Medieval girdle books were used to make religious texts more portable, sewn into leather and either carried or attached to a girdle belt. The making of my book bag represented the remarkable journeys that Margery Kempe took in her lifetime to places such as Danske, Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago de Compostela.
I used real buck skin to cover my book and purchased plywood, which, I cut to size from the measurements of all six books when they were brought together in a pile.
The hide was trimmed to a more manageable size and holes were made around the plywood board to match holes that were also made to the hide. These were then brought together and sewn using small strips of hide and tied off when finished.
The hide was cut to cover the book, leaving a margin to fold over the plywood and attach with thing strips of hide. An extra piece was included to give the text added security from the elements such as rain. This extra piece was meant to be folded over the complete book and secured using leather knots and loops which I measured and secured to the book spine.
I realized that I set my book to open from the left hand side and not the right, which would probably have been the norm but I am left handed and did this without thinking. The text was secured with a long piece of leather attached to the stitching and tied to make the books more likely to stay in place.
The face of the woman was placed in the book bag so that it is the first thing you see when you open it. This is to symbolize the fact that the text that follows is a person, tangible and real from the outset. It is important to note that the text faces towards the reader in the book bag for better readability when walking your pilgrimage. Its purpose was to hang on one’s girdle to be lifted easily when required.
The knot was the most difficult piece of the project to construct. I researched turk’s head knots and monkey fist knots, neither of which are particularly easy to make with leather. This did however, after many failed attempts, come together to make the finished project as can be seen below.
My objective for this book project was to reflect the nature of the medieval book and its uses, whilst also representing the person of Margery Kempe, a remarkable medieval woman whom I have come to respect and love. I have acknowledged the presence of this text as code and allowed it’s aesthetics to infiltrate my book making process where appropriate. It is true that words hold different meanings for different readers and the pen speaks louder sometimes than the printed word. This is why I used hand written text to represent the Labyrinth as well as including a recent printed edition for the booklets also. Real, breathing life went into ‘The Book of Margery Kempe‘ and I hope I have kept it alive with my representation of this wonderful medieval text.