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Medieval Badges
Their Wearers and Their Worlds

Ann Marie Rasmussen

312 pages | 7 x 10 | 110 halftones, 3 maps, 16-page 4-color insert
Cloth Sep 2021 | ISBN 9780812253207 | $65.00s | Outside the Americas £52.00
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
A volume in the Middle Ages Series

"Ann Marie Rasmussen offers a new approach to her subject, combining archaeological and literary sources in a way that has not been done before. Her understanding of the nature of medieval badges is profound and well argued."—Michael Andersen, National Museum of Denmark

"The book offers a through introduction to medieval badges that is both a solid work of scholarship and a joy to read."—Jennifer Lee, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Mass produced of tin-lead alloys and cheap to make and purchase, medieval badges were brooch-like objects displaying familiar images. Circulating widely throughout Europe in the high and late Middle Ages, they were most often small, around four by four centimeters, though examples as tiny as two and as large as ten centimeters have been found. About 75 percent of surviving badges are closely associated with specific charismatic or holy sites, and when sewn or pinned onto clothing or a hat, they would have marked their wearers as having successfully completed a pilgrimage. Many others, however, were artifacts of secular life, some personal or heroic devices—a swan, a stag, a rose—that denoted membership in a civic organization or an elite family, others—a garland, a pair of clasped hands, a crowned heart—that would have been tokens of love or friendship. A good number are enigmatic and even obscene. The oldest examples date from the last decades of the twelfth century, and the popularity of badges seems to have grown steadily before waning at the very end of the fifteenth century. Some 20,000 survive, though historians estimate that as many as two million were produced in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries alone. Archaeologists and hobbyists alike continue to make new finds, often along the muddy riverbanks of Northern Europe.

Sumptuously illustrated with more than 115 color and black-and-white images and interdisciplinary in approach, Medieval Badges introduces badges in all their variety and uses to a wide readership. Ann Marie Rasmussen considers all badges, whether they originated in religious or secular contexts, and highlights the ways in which badges could confer meaning and identity on their wearers. Drawing on evidence from England, France, the Low Countries, Germany, and Scandinavia, the book provides information about the manufacture, preservation, and scholarly study of these artifacts, and devotes chapters to badges and pilgrimage, to the complexities of the political use of badges, to the symbolism of friendship in badges, and to the ways in which the visual meaning-making strategies of badges were especially well-suited to the unique features of medieval cities.

Ann Marie Rasmussen is the Right Honourable John G. Diefenbaker Professor of German Literary Studies at the University of Waterloo, Canada.

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