Speaking in Pictures: Reading, Memory and Interpretation in Francesco da Barberino’s Advice to Women in his Reggimento e costumi di donna

Catherine Harding


In this article, I examine the ways in which reading, visualization and interpretation work together in the manuscript tradition of Francesco da Barberino’s conduct book for women, the Reggimento e costumi di donna. Late medieval audiences were able to move between verbal and visual images of good and bad conduct in a corporeal experience of reading, with readers testing their adherence to desired moral goals in Christian thought. The likely readers of this text would be men, women and children in a familial context. The book concludes with an invocation of a splendid jewel, a potent mnemonic device designed to help remember the text and activate the message in the mind’s eye.


Francesco da Barberino; Reggimento e costumi di donna; Late medieval manuscript culture; gendered patterns of readying; text and image; embodied readers; mnemonic patterns; late medieval self; didactic literature

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