Gift Guide

The Public Medievalist 2020 Holiday Gift Guide

Another soul damned for hell? You shouldn't have... Yates Thompson MS 13, f. 142r.

Is it the holiday season again? Surely it’s been only — oh, no, my calendar is telling me that it has somehow simultaneously been only 3 days and also precisely 457 years since last December. Isn’t purgatory neat?

Anyway, as is our tradition, the faithful editors at The Public Medievalist have scoured the internet to find you the very best medieval-ish things to get for your loved ones (or at least those you are quarantined with) this year. And if you have friends or family who are into all things medieval, you could do much worse than sending them one of these little treasures.

Disclosure: The Public Medievalist receives no commission for any purchases you make and has not been paid to advertise any of this merchandise. We just like this stuff, and hope you will too.

Doctor, Doctor, Give Me the News…

Squishable Plague Doctor$45 (Squishable)

Those of you who’ve been watching the Public Medievalist Twitch stream have already met this little guy. I don’t care how old you are, we all need something fuzzy to squish right now, and this odd little fellow fits the bill very nicely indeed. He’s so. Very. 2020; here to cure what ails you and weird enough to be a conversation piece at your next staff meeting or Zoom happy hour. And his little lantern glows in the dark!

—Paul B. Sturtevant, Editor-in-Chief

Girdle your Phone

Custom Smartphone Case in Medieval Girdle Book Style$165 (ArteoftheBooke, Etsy)

Some of you may be friends with medieval re-enactors, medieval nerds, or book nerds, or some combination of the three. This is a handmade smartphone case designed to look like a medieval girdle book, e.g. a book that can hang on your belt. It comes in a range of colors and is customized to whatever phone you have. Also, and I cannot stress this enough, it is just gorgeous, made by a professional bookbinder. Really, her entire shop is a delight.

—Kavita Mudan Finn, Senior Editor

A Medieval Stan

Medieval Pot Stand€20 (Way out West Emporium)

This year, why not find something from small shops at the western edge of Europe? This does generally involve a bit more involvement than just clicking on an item in the large webshops, but on the other hand, you will have an unusual, possibly even unique, item and will have supported a small independent store while you were at it!

First out is this lovely pot stand from a smallholding on the west coast of Ireland, inspired by medieval Celtic patterns.

This is 20 euros ($22), currently including shipping – although they warn you the price will go up due to increased postage, so get it soon!

—Kristina Hildebrand, Senior Editor

Some Very Formal Work Pants

Byzantine Boxer Briefs$44.62 (The Old North, Etsy)

Okay, hear me out. Who among us hasn’t let our work attire slip a little during the pandemic? And if you’re going to take a meeting in your skivvies, wouldn’t you want the face of Byzantine Emperor Justinian staring menacingly from your junk drawer?

More of an Empress yourself? Well, The Old North have got you covered too, with these shorts of Theordora. Big Byzantine mood.

—Paul B. Sturtevant, Editor-in-Chief

A Tolkien of Your Affection

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth by Catherine Mcllwaine–£40 (The Bodleian Library)

What medievalist holiday gift list is complete without something Tolkien-related, right? This year, we have an absolutely beautiful art book that features over 300 images related to the creation and lore of Middle-Earth. These include personal photos, drawings, letters, maps, and original manuscript pages drawn together from the Tolkien archives at the Bodleian Library, Marquette University, and multiple private collections, as well as six introductory essays to contextualize the material.

—Kavita Mudan Finn, Senior Editor

A Bit of Quiet Reading

The Changing Outer Hebrides: Galson and the meaning of Place, by Frank Rennie–£16.95 (Acair Books)

This item is for reading (ideally by a peat fire) over the holidays: this is from a small independent bookstore on the Hebrides. It is a non-profit dedicated to producing material in Gaelic, but fortunately for those of us whose Gaelic is not quite there, they have books in English, too. Maybe you didn’t know that a book on the Hebrides, covering the history of one spot on the Isle of Lewis from the forming of the bedrock, through the Middle Ages, to our day, was what you needed? Now you know.

Written by a professor at the University of the Highlands and Islands, it is £16.95 ($22) plus postage; contact them for overseas shipping.

—Kristina Hildebrand, Senior Editor

Poetry to Soothe the Soul

Rumi, Selected Poems, by Rumi, Illustrated by Marian Bantjes, Translated by Coleman Barks– $64.95 (The Folio Society)

Rumi may be the most famous poet you’ve never heard of. Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmi was a 13th century Persian poet, scholar, theologian, and mystic, and his works have been inspiring people for 700 years. This is a beautifully illustrated edition by The Folio Society, with translations that lean more towards modern interpretation and meaning-making than strictly scholarly. It’s a perfect gift for someone who might value wisdom that has stood the test of time.

—Paul B. Sturtevant, Editor-in-Chief

This Natural 2 Shall Pass

Memento Mori dice–$16 (AdventurersWoodworks, Etsy)

We hear Dungeons & Dragons is mainstream now. Well, if you’re feeling particularly medieval, you might consider these dice, which, like so much medieval artwork, serve to remind us of the persistence of mortality. Or encourage necromancy. Either way, they should add some fun atmosphere to your next session. In the alternative, if contemplating your own demise while rolling initiative isn’t quite your cup of tea, there are plenty of other quirky, fun dice in the shop.

—Kavita Mudan Finn, Senior Editor

Some Fetching Neckwear

Medieval Branch Scarf— £25/$30 (The Bodleian library shop)

Not from the edges of the world but from the very centre (I think), which is the Oxford Bodleian library shop, comes a silk and linen scarf with a medieval pattern.

—Kristina Hildebrand, Senior Editor

All of Us Right Now

Grotesque Corbel–£13.99 (Oakapple Designs)

If art is supposed to express our inner lives, this little fellow has me to a T. Lovingly reproduced from the intricate wood carvings at Chester Cathedral by Oakapple Design, grotesques like this were often created to ward off evil (and for the woodworker to have a bit of fun along the way). Let’s hope this one works.

But if this little fellow isn’t quite right for your mantle, their website features hundreds of remarkable and reasonably priced replicas of medieval wood carvings.

—Paul B. Sturtevant, Editor-in-Chief

The Must-have Accessory of the Season

A Selection of medieval and medieval-adjacent masks ($10-25 on Etsy)

Just because we have to wear them doesn’t mean we can’t have fun with it.

From CoveredHistory, a mask featuring a lovely design from a Florentine manuscript. ($25)

From OFatoDoGato, some excellent marginalia including an armed rabbit and a cat being suspiciously friendly to a mouse. ($23.50)

From StitchcraftYarns, a mask featuring lots and lots of snail marginalia. ($20)

And some beautiful manuscript and textile-inspired designs at WakingTheLion. ($10)

—Kavita Mudan Finn, Senior Editor

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Paul B. Sturtevant

The author Paul B. Sturtevant

Paul B. Sturtevant is Editor-in-Chief of The Public Medievalist. He is a researcher and historian for the Smithsonian Institution, where he helps the institution better understand its visitors and itself. He is an author, a medievalist, and a consultant, and has completed research projects as diverse as exploring the Caliphates of Muslim Spain, the history of American health care reform, and the peculiarities of American-style barbecue. He is unabashedly passionate about the place history has in current conversations.