, 1991. (ISBN 0-7134-6352-X)
Unusual format employing quotes and questions. A good participation book.
Langley, Andrew. Medieval Life (Eyewitness Books (SERIES)). New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996. (ISBN 0-679-88077-1 LC 95-25064)
See series note. Appears to be the best of the three series titles in this list.
Lilly, Melinda. Minstrel (People of the Middle Ages (SERIES)). Vero Beach, Fla.: Rourke, 2003. (ISBN 1-58952-228-1)
Very elementary presentation (1st/2d grade?), but seems to be good information (not our field). Half illustrations are good period originals; the modern originals are primitive in style but acceptable. Recommended.
Living History (SERIES), Gulliver books/Roxbury Paintbox Co. Ltd
Numerous productions of large-scale tableaux of modern people in period clothing, settings, activities can be quite striking in overall effect. Ambitious concept is markedly diluted by the numerous errors, large and small, and a decidedly staged feel. The costume reproductions are rather theatrical and strangely artificial in appearance. The text is at times bizarre. Not recommended
MacDonald, Fiona. How Would You Survive in the Middle Ages? New York: Franklin Watts, 1995. (ISBN 0-531-14343-0 LC 95-3176)
Drawings and redrawings of period illustrations. An interesting concept, flawed by numerous small errors. For instance common soldiers of approximately the13th C playing cards, while what appears to be a 15th century musician plays nearby.
MacDonald, Fiona. The Middle Ages. (Everyday Life (SERIES)) Morristown, NJ: Silver Burdett, 1984. (ISBN 0-382-06833-5 LC 84-50810)
Period Illustrations and modern realistic drawings. A few small errors, but looks good overall.
MacDonald, Fiona and Mark Bergin. A Medieval Castle (Inside Story (SERIES)). New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1990. (ISBN 0-87226-340-1 LC 90-36253)
Many detailed colour drawings. Quite accurate, detailed and interesting. Few identifiable errors. Quite good.
Maynard, Christopher. Incredible Castles and Knights. New York: Covent Garden Books, 1994. ISBN 1-56458-730-4)
Advertized as "making information fun for young readers". The author appears to think that this means a lack of concern for accuracy, flippancy and trying to find sensational perspectives. Many illustrations can be identified as coming from the Eyewitness Series. We do not recommend this book.
Osborne, Will, and Mary Pope Osborne. Knights and Castles (Magic Tree House Research Guides (SERIES)). New York: Random House, 2000. (ISBN 0-375-80297-5)
OK. Good section at back about how to do more research.
Pernoud, Regine. A Day with a Stonecutter (A Day With (SERIES)). Minneapolis: Runestone Press, 1996. (ISBN 0-8225-1913-5)
Two-part format, fiction and non-fiction sections. Text seems reasonable enough, illustrations often don't seem to relate to their text blocks. Doesn't seem to have much to do with stone-cutting.
Platt, Richard. Castle Diary, The Journal of Tobias Burgess, Page. Cambridge MA: Candlewick Press, 1999. (ISBN 0-7636-0489-5)
Not sure everyone wore livery all the time, but illustrations are based on illuminations, in which livery WAS common. The forge set-up is right, yay. Slight mixing of periods, within about 100 years (pretty good). Mostly we liked it. Recommended.
Salley, Victoria. Castles and Knights (Adventures in Architecture (SERIES)). Munich: Prestel Verlag, 2001. (ISBN 3-7913-2576-0)
Quite basic. OK.
Sancha, Sheila. The Luttrell Village: Country Life in the Middle Ages. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1989. (ISBN 0-690-04804-1 LC 82-45588)
Very thorough for covering a multitude of aspects of life in a manor village. Only a few minor errors are readily identifiable. Very accessible illustration style. Approximately half text and half black and white drawings. A very good book.
Sancha, Sheila. Waltur Dragun's Town: Crafts and Trade in the Middle Ages. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1982. (ISBN 0-690-04323-6 LC 88-34066)
Very thorough for covering a multitude of aspects of crafts and trade in a town. Only a few minor questionable items are readily identifiable. Very accessible illustration style. Approximately half text and half black and white drawings. A very good book.
Steele, Philip. Castles. New York: Kingfisher, 1995. (ISBN 1-85697-547-9 LC 94-29366)
A few errors, particularly the common notion that spices were used to cover the taste of rotten meat. Good drawings. Mostly accurate and slightly deeper than usual.
Tanaka, Shelley In the Time of Knights (I was there (SERIES)). Toronto: Madison Press, 2000. (ISBN 0-7868-0651-6)
About chivalry, using William Marshall as the obvious paragon example. Too many Victorian illustrations & redrawings. Some period images, some original paintings for the book. Recommended.
Unstead, R.J. A Castle (See Inside (SERIES)). New York: Warwick Press, 1986 (rev. ed.) (ISBN 0-531-19011-0 LC 85-52284)
Many pretty illustrations. A few questionable statements, but quite good.
Unstead, R.J. Living in a Castle (Living in series (SERIES)). Reading, Mass.: A & C Black, 1981. (ISBN 0-201-08495-3 LC 73-1664)
Older book. Apparently filled with a multitude of inaccuracies. ie. Spices to cover the taste of rotten meat. The Ambrus illustration style is an acquired taste. Not recommended.
Copyright © 1997, 1998 Gary Walker & Patricia Dunham
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