The Middle Ages in Penguin Classics: 10 Little-Known Gems

The Middle Ages in Penguin Classics: 10 Little-Known Gems

We previously did a list of some of the more famous books about the Middle Ages from the Penguin Classics series. In this post, we tell you about 10 other books that are not as widely known, but are also great reads.

Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange

Translated by Malcolm C. Lyons in 2015

This collection of fantasy tales written in the tenth century was only rediscovered in 1933. You can read about princes, monsters, priceless jewels, sword-wielding statues, magical beings and wild adventures.

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Troilus and Criseyde, by Geoffrey Chaucer

Translated by Nevill Coghill in 1971

While Geoffrey Chaucer is better known for The Canterbury Tales, this work is also a must-read for his fans – it is a tragic love story, set during the ancient siege of Troy.

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Orkneyinga Saga: The History of the Earls of Orkney

Translated by Hermann Palsson and Paul Edwards in 1978

This history of the Orkney Islands, created around the year 1230, is our main source for life in this small corner of the medieval world. The Orkney Islands are situated between the British Isles and the Norse world, so it offers quite a lot of interesting material for historians of both areas.

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The Ultimate Ambition in Arts of Erudition, by Shihab al-Din al-Nuwayri

Translated by Elias Muhanna in 2016

Although this is only a sample of the massive encyclopedia created in the early fourteenth century, it offers fascinating insights into what medieval knowledge was about such topics like the natural world, plants and animals, and how human beings behave.

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Laxdæla Saga

Translated by Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Palsson in 1969

Although not as well known as other Icelandic sagas, this story of feuding families and love triangles is quite compelling. A newer translation by Kevena Kunz also has Bolli Bollason’s Tale, a short sequel.

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Fourteen Byzantine Rulers, by Michael Psellus

Translated by E.R.A. Sewter in 1953

Also known as Chronographia, this books offers 14 biographies of Byzantine emperors and empresses, beginning with Basil II (976 – 1025) to Michael VII Doukas (1071 – 1078). It is one of the most important sources of the history of Byzantium in the eleventh century.

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Parzival, by Wolfram von Eschenbach

Translated by A.T. Hatto in 1980

Two of Wolfram von Eschenbach’s works have been translated by Penguin – this one is an early thirteenth century reworking of the Arthurian tale of Perceval, featuring young knights taking on quests, practicing chivalry, and committing to true love. This book would inspire much of the Arthurian legend in Germany.

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Translated by Bamba Suso and Banna Kanute in 1999

This medieval African tale was based on an oral tradition, and only committed to writing in recent years. It tells the story of Sunjata Keita, a 13th century warrior who would go on to found the Mali Empire.

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The Pillow Book, by Sei Shonagon

Translated by Ivan Morris in 1971 and Meredith McKinney in 2006

Completed in the year 1002, this is the collection of writings by a lady in Japan’s imperial court. It offers poetry, stories, observations, private musings and, along with other works, offers deep insights into medieval Japanese life.

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The Golden Legend, by Jacobus de Voragine

Translated by Christopher Stace in 1998

A widely-read book in medieval Europe, this is a collection of saints’ lives created in the thirteenth century. For those studying religion in the Middle Ages, this book offers a broad range of stories about holy men and women, and the miracles they performed.

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To learn more about this series, check out The Penguin Classics Book, by Henry Eliot, which details the history of this collection and lists the hundreds of books that have been published as part of it.

Watch the video: Beautiful Paperbacks. Classics. 20 Books! (January 2022).