archives of images

I’m reading a really fascinating book called “The Art of Memory” by Frances Yates, which traces ancient Greek techniques of “artificial memory” through European history. In the medieval chapter, there’s talk of a 14th century English friar by the name of Robert Holcot:

Holcot’s Moralitates are a collection of material for the use of preachers in which the ‘picture’ [memory] technique is lavishly used….He places such images, in imagination, on the pages of a Scriptural text, to remind him of how he will comment on the text. On a page of the prophet Hosea he imagines the figure of Idolatry to remind him of how he will expand Hosea’s mention of that sin. He even places on the text of the prophet an image of Cupid, complete with bow and arrows! The god of love and his attributes are, of course, moralised by the friar, and the ‘moving’ pagan image is used as a memory image for his moralising expansion of the text.

The preference of these English friars for the fables of the poets as memory images, as allowed by Albertus Magnus, suggests that the artificial memory may be a hitherto unsuspected medium through which pagan imagery survived in the Middle Ages. (pp. 98-99)

Something about pagan doodles on the pages of Hosea seems connected to our project in some odd way I haven’t yet thought through, but I thought I’d post it here.