A section from Melancholia by Dürer.  Melencolia Van Gelt is thought to have modeled for this piece.  Click on image for larger view.--ed.

Hell Louise Melencolia
Van Gelt
1478 A.D.? -1536 A.D.

Printer of Medicinal & Culinary Guide

Born in London, Melencolia lived near the borough of Westminster.  She was taken in by Wynkyn de Worde's print shop -- formally William Caxton's, the 1st English printer.


It was here that she learned printing and bookmaking.  The journeyman there nick-named her "Hell Louise"  and often berated her for clumsiness.

Letters indicate Melencolia grew to become a woman of great height.  She stood a full head and shoulders above the other craftsmen in the shop.  Perhaps her adolescent growth spurts contributed to her awkwardness and gave her a name she would carry through her adult life.

As and adult,  she is mentioned with pride in the letters from Wynkyn's shop.

She took on personal projects when time allowed and made several harrowing journeys to the Isle of Lude to examine the texts kept by the Abbey of Lost Wages.

These texts provided the basis for her collection of stories published under the title Gesta Mochthos or the Deeds of the MacThoi.

Three English printings were made.  Two in 1496 and the final one five years later.  The only two copies are still in existence.  One is thought to be at the Vatican in the Forbidden Books Collection, (This was where the library from the Abbey also went when Henry VIII ordered its destruction in 1586 A. D. --ed) and the other with the Hell Louise Circle. 

Many of the stories collected in the Gesta live on in the oral traditions of the Clan.  A couple popular ones are the Tale of the Barley Stein and Rufus, Terror of the Undead.  The latter would be turned into a stage play by Alabaster Van Gelt at the turn of the century.

Melencolia traveled Europe from 1497-1503 and returning again from 1510-1515.  She often worked for print shops learning new skills and techniques as she went.

Her first voyage brought her into the company of Albrecht Dürer.  They proved to be fast and life long friends as demonstrated in surviving letters from the time.

. . .have run into D--- again.  It is always a delight to see him and his wife.  

Mrs. D--- promises a trip to the country later this week.  I do hope so.  I love my work so but a break from the printing to spend time with them is always worth while!. . . .

Section of a self-portrait by Dürer

An excerpt from one of the letters of Melencolia kept by the Hell Louise Circle.--ed

Melencolia is believed by MacThoi historians to have even influenced his work.  The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1498) bear a striking resemblance to MacThoy men. Secondly,  she is believed to have modeled for Dürer's piece Melancholia (1513).

Upon her return to London in 1503, Melencolia began work on her largest project, collecting  the medicinal and culinary traditions of her Clan.  She recognized the vast amount of natural cures and resolved to put the knowledge into type.

The Clan's folklore remedies may be studied in at Hellouise's Guide.

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Clan MacThoy's webpage is a production of the
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Copyright © 1998-2001 The Northwest Hellcats
Created: May 9, 2001
Last modified: September 12, 2006