An illuminating volume designed to whet the reader’s interest in perusing an extensive website.




An overview of medieval scrolls highlights their intricate beauty and various uses.

In a generously illustrated and informative survey, distilled from the Medieval Scrolls Digital Archive website,, Kelly (Music/Harvard Univ.; Capturing Music: The Story of Notation, 2014, etc.) focuses on the creation and use of scrolls in the Middle Ages at a time when books had been in common use since the advent of the codex in the fourth century. Why did people make a scroll when they could make a book? Scrolls, notes the author, have the advantage of being able to grow as needed to take on more information. In fact, “we are now in the new age of the scroll. All you have to do is look at your computer screen, tablet, or e-reader, and just scroll down.” In Egypt, scrolls—such as the Book of the Dead—were made, laboriously, from papyrus; Egyptian papyrus also was the basis for literary scrolls in Greece and Rome. A long work, such as Virgil’s Aeneid, required several scrolls, depending on the length of papyrus. Because new entries could be added, scrolls were useful for financial, legal, and other record-keeping. Kelly identifies scrolls that contained lists of gifts; recipes for cooking, medicine, and alchemy; prayers; petitions; and the testimony of witnesses in trials. Because scrolls could be unfurled in a linear manner, they became useful as maps and guides for holy pilgrimages; similarly, because they could indicate change through time, they were used to record histories and genealogies. In medieval plays and other performances, each actor’s part was written separately on a scroll that could be hidden in the performer’s hand. A director’s scroll served as a combination of promptbook and stage manual. Miniature scrolls, some to be worn hidden in amulets, often contained prayers, magic spells, cryptic inscriptions, or the “names of exotic deities or demons.” Kelly closely examines the many scrolls illustrated and provides some context that illuminates medieval life.

An illuminating volume designed to whet the reader’s interest in perusing an extensive website.

Pub Date: April 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-28503-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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