I first met French author Marie Laval six years ago, after our debut novels were released by the same publisher around the same time. My novel, The Silk Romance, is set in Lyon, Marie’s home town, and so we got talking about this beautiful city and have remained friends ever since. (You can see some fabulous photos of Lyon here on Marie’s blog.)
It’s a great pleasure today to be part of Marie’s blog tour for her seventh novel, A Paris Fairy Tale – a story I read and loved. Marie is here today with an article about her research. I hope you enjoy!
Ancient Manuscripts and A PARIS FAIRY TALE
When I started writing A Paris Fairy Tale, I embarked on a fascinating journey through the ages and the history of illuminated manuscripts. The story took a long time to research but since research is one of my hobbies, it was a pure joy.
I read articles and books on the subject – my two favourite books being the wonderful Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts, by Christopher de Hamel, and Master of Death, by Michael Camille – but I also registered on a couple of courses on Ireland and the Book of Kells, run by Futurelearn, and on art trafficking , both so very informative and completely free!
The main plot of A Paris Fairy Tale revolves around a manuscript which everybody believed destroyed in a fire, but which mysteriously resurfaces and which the heroine, Dr Aurora Black, is asked to authenticate and value. The manuscript in question is the Heures de Turin, a genuine illuminated manuscript, which was indeed lost in the great fire of the Turin University Library. Therefore, the story of it being found again is completely fictional!
So what did I learn in the course of my research? Lots and lots of fascinating facts but I will limit myself to five.
- Most manuscripts from medieval Europe were written on vellum, or animal skin, usually calf, sheep or goat. The production of one single book would usually require the skins of a whole flock.
The largest illuminated manuscript is the Codex Gigas, currently located in the National Library in Stockholm. Also called The Devil’s Bible because it is believed to be cursed, it is nearly nine inches (22cm) thick and 36 inches (92cm) tall, and is said to have required more than 160 animal skins to complete. It was created in the 13th century in the Benedictine monastery of Podlažice in Bohemia. The ‘most mysterious’ manuscript is the Voynich manuscript, written in an unknown writing system no professional code-breaker or cryptographer has yet managed to translate. It has been carbon dated to the 15th century, and features hundreds of very peculiar astrological, anatomical and vegetal illustrations.
- The most common pigment used in illuminated manuscripts was red. The most precious was ultramarine, obtained from lapis lazuli, which came all the way from Afghanistan and was more precious than gold.
- When book production was no longer the monopoly of monasteries and guilds of illuminators were established, many workshops employed women to paint borders, letters or miniatures in manuscripts, but Christine de Pizan (1364-1430) was the first ‘woman of letters’ to make a living by writing, illustrating and producing books for the French court.
- As a deterrent against theft and vandalism, scribes would write dramatic curses in manuscripts threatening thieves with excommunication, disease and pain. Here are two examples of such curses: “May the sword of anathema slay if anyone steals this book away” or “If anyone take away this book, let him die the death; let him be fried in a pan; let the falling sickness and fever size him; let him be broken on the wheel, and hanged. Amen.”
Thanks very much for the fascinating background detail, Marie. I had no idea how much intrigue revolves around the world of ancient manuscripts until I read your story!
Here’s more about A Paris Fairy Tale…
Workaholic art historian Aurora Black doesn’t have time for fairy tales or Prince Charmings, even in the most romantic city in the world. She has recently been hired by a Parisian auction house for a job that could make or break her career. Unfortunately, daredevil journalist Cédric Castel seems intent on disrupting Aurora’s routine.
As Aurora and Cédric embark on a journey across France, they get more than they bargained for as they find themselves battling rogue antiques dealers and personal demons, not to mention a growing attraction to each other.
But with the help of a fairy godmother or two, could they both find their happily ever afters?
About the author
Originally from Lyon in France, Marie now lives in Lancashire with her family. She works full-time as a modern languages teacher and in her spare time she loves writing romance and dreaming about romantic heroes. She writes both historical and contemporary romance. Best-selling Little Pink Taxi was her debut romantic comedy novel with Choc Lit, and she contributed to Miss Moonshine’s Emporium of Happy Endings.
A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors, her native France as well as her passion for history and research very much influences her writing, giving her novels ‘a French twist’!
Thanks so much for dropping in today, Marie! Best of luck with your new release!
If you’ve enjoyed Marie’s article, or have any questions or comments at all, please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you!