Books on the go
There is nothing like reading outside. While we share this sentiment with medieval readers, back then you couldn’t just bring any book with you. Most of them had bindings with oak boards and were as big as modern magazines. As a result, even regular-size books weighed as much as a bag of potatoes. Pre-modern binders, clever lads, came up with different solutions to carry a book on your body. The most common one was to fit it with a leather wrapper that included a knot, which you could stick under your belt (Pic 3). Smaller and lighter objects, like a thin almanac (pic 4) or a prayerbook, such as the one owned by Anne Boleyn (Pic 1), could simply be tied to the belt with a string. The most elegant solution, however, is shown off by the red Arabic manuscript, which is to fit the book in a neat pouch, carried in your hand (Pic 2). With these techniques it was not so much an issue how to take a book with you, but through what means to do so. Off you go!
Pics and additional information - Pic 1 (top): London, British Library, Stowe MS 956, copied c. 1540 (more here); Pic 2 (red pouch): Arabic manuscript of c. 1650, Royal Library Stockholm (more here); Pic 3 (knot): New Haven, Beinecke Library, MS 84, copied in England, 15th century (more here); Pic 4 (cloth binding): recently purchased by the Wellcome Library in London (more here). More on such “girdle books” here and here.