Secara, Maggie - A Compendium of Common Knowledge 1558-1603

 A Compendium of Common Knowledge 1558-1603 A Compendium of Common Knowledge

for Writers, Actors & Re-enactors
by Maggie Secara

zur deutschen Version In the introduction to the book, called "Short Attention Span History", Maggie Secara already describes what her book wants to offer:

(...) should be common knowledge for those of us who work and play in the 16 `th century (...) the little things that make up daily life, that everyone knows without thinking.

The topics of the book cover a wide range from numbers and mathematics, love and religion, to family and social life.

What I found very enjoyable was the fact that it the knowledge is presented in "digestible" segments, like small "snacks" one can eat inbetween. These individual items usually have between one to three pages, are in themselves divided by sub-headings; making the topics thus very understandable and well traceable – and easy to remember.

The wide rim at the edges of the pages offer plenty of room for notes or references. This shows to my point of view, what the Compendium wants to be: An information- and workbook, you can easily pack in your backpack when you attend a festival as an Elizabethan Lady or Gent.

The "Elizabethan commonplaces" offers exactly those everyday things that make history exciting and alive, from the house staff and their respective appellations, on the popular plants in the ornamental garden of those days, the inevitable references to Christmas and its customs (see P.S.), to the very complex rules about the correct address for Lords and Ladies, noble and not noble people at court and so on.

Maggie's sense of humor always makes sure that the facts never become boring - and it is to these little remarks that often make the reader aware of the fact that these attitudes or mindsets were completely natural, and that it was hardly imaginable to question them.

From the many, lovingly gathered little things that Maggie Secara describes in her compendium, a living (because related to daily life) image of the Elizabethan world of that time arises.

PS: For quite some time I had been reading on the historical significance and development of the mistletoe in christmas habbits. Maggie's book added a new information: It was kommon knowledge at that time, that mistletoes only grow on apple and pear trees - it's probably because that at the time of the Tudors only these two types of trees were affected by this parasitic plant on the island. The first mention of this plant in conjunction with the Christmas tradition is put on the year 1622 by Maggie (heh, I have to ask Maggie: Why 1622), though not necessarily as a new custom.

A Compendium of Common Knowledge 1558-1603
by Maggie Secara
Paperback: 208 Seiten
ISBN: 978-0981840109
Popinjay Press 


#1 Maggie 2014-12-23 00:40
Apple and oak trees, Bettina. Apple and oak. ;-) The 1622 date reference is to a poem of Robert Herrick's, which is the first mention of mistletoe in a Christmas context in English. Thanks for the kind words!

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