September 15th, 2020

verysecretsex

Picture this!

Manesse Codex, Germany
Manesse Codex, Germany

One of the behind-the-scenes things which an author spends a lot of time thinking about when writing a book, is deciding which images to include and which to leave out. This is an important consideration and one not taken lightly, and with a book like The Very Secret Sex Lives of Medieval Women, there are a lot of very cool images which belong to a lot of very cool manuscripts.

Many people think that as the manuscript images and paintings are over a certain age, they are in the public domain. This is not always the case. Even if they are online for fair use with credit to the holding institution, use is for non-profit online use only. Once you start talking about a book which is for sale, it's a whole other kettle of fish.

While I own the photographs I have used, some of the holding institutes for the  images from the manuscripts charge a lot of money for permission to use them for printing in a book.

Often this also depends on whether the image is to be used inside or on the front cover, and how big the image is to be. A quarter page picture might cost less than a full page, or a cover. The amount of books printed is also a consideration, as well as whether the book is non-fiction or fiction.

Other challenges are simply making enquiries and ordering in a language other than English if there is not a translated page.  

Some I could afford, but others less so.

But why? I hear you ask, do places need to charge money to use their pictures if they're from an old book? I'm glad you asked. 

Many holding institutions use the income from licensing, subscriptions,  merchandise and admissions to help keep their doors open and pay their staff.  

Many images online in digital collections are low resolution suitable for online use and having copies digitised at a suitable quality for printing purposes means expensive cameras and a photographer who knows how to not get shiny glare from the pages and post processing skills. It's all making a living, and it doesn't pay much, but it's needed to pay for library running costs, especially since doors have been closed for so long at the moment.

This is why we see many of the same images being used again and again in medieval books. The images are accessible or free or low cost.  In The Very Secret Sex Lives of Medieval Women I have made an effort to provide artwork which I don't see in other medieval books.

Except the penis-tree-picking-nuns whom I utterly adore. Quite frankly, they were worth the money.

The Very Secret Sex Lives of Medieval Women is a non-fiction book coming to a book store near you in October, 2020.