The Virgin of Chartres: Making History through Liturgy and the Arts

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Overview

Medieval Christians knew the past primarily through what they saw and heard. History was reenacted every year in ritual observances particular to each place and region and rooted in the legends of local saints.This richly illustrated book explores the layers of history found in the cult of the Virgin of Chartres as it developed in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Focusing on the major relic of Chartres Cathedral, the Virgin’s gown, and the Feast of Mary's Nativity, Margot Fassler employs a wide range of historical evidence including local histories, letters, obituaries, chants, liturgical sources, and reports of miracles, leading to a detailed reading of the cathedral's west façade. This interdisciplinary volume will prove invaluable to historians who work in religion, politics, music, and art but will also serve as a guidebook for all interested in the history of Chartres Cathedral.

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Editorial Reviews

American Historical Review
Fassler’s analysis and explication of the message proclaimed jointly by multiple media at Chartres holds enormous value. As she deftly traces the complex interplay of memory, liturgy, and artwork at Chartres, Fassler reveals the sophistication and reach of medieval “history making” more generally, and she challenges us to do justice to this complexity in our own understanding of the past.—Samantha Kahn Herrick, American Historical Review

— Samantha Kahn Herrick

Otto Grundler Book Prize
Riveting . . . magisterial . . . exquisite . . . an unprecedented depth of understanding and empathy . . . [Fassler’s] compelling vision of the power of liturgy offers fresh insight into medieval Christian cultures across the disciplines.—from the citation of the 2012 Otto Gründler Book Prize
Rachel Fulton

“Fassler is one of the only scholars in medieval musicology able to bring both the liturgical and the historical expertise to questions of cult. We so desperately need this book if we are to fully understand the workings of religion in medieval Europe.”—Rachel Fulton, University of Chicago

James Bugslag

"Fassler goes much further in her explication of the liturgy of Chartres Cathedral than any scholar has yet done. This is destined to be an important book."—James Bugslag, University of Manitoba

America: The National Catholic Weekly - Franco Mormando

"The scholarly core and unique contribution of Fassler's monumental  book is a meticulously detailed study of the development and dynamics of this Fulbertian phenomenon of the feast of Mary's Nativity through close reading of the material that created it. . . . The Virgin of Chartres will appeal not only to medievalists and liturgists but to the general readership as well. . . . If you are a lover of Chartres—and who is not a lover of Chartres even after visiting only once?—there is much in this masterful and wonderfully interdisciplinary new study to inform, delight and illuminate."—Franco Mormando, America: The National Catholic Weekly
Choice - A. W. Klink

“[A] vivid chronicle . . . Engaging . . . Important reading for students and scholars of medieval studies, art history, liturgics, and theology.”—A. W. Klink, Choice
Journal of the American Musicological Society - Emma Dillon

“Margot Fassler has succeeded in constructing an account . . . that is not unlike the magnificent cathedral that is her subject: complex, awesome, instructive, and also ultimately edifying.”—Emma Dillon, Journal of the American Musicological Society
Howard R. Bloch

"The Virgin of Chartres is an astonishingly bold, broad, and learned account of the relationship between social and political history, church and kingship, theology and liturgy, in the rise of the cult of the Virgin and the building of Chartres, her chief sanctuary in Europe."—Howard R. Bloch
Robert Nelson

"This imaginative, pioneering, but also precise and thorough examination of the cult of Mary at Chartres examines the medieval processes of knowing the past through rituals, visual art, music, and devotional texts.  The result is a total history of devotions to the Virgin at one of the great cathedrals of the Middle Ages and a model of multi-disciplinary study in any period."—Robert Nelson
Kirk Ambrose

“Comprising roughly one hundred pages, the volume’s eight substantial and extremely useful appendices include, among others, a genealogy of the Thibaudians, transcriptions and translations of key liturgical texts, a table of donors, and a list of liturgical manuscripts that can be associated with Chartres. In perusing these fascinating materials, I was struck by how deftly Fassler has distilled her arguments from primary sources.”—Kirk Ambrose
American Historical Review - Samantha Kahn Herrick

“Fassler’s analysis and explication of the message proclaimed jointly by multiple media at Chartres holds enormous value. As she deftly traces the complex interplay of memory, liturgy, and artwork at Chartres, Fassler reveals the sophistication and reach of medieval “history making” more generally, and she challenges us to do justice to this complexity in our own understanding of the past.”—Samantha Kahn Herrick, American Historical Review
Western Michigan University - Otto Gr�ndler Book Prize

“Riveting . . . magisterial . . . exquisite . . . an unprecedented depth of understanding and empathy . . . [Fassler’s] compelling vision of the power of liturgy offers fresh insight into medieval Christian cultures across the disciplines.”—from the citation of the 2012 Otto Gründler Book Prize
America: The National Catholic Weekly
The scholarly core and unique contribution of Fassler's monumental  book is a meticulously detailed study of the development and dynamics of this Fulbertian phenomenon of the feast of Mary's Nativity through close reading of the material that created it. . . . The Virgin of Chartres will appeal not only to medievalists and liturgists but to the general readership as well. . . . If you are a lover of Chartres—and who is not a lover of Chartres even after visiting only once?—there is much in this masterful and wonderfully interdisciplinary new study to inform, delight and illuminate.—Franco Mormando, America: The National Catholic Weekly

— Franco Mormando

America magazine

"Monumental . . . there is much in this masterful and wonderfully interdisciplinary new study to inform, delight and illuminate."--Franco Mormando, America magazine

— Franco Mormando

America: The National Catholic Weekly

"The scholarly core and unique contribution of Fassler''s monumental  book is a meticulously detailed study of the development and dynamics of this Fulbertian phenomenon of the feast of Mary''s Nativity through close reading of the material that created it. . . . The Virgin of Chartres will appeal not only to medievalists and liturgists but to the general readership as well. . . . If you are a lover of Chartres—and who is not a lover of Chartres even after visiting only once?—there is much in this masterful and wonderfully interdisciplinary new study to inform, delight and illuminate."—Franco Mormando, America: The National Catholic Weekly

— Franco Mormando

Choice
[A] vivid chronicle . . . Engaging . . . Important reading for students and scholars of medieval studies, art history, liturgics, and theology.—A. W. Klink, Choice

— A. W. Klink

Journal of the American Musicological Society
Margot Fassler has succeeded in constructing an account . . . that is not unlike the magnificent cathedral that is her subject: complex, awesome, instructive, and also ultimately edifying.—Emma Dillon, Journal of the American Musicological Society

— Emma Dillon

Western Michigan University - Otto Gründler Book Prize
“Riveting . . . magisterial . . . exquisite . . . an unprecedented depth of understanding and empathy . . . [Fassler’s] compelling vision of the power of liturgy offers fresh insight into medieval Christian cultures across the disciplines.”—from the citation of the 2012 Otto Gründler Book Prize
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300110883
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 6/29/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 632
  • Product dimensions: 7.10 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author


Margot E. Fassler is the Robert Tangeman Professor of Music History at Yale University.
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Read an Excerpt

The Virgin Of Chartres

Making History through Liturgy and the Arts


By Margot E. Fassler

Yale UNIVERSITY PRESS

Copyright © 2010 Yale University
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-300-11088-3


Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Chartres in Early Histories and Legends


Suddenly, Bishop Walter charged out of the city robed as if to celebrate Mass, and bearing the cross and the tunic of the Holy Virgin Mary in his hands, with the clergy and the citizens following behind; attended by "steel-clad squadrons" he struck the backs of the pagans with spears and swords.

Dudo of St. Quentin, History of the Normans


Southeast of the site where the medieval Abbey of St. John in the Valley once stood, the land rises steeply past the medieval walls of Chartres and upward to the cathedral; on the other side of the cathedral a high, sharp cliff falls eastward to the river. Were a fortress located here instead of a church, the viewer would naturally contemplate the military advantage accruing to those occupying the summit of such a hill. In modern-day Chartres the cathedral dominates the landscape from its high vantage point, and one can easily forget that when the counts of Chartres/ Blois built their military enclave in the region, they located it on the plateau south of the cathedral. From there it stood guard to the rear flank of the town. From the mid-tenth century on, those laying siege to the town on the north and east confronted the cathedral's walls and tower or towers, while those attacking from the south and west faced the ramparts of the Thibaudians. By that time two fortresses protected the town, and each offered its own kind of defense. Each institution slowly developed its own qualities of remembrance, and these grew independently in the ninth and tenth centuries, only to converge during the tenure of Bishop Odo in the late tenth century (see chapter 2). Early legends surrounding the nascent Virgin's cult and the earliest history of the bishops of Chartres explain how a sense of the past developed in Chartres, where, as in the vast majority of places, there was no early school of history writers to record events.

The earliest known priestly class of the region was described by Caesar in the Gallic Wars, book 6, as learned and responsible for the ritual life of the culture; he reports in chapter 13 that the Druids of Gaul assembled once a year in "a consecrated place in the territories of the Carnutes." Stretching the cult of the Virgin back into early Christian times and finding her pagan archetypes was, however, the work of Chartrain historians from the fourteenth through the seventeenth centuries (see chapter 12); the central Middle Ages had little interest in such machinations, except for an omnipresent desire to connect early saints with the apostles and the Franks with the Trojans. Sulpicius Severus, the late fourth-century biographer of Martin of Tours, followed the saint throughout Gaul, documenting his sermons and miracles. Saint Martin twice saved children in Chartres, raising one from the dead and curing muteness in another. Both miracles are of a kind later associated with the miraculous powers of Saint Mary in this place. But there is no Virgin in Chartres during Saint Martin's time, or at least not documented in the extant sources. Chartres is also mentioned in a prominent source from the late sixth century: Gregory of Tours, whose history provides a general understanding of northwestern Merovingian Gaul, mentions Chartres briefly several times. Only once does he offer details, in a passage concerning an aborted attempt of officials at Châteaudun to create a new diocese next to that of Chartres. The earliest document included in Lépinois' and Merlet's edited charters from Chartres Cathedral concerns a Synod of Paris held in 573 to settle the dispute mentioned by Gregory of Tours. No Virgin is mentioned there either.

Two sources from the eighth and early ninth centuries witness to the fact that the cathedral at Chartres was dedicated to Mary. A donation by King Pepin the Short to the Abbey of St. Denis in September 768 of the forest of Iveline exempts those parts of it previously given to other churches, which include "ecclesia Sancte-Marie Carnotensis urbe." A supposed eighth-century burning of Chartres recorded in the early ninth-century Annales Mettenses never became part of local traditions or historiography. It too mentions the cathedral as being dedicated to the Virgin. The stories that did develop over time were those about raids by the Vikings into the vast tract of land called Neustria, which by the ninth century designated those lands north of the Loire and south of the Seine, a volatile territory with ever-changing boundaries, the heart of which included the old cathedral towns of Evreux, Paris, Soissons, Le Mans, Angers, Orleans, Tours, and Chartres.


CHARTRES IN THE NINTH CENTURY: THE EXAMPLE OF BISHOP FROTBALD

Written descriptions of life in mid-ninth-century Neustria are found most notably in the chronicle called by moderns the Annals of St-Bertin. Begun in the 840s and 850s by the Spaniard Prudentius of Troyes, the work was taken over by Hincmar of Reims, who loathed his predecessor for political reasons but revised his efforts only moderately as he continued the chronicle. The years leading up to 857 and a decisive battle are dominated by brief reports of attacks involving, among others, the medieval towns of Tours, Blois, and Chartres, the region that would contain the central lands of the Thibaudian family by the mid-tenth century.

The partition of territory by the Treaty of Verdun in 843 had left Charlemagne's grandson Charles II ("the Bald") the ruler of West Francia, an area Dunbabin calls "a ragbag of old sub-kingdoms and peoples." Charles the Bald, who has been termed the last great Carolingian emperor, might have made something more permanent out of his patrimony were it not for the Viking invasions that kept him always on the defensive. Because of this relentless pressure he entrusted parts of his lands to various of his fideles, men ever ready to increase their own powers and be rewarded for their successes.

King Charles named both soldiers and scholars as bishops. Bishop Burchard of Chartres was apparently a "strong man," that is, a well-trained military leader; his inappropriateness for the office of bishop was woven into the imaginative writings of the Carolingian cleric Audrad the Short, who, until deposed when the office was abolished, was "co-archbishop" of Reims. Audrad, a partisan of Charles the Bald, saw the Viking raids as punishment by God for various mistakes made by the church and its leaders. His book of visions, the Revelations, draws on Augustine's City of God as well as on texts apparently borrowed from the Advent liturgy of his time. His visions offer a history filled with portents; regarding the bishop of Chartres, he claims to have seen a great light before the Lord spoke to him, saying, "Evil is the day on which Burchard will be a bishop." Giselbert, a bishop of Chartres who ruled not long after Burchard (see below), was of the other type, a notary of Chartres and one of King Charles's most trusted associates. The appointment of these men to the office of bishop of Chartres and the comments about them demonstrate the importance of the see in the mid-ninth century. Chartres, BM 3 was a ninth-century copy of Jerome on the Psalms offered to the cathedral of Chartres in the time of Giselbert and written by the cleric Dodaldus; the photograph of a single folio (59v) and the description are thanks to Canon Delaporte, whose collected works in the Diocesan Archive at Chartres have proved crucial to this and so many other studies. The manuscript is in the Tours script, and Rand (1931) dated it to around 820.

As passages from the Annals of St-Bertin from the years 843–57 reveal, Chartres and its bishops were often in the news, and saints as well as subjects, especially those near waterways, needed protection in a region under attack. When the bodies of the saints were moved, new cults arose, as did controversy over ownership. Feasts were created to mark the translation, or relocation, of holy bodies and to make histories for new locations; many of the relationships between locales and sets of holy bones had their beginnings in the late ninth century, or so later hagiographers claim. Stories surrounding the precious body of Saint Martin reveal how many communities could lay claim to it. Orleans was constantly threatened, and in 854 an attack on the city was prevented through the combined military action of the bishops of Orleans and Chartres. The following passage from the Annals proves that Blois (part of the diocese of Chartres in the Middle Ages) was fortified at the time: "The Danes stayed on the Loire. They sailed up as far as the stronghold of Blois which they burned. Their aim was to reach Orléans and wreak the same havoc there. But Bishop Aigus of Orléans and Bishop Burchard of Chartres got ready ships and warriors to resist them; so the Danes gave up their plan and headed back to the lower waters of the Loire." The invaders were beaten again in 855 by the Aquitanians, who came up to meet them and allowed only three hundred to escape. In 856, Orleans was sacked by Danish pirates.

Pierre Bauduin (2004), following Chédeville (1973), believes that Chartres was a major center in the mid-ninth-century reorganization of territory that took place in the aftermath of the divisions of Verdun and that Bishop Burchard of Chartres was chosen by the king for his military and administrative abilities. In this view, Burchard was one of a group of three (the other two were Raoul, uncle of Charles the Bald, and Henry, abbot of Saint-Lômer-de-Corbion) responsible for defending an enormous block of territory at whose strategic center was Chartres; the city bore responsibility for a line of defense that included safeguarding the valley of the river Eure. This theory would help explain the legendary importance given to several battles that took place in Chartres in the late ninth and early tenth centuries, battles that would be incorporated into early legends of the Virgin's cult.

In entries for 857 the Annals tells of an attack on Paris and Chartres and of the death of Bishop Frotbald, Burchard's successor, as he attempted to flee, an event reinterpreted in later historiography and ritual at Chartres many times over: "The Danes who were coming up the Seine ravaged everything unchecked. They attacked Paris where they burned the church of St-Peter and St-Genevieve and all the other churches except for the cathedral of St-Stephen, the Church of SS-Vincent and Germain and also the church of St-Denis: a great ransom was paid in cash to save these churches from being burned.... As the Danes attacked his civitas, Frotbald [bishop of Chartres], fled on foot and tried to swim across the river Eure but he was overwhelmed by the waters and drowned."

Frotbald's successor as bishop of Chartres was Giselbert, who probably took up his office in 858, serving until sometime between 879 and 885. Giselbert was a scholar as well as a strongman, a producer of charters, and a member of King Charles's immediate entourage before becoming bishop; his new office created a connection between the court of Charles the Bald and the cathedral of Chartres. It was during his tenure as bishop that the major relic of the cathedral supposedly came to Chartres, from the hands of the king. Bishop Giselbert, who served after the destruction in the era of Frotbald, constructed the cathedral that seems to have endured at Chartres until the mid-tenth century. He may have been given the relic to enhance the liturgy of his new church and the cult of the Virgin, to whom Chartres Cathedral had by then long been dedicated. Giselbert's presence also helps explain the surviving deluxe liturgical books from the second half of the ninth century that were once found in Chartres. Compilation and copying of documents and liturgical books for the use of cathedrals and monasteries in the ninth century was time-consuming and arduous, but prayer was deemed as essential to well-being as the implements of warfare. Charles the Bald's tutor, Walahfrid Strabo, produced what has been called the first liturgical history, and he has been linked to the preparation of liturgical books necessary for the high court liturgy favored by Charles and his retinue. Religious leaders who served the royal courts were men such as the liturgist Amalar of Metz in eastern Gaul and Rabanus Maurus in the west, whose commentaries on scripture frequently became part of the Office liturgy, as in Chartres.

The slaughter at Chartres and the killing of Bishop Frotbald referred to in the Annals of St-Bertin (dated 857) were inscribed in the necrology/martyrology Chartres, BM Na4, a source prepared during the time of Fulbert (d. 1028) by the cantor Sigo, a student of Fulbert whose work was crucial to eleventh-century developments in the cult and the history of Chartres, and members of his entourage (see chapter 4). There the event is situated in the ninth century (one year after the date found in the Annals of St-Bertin), but the entry is a later, eleventh-century addition to the original work and thus was known in Chartres later, at least as far as is presently known: "ii id. Jun. [June 12] In the year of the incarnation of our Lord 858, the sixth indiction, a great slaughter was carried out in Chartres by pagans coming from the Seine river, in which Bishop Frotbald, the priest Stephen, the priest and monk Titulf, the priest Tetbert, the priest Rainulf, the cleric Adalgaud, the cleric Modo, the subdeacon Landram, the subdeacon Letram, the subdeacon Almand, the subdeacon Ulgarius, the cleric Adalbert, the cleric Gaubert, and a great many others were killed; entreat the Lord for them!"

This notice, written in the mode of a chronicle entry, records an event that was to receive far greater elaboration in the centuries to follow (see MSC, the edited version of Chartres, BM Na4, 102–03). The eleventh-century hand that wrote it also records an entry on the next day (June 13) for a Bishop Jerard, unknown before this time, and connected through the entry to Bishop Frotbald. The successors of Sigo were fashioning a new version of the story; they may have possessed an early chronicle that no longer exists, but even if they did not they created that appearance. Through their addition, Bishop Frotbald's character is transformed. Unlike the figure in the Annals of St-Bertin, who drowned in flight, Frotbald wins honor for his bravery, along with other members of the clergy, now named. The turntail has become a hero in the course of local eleventh-century history making through an entry in a liturgical source. From this time on, the event and Frotbald's place in it were recalled in the liturgical necrology of Chartres year after year, establishing his character.

The tale of the mid-ninth-century slaughter at Chartres is also found in another local source, the compilation of the Chartrain historian Paul of St. Peter (fl. 1060–88). His late eleventh-century interpretations dovetail with the revisions to the early eleventh-century martyrology/necrology Chartres, BM Na4 but have added the Virgin Mary to the story. Paul sought to compile a history in the last decades of the eleventh century, a recording of the past that would champion his monastery and create a magnificent past for it. He compiled the first set of extant Chartrain charters and wrote Chartres' first surviving history, intermingling two kinds of evidence, one documentary and the other narrative. His work is not a history, but rather a historia, cum cartis, that is, a collection of charters arranged in a particular order, each with a few notes. The balance between the two kinds of materials varies from section to section; the charters in each section either relate to the points he makes or are related to a particular bishop of the cathedral or to an abbot of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Peter. Modern historians use the necrology in Chartres, BM Na4 with its additions and Paul's charters with its short histories in tandem: sources emanating from two different institutions in the same town offer a richer tradition than either could alone and, in some cases, a way of measuring the veracity of dates through checks and balances. When one deals with the works of Paul of St. Peter, some sort of yardstick is helpful.

Paul the Scribe, as he signed himself, was probably the keeper of the library of the Benedictine abbey dedicated to St. Peter in Chartres, often called St. Père in the modern period. Although it cannot be proven that he held the office of cantor, according to Benedictine custom cantors were also librarians and were in charge of monastic scriptoria. From what is known of him he was heavily invested in the preservation and production of charters. He may have experienced the fire that occurred at St. Peter's in 1077—which apparently ruined much of the contents of the monastic library—as both a personal and a professional tragedy. As keeper of the library and head of the scriptorium, Paul was the guardian of the documents recording rights to land and other hard-won privileges; without documents attesting to its rights, any medieval institution became vulnerable. Crucial to survival was the ability to produce the necessary charters at the appropriate times to gain favorable judgments and prevent losses, and the forging of "missing" documents or revising of earlier ones was simply a means of survival.
(Continues...)


Excerpted from The Virgin Of Chartres by Margot E. Fassler. Copyright © 2010 by Yale University. Excerpted by permission of Yale UNIVERSITY PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Preface

Acknowledgments

Part One Mary Before Fulbert

1 Chartres in Early Histories and Legends 3

2 War and Peace in the Mid-Tenth Century 28

Part Two Mary's Time: From Advent to The Nativity of the Virgin at Chartres

3 Adventus and Advent: History and Lineage in the Latin Rite 55

4 Trauma and the Remedies of History 79

5 The Virgin in the Second Half of the Eleventh Century: Fulbert Becomes a Liturgist 107

Part Three Politics and Religious Fervor in Twelfth-Century Chartres

6 New Modes of Seeing: Ideals of Reform in the Early Twelfth Century 133

7 Intrigue, Fervor, and the Building of Churches 156

8 The Campaign at Midcentury: Bishops, Dignitaries, and Canons 179

Part Four History Revealed: The Cult of the Virgin and the Visual Arts in The Mid-Twelfth Century

9 The Virgin and the Tabernacle 205

10 Adventus and Lineage: The Meanings of the Jamb Statues 242

11 Reality and Prophecy: Exegetical Narrative in the West Facade 282

12 History Retold: From the West Lancets to the Afterlife of the Cult 323

Appendixes

A The Liturgical Sources from the Medieval Diocese of Chartres 369

B Inventory of Chartres Na4; Description and Table of Contents of Vat.lat.4756 378

C Readings for the First and Second Translations of Saint Anianus 382

D Musical Anthology: Sequences Found in Chartres by the End of theTwelfth Century for the Virgin or with Themes Related to "Styrps Jesse" and "Paritura" Motives, following both OV and OC; select responsories and antiphons 387

E Inventory of Chartres, BM 162; Approbate consuetudinis and Contra Judaeos 420

F The Feast of Mary's Nativity as Found in Chartres, BM 1058 (compiled after 1194) 438

G Obituaries of Four Bishops: Ivo, Geoffrey, Goslen, Robert 447

H Table of Donors; Genealogy of the Leves; Genealogy of the Thibaudians 450

List of Abbreviations 459

Notes 461

Bibliography

Primary Sources 559

Secondary Sources 569

Scriptural Citations 599

Index of Manuscripts 600

General Index 601

Index of Modern Authors 606

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