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The Cat and the Fiddle: Images of Musical Humour from the Middle Ages to Modern Times
by Jeremy Barlow
Bodleian Library Publishing, 2007
Paper: 978-1-85124-300-6


In The Cat and the Fiddle, Jeremy Barlow explores 700 years of musical humor, a topsy-turvy world in which monkeys fiddle and pigs play the bagpipes. It is a vision of chaos and devilry as depicted in a variety of sources—the illuminated borders of medieval manuscripts, eighteenth-century prints of urban life, and even the illustrations of children's books.

Barlow reveals the shifting meanings behind such images, as they were often symptomatic of larger cultural trend such as rapid industrialization and urbanization, an emerging class system, and the moral movements of the late nineteenth century. As he compellingly argues, the development of the printing press, the popular spectacle of public concerts, and the rise of new political uses for music all played a critical role in musical history and were distinctly evident in images of musical humor.

The archives of Oxford's Bodleian Library provided a rich supply of previously unpublished material for Barlow's research. With full-color images throughout, The Cat and the Fiddle will be a delight for scholars of art and political history as well as lovers of music everywhere.

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