George Beech

title.none: Foys, The Bayeux Tapestry (George Beech)

identifier.other: baj9928.0402.001 04.02.01

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: George Beech, Western Michigan University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2004

identifier.citation: Foys, Martin K. The Bayeux Tapestry Digital Edition [CD-ROM]. Leicester: Scholarly Digital Editions, 2003. Pp.. $55.00 0-9539610-4-4. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 04.02.01

Foys, Martin K. The Bayeux Tapestry Digital Edition [CD-ROM]. Leicester: Scholarly Digital Editions, 2003. Pp.. $55.00 0-9539610-4-4. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

George Beech
Western Michigan University

Those who had hoped to be able to unroll and view the Bayeux Tapestry as one continuous sequence from beginning to end in this digital version, and thereby have a better view of it than is possible in any of the printed editions, will not be disappointed. The size of one's monitor screen of course limits the size of any given image for a computer user but one can easily imagine what possibilities are opened up by projecting this on to a slide or movie size screen (something I have not yet been in a position to do). However, even the computer user can magnify individual scenes, or parts of scenes, and thus see the tapestry as clearly as the visitor to the museum in Bayeux. But the viewer who thought that this edition was essentially a visual presentation will be surprised. In addition to the images, Martin Foys has included a whole battery of written sections intended to introduce, comment on, and provide bibliographical guidance to further study of many different aspects of the tapestry.

In a general introduction to the subject he discusses briefly the differing views as to its origin, date, manufacture, place of display, and the question of restorations in modern times. Then he accompanies each scene with a description of what is taking place and a commentary discussing the principal interpretations in instances where scholars have divergent views. English translations are available with the Latin inscriptions. By clicking on the appropriate icon one can call up a map showing the immediate location and surrounding region of the action taking place. A glossary lists and introduces all the individuals and place names cited in the inscriptions and genealogical charts are available for the former. The discussions of these subjects (for example on the tapestry inscriptions, and the borders, etc.) frequently amount to brief essays summarizing scholarly debate on the issues in question. The viewer can also call up English translations of other contemporary sources having a possible bearing on the tapestry, e.g., relevant sections of Baudri of Bourgueil's poem to the Countess Adele describing a tapestry he claimed to have seen on the conquest of England. And he can also choose to look at earlier facsimiles of the tapestry such as the eighteenth- century Montfaucon and the nineteenth-century Reading version.

A resume of the essays bearing on a single sequence of the tapestry, William the Conqueror's Breton campaign, may help to give an idea of what is available to the reader/viewer of this CD. Under the heading "William's Breton campaign" comes an overview of the entire sequence, breaking it down into its individual scenes. The underlining of key words (names of participants, place names, etc.) tells the viewer that he/she can pursue these further in other sub-sections and find the full titles of writings of modern authors so cited. He can also read in the same way William of Poitiers account (the only written source to mention this expedition) in translation. Following this introduction comes a more detailed treatment of each scene in the sequence. Each one begins with a short description of what is pictured, then a section called "background". In scene 43 this discusses speculation as to why the designer has chosen to show William's army passing by the abbey of Mont Saint-Michel. This in turn raises the question as to whether the depiction of the abbey shows the rebuilding taking place in the eleventh century. Then come sections on the inscriptions and borders in this scene, and to conclude, under "restorations", a reference to the fact that part of the tapestry showing the abbey roof is a modern restoration.

Martin Foys and his collaborators have not attempted to present new or original views on the Bayeux Tapestry (though they certainly have given a new and original view of the tapestry), but to let the reader know what are the current views on the many uncertainties still plaguing the understanding of this monument. The range of their essays and commentaries plus the thoroughness with which they have been written, make them an exceptionally valuable part of this digital edition. Together they constitute a "State-of-the Question" on the subject which no future student of the tapestry should miss. The beauty of the reproduction is beyond comment.