Ben Crowder

Blog: #medieval-history

4 posts :: tag feed :: about the blog :: archive

Historia Calamitatum

Book cover for Historia Calamitatum by Peter Abelard, white text over small circles fading vertically from white at top through red in the middle down to black at the bottom

After what feels like a long absence from bookmaking, I’ve gotten back into it and have a new release: Historia Calamitatum, available as a PDF.

The book is a medieval autobiography by Peter Abélard, a Catholic philosopher who lived in the eleventh and twelfth centuries in France.

Some notes on the making, for those who like that sort of thing:

  • I used paged.js for the typesetting, so I was editing HTML and CSS files instead of wrangling InDesign or Affinity Publisher or LaTeX. It’s a different workflow, to be sure (lots of reloading in Chrome and then finding my spot again), but overall I love having the source files be plain text.
  • The line-breaking algorithm isn’t as nice as InDesign’s. Had to finagle the word-spacing and letter-spacing properties a bit to fix some more egregious spots. (At the same time, I wasn’t fixated on making the spacing perfect. Nor did I fix the hyphenation stacks, because they don’t bother me. I’m clearly becoming a bit more relaxed about typesetting rules as I get older.)
  • For the typeface I went with IM Fell DW Pica, which is no doubt anachronistic but I like the feeling it gives the book.
  • I proofed the PDFs in the Documents app on my iPad. Much nicer than printing the whole thing out (which I used to do, years ago).
  • I made the cover using Cirque with textures applied in Affinity Photo.

Reply via email or via office hours

Links #44

Tauri looks like an interesting lightweight alternative to Electron. Quill is the only Electron app I’m still actively using, but it’d still be nice to reduce its footprint a bit.

Ada Palmer on the Renaissance. Better than the Middle Ages? Doubtful. (Also, there was so much more plague over the centuries than I’d realized. Goodness.)

Robin Rendle on redesigning his personal site. The latter half of the post is what resonated most with me. Sometimes I feel like my site has gotten perhaps a bit too focused on smoothly delivering projects, at the cost of some character. I hope to restore some of that character over the next year.

Bartosz Ciechanowski explains internal combustion engines. His interactive diagrams are superb as always.

Donald G. McNeil, Jr., on the end of Covid. A fairly measured take, I thought. My wife and I are both fully vaccinated now, by the way, but we can’t unquarantine until the kids get their shots (mid-to-late fall is our current loose expectation on that).


Reply via email or via office hours

Links #24


Reply via email or via office hours

Occupations in 1292 Paris

I just finished reading Life in a Medieval City, by Joseph and Frances Gies, and in the notes on page 236 I found this interesting list of occupations taken from the Paris tax list of 1292:

  • 366 shoemakers
  • 214 furriers
  • 199 maidservants
  • 197 tailors
  • 151 barbers
  • 131 jewelers
  • 130 restaurateurs
  • 121 old-clothes dealers
  • 106 pastrycooks
  • 104 masons
  • 95 carpenters
  • 86 weavers
  • 71 chandlers
  • 70 mercers
  • 70 coopers
  • 62 bakers
  • 58 water carriers
  • 58 scabbard makers
  • 56 wine sellers
  • 54 hatmakers
  • 51 saddlers
  • 51 chicken butchers
  • 45 purse makers
  • 43 laundresses
  • 43 oil merchants
  • 42 porters
  • 42 meat butchers
  • 41 fish merchants
  • 37 beer sellers
  • 36 buckle makers
  • 36 plasterers
  • 35 spice merchants
  • 34 blacksmiths
  • 33 painters
  • 29 doctors
  • 28 roofers
  • 27 locksmiths
  • 26 bathers
  • 26 ropemakers
  • 24 innkeepers
  • 24 tanners
  • 24 copyists
  • 24 sculptors
  • 24 rugmakers
  • 24 harness makers
  • 23 bleachers
  • 22 hay merchants
  • 22 cutlers
  • 21 glovemakers
  • 21 wood sellers
  • 21 woodcarvers

The Society of Creative Anachronism has a more detailed page listing the French occupation names and a breakdown by gender. For example, there was one male hangman (bourriau), one female mole trapper (taupiere), four male pike-makers (piqueeur), one female tart seller (tartriere), one male log floater (atireeur de busche), etc. Fascinating stuff.

The tax list was published by Hercule Géraud in 1837 in Paris sous Philippe-le-Bel, which is conveniently on Google Books (the list itself, “Le livre de la taille de Paris pour l’an 1292,” is a bit later in the book).


Reply via email or via office hours