Illuminations in Medieval Manuscripts Explained with Super Mario

By Jason Fitzpatrick on May 11th, 2012

What do the illustrations in medieval manuscripts have in common with the side-scrolling antics of the Super Mario Bros? More than you’d think.

At Got Medieval, medievalist Carl Pyrdum uses Mario and the side-scrolling genre to explain the design of marginalia in medieval books:

In this post, I’m just going to focus on just one of those rules, but it’s a big one: gravity. Deluxe Gothic manuscript pages are drawn as though the figures on them are subject to a force of gravity that pulls them down towards the open space in the lower margin. Consequently, you almost never see figures stranded out in the middle of open white space. Marginal men, women, and beasties may hang from beneath the page’s decorative borders or run along the top of them–as Mario and his rabbit friend above are doing–but if they stray too far into the margin and away from the border, they require some additional support.

It’s a clever way to explain the design choices made by scribes hundreds of years ago. Hit up the link below for more examples of Mario frolicking in the margins of old books.

Gravity in the Margins [via Neatorama]

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 05/11/12
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