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57 posts categorized "Calendars"

02 August 2014

Getting a bit fruity

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How much fruit and veg should we be eating?  Five portions a day, or seven?  How much is a portion, and what counts?  The Medieval Manuscripts Blog claims no authority on the matter, but seeks out the wisdom of the middle ages.  According to Dr Hartmann Schedel (b. 1440, d. 1514), author of the Nuremberg Chronicle, ‘five things dispose a man and make him prone to incurring the plague’: famine, women (sorry), exertion and remaining stationary (evidently conflicting dietary advice is no modern invention), and...fruit.

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Detail of the story of Adam and Eve, from the Bedford Hours, France (Paris), c. 1410-c. 1430, Add MS 18850, f. 14r

The first fruit-related health warning was issued by God, when he forbade Adam to partake of the Tree of Knowledge, under the threat of death.  Adam and Eve ignored this prominently displayed advice and went ahead and ate it anyway – an experience I think we all relive between the first and second pieces of cake. 

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Detail from the Bedford Hours, Add MS 18850, f. 14r

The consequences were disastrous, to say the least: expulsion from the Garden of Eden, a lifetime of toil and pain.

Egerton MS 943, f. 103v
Detail of a framed miniature illustrating Dante, Virgil and Statius and the Tree of the Gluttonous on the fifth terrace of Purgatory, from Dante Alighieri, ‘Divina Commedia’, N. Italy (Emilia/Padua), 2nd quarter of the 14th century, Egerton MS 943, f. 103v

Fruit-trees make an appearance in Dante’s Divine Comedy: the gluttonous are tormented by the sight of the heavily laden boughs of this tree, the fruit forever just out of their reach.

 
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Detail of a portrait of King John from the Rous Roll, England (?Warwickshire), c. 1483, Add MS 48976, Membrane 2

The over-eating of fruit has been recorded as the cause of death of several famous people.  Though current scholarship has tended to view such accounts as mere figments, nonetheless there was a close association between gluttony, fruit and sinfulness in the medieval imagination.  Rumours that a surfeit of peaches did for King John began to circulate shortly after his demise.  Contemporary monastic chroniclers were glad to see the man go – his reign had plumbed the depths of poor kingship and resulted in a papal interdict in 1208 – and seized reports of a gluttonous death as emblematic of his personal failings.

Spare a thought too for Pope Paul II, who fell victim to eating chilled melons.  Melons of the unrefrigerated variety were said to have prompted the death in 1493 of Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor – but, on the scale of things, it was probably having his gangrenous leg amputated before adequate anaesthesia, disinfectant and antibiotics had been invented.

Royal MS 16 E XXXII, f. 2r
Scatter border containing fruit, flowers and insects, surrounding the beginning of a letter dedicated to Edward VI, concerning the recent peace with Henry II of France, France (Paris), after 1547, Royal MS 16 E XXXII, f. 2r

We hope, despite these grim tales, that you still find fruit appealing – not least because the pages of our medieval manuscripts are heavily laden with depictions of fruit of all kinds.  There is a particularly heavy crop of strawberries, especially in the ‘scatter borders’ common in fifteenth-century manuscripts.

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Detail from a herbal, N. Italy (Lombardy), c. 1440, Sloane MS 4016, f. 30r

We also find cherries, such as in the pages of this herbal.

Burney MS 292, f. 9r
Detail of a coat of arms in a border, from St Augustine, ‘De civitate Dei’, N. Italy (?Padua/?Verona), c. 1440-c. 1470, Burney MS 292, f. 9r

Pears are incorporated into a wreath surrounding the arms of the Donati family of Venice, in this copy of Augustine’s De civitate Dei.

Egerton MS 1146, f. 58r
A vine border containing grapes and an owl, from a Book of Hours, Use of Worms, S. Germany (?Worms), c. 1475-c. 1485, Egerton MS 1146, f. 58r.

Grapes are often found dangling from the vines in elaborate foliate border decoration.

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Roundel of men and women harvesting grapes, from the Huth Hours, Flanders (Valenciennes, Bruges, Ghent), early 1480s, Add MS 38126, f. 9v

The harvesting of grapes, the pastoral activity for the month of September, is also commonly depicted in the calendars attached to books of hours.

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Detail of the border from the Leaf of a Commission, N.E. Italy (Venice), c. 1570-c. 1577, Add MS 20916, f. 15r

There is a whole harvest-basket of fruit on this Leaf of a Commission from the Doge of Venice Alvise I Mocenigo to Marco Corner: grapes, apples, and something that looks like a bit like a quince.

Harley MS 3954, f. 64r
Detail of a man harvesting and eating fruit in an orchard, from ‘The Travels of Sir John Mandeville’, E. England (East Anglia), 2nd quarter of the 15th century, Harley MS 3954, f. 64r

By far the best to eat is the fruit that brings long life, from orchards recorded in Mandeville’s Travels.  Where these trees might be, or what the fruit is, remains sadly unknown.

This post does not count as one of your five a day. 

- James Freeman

01 August 2014

A Calendar Page for August 2014

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For more information about the Huth Hours, please see our post A Calendar Page for January 2014.

Agricultural labours continue in these two calendar pages for the month of August.  On the first folio, among a scatter border of flowers and insects, we see a roundel of two peasants, inside a barn.  They are at work threshing the wheat that was harvested in July, while, through the window behind them, we can see a few birds circling.  On the facing folio, a barefoot peasant is shaking a shallow basket, literally separating the wheat from the chaff.  Above him is a seated woman with a palm for the zodiac sign Virgo.

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Calendar page for August, with a roundel miniature of two men threshing grain, from the Huth Hours, Netherlands (Bruges or Ghent?), c. 1480, Add MS 38126, f. 8v

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Calendar page for August, with a roundel miniature of a man separating wheat from chaff, with the zodiac sign Virgo, from the Huth Hours, Netherlands (Bruges or Ghent?), c. 1480, Add MS 38126, f. 9r

- Sarah J Biggs

01 July 2014

A Calendar Page for July 2014

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For more information about the Huth Hours, please see our post A Calendar Page for January 2014.

The aristocratic pleasures of April and May have been left far behind in these pages for the month of July.  Set amongst a riot of red flowers (perhaps characteristic of this month) is a roundel in which two peasants are kneeling and harvesting the wheat crop.  Behind them is a peasant’s hut and what may be a cathedral in the background, while overhead, lightning strikes as a summer storm rolls in.   On the next folio, beneath the continuation of saints’ days for June, is a roundel containing a bushy-tailed lion, for the zodiac sign Leo, within a frame of similarly-threatening clouds.  Below him is a shepherd, standing in a rather downcast manner among his flock (he is not as unlucky as our April shepherd, however), which his dog relaxes in the foreground.

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Calendar page for July, with a roundel miniature of people working in the fields, from the Huth Hours, Netherlands (Bruges or Ghent?), c. 1480, Add MS 38126, f. 7v

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Calendar page for July, with a roundel miniature of a shepherd with his flock, with the zodiac sign Leo, from the Huth Hours, Netherlands (Bruges or Ghent?), c. 1480, Add MS 38126, f. 8r

- Sarah J Biggs

01 June 2014

A Calendar Page for June 2014

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For more information about the Huth Hours, please see our post A Calendar Page for January 2014.

In these calendar pages for the month of June, the agricultural labours for the summer are beginning in earnest.  In the first roundel of our calendar pages, we see a peasant at work scything in grass in a field surrounded by a wattled fence (beautifully highlighted with gold paint).  Behind him a man and a woman are similarly employed, while in the background there is a gorgeous landscape characteristic of Bruges illumination of the period, with a peasant’s hut, spired buildings, a manor house, and even a windmill.   On the facing folio, below a lobster-like crab for the zodiac sign Cancer, there is a charming summer scene.  Four young boys have cast their clothes aside and are swimming and playing in a local river.

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Calendar page for June, with a roundel miniature of people working in the fields, from the Huth Hours, Netherlands (Bruges or Ghent?), c. 1480, Add MS 38126, f. 6v

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Calendar page for June, with a roundel miniature of boys swimming in a river, with the zodiac sign Cancer, from the Huth Hours, Netherlands (Bruges or Ghent?), c. 1480, Add MS 38126, f. 7r

- Sarah J Biggs

03 May 2014

A Medieval Word Search

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Here is a puzzle for our readers, but be warned – it is not for the faint of heart!  This is not the simple type of word search we are used to, but a very complex puzzle involving the date of Easter.  

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A table with decorated frame for calculating the date of Easter in the years 1140 to 1672 from a Psalter, Liège, 1255-1265, Add MS 21114, f. 7r

Here are your clues:  this puzzle comes from a Psalter in our collection and dates from the 13th century.  The table contains 35 two-letter symbols, which, if put in the correct order, make up a verse of two and a half hexameter lines, revealing the name of a well-known cleric with whom the book was closely associated.  This cleric may have commissioned it or devised this puzzle himself.  And those are the only clues we are giving!

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Historiated initial 'D'(ixit) at the beginning of Psalm 109 with God holding Christ on the cross, from a Psalter, Add MS 21114, f. 11r

Apart from the Psalms, this smallish book contains two verses in a Northern French dialect, prayers and liturgical material added in the latter part of the 14th century and a number of 15th-century additions in Catalan.

This manuscript is not yet in our online Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts but will be published at the next upload, later this year, so you will not find any help there.  We know it’s possible to solve the puzzle; a French scholar had it all worked out in the late 19th century.  Let’s see if you can do it!  You can leave your guesses in the comments below, or on Twitter @BLMedieval.  We'll be revealing the solution on Tuesday, so stay tuned!  

- Chantry Westwell

01 May 2014

A Calendar Page for May 2014

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For more information about the Huth Hours, please see our post A Calendar Page for January 2014.

The themes of courting and pleasurable outdoor pursuits continue in these calendar pages for the month of May.  On the first folio is the beginning of the listing of saints' days and feasts for May, amongst a backdrop of flowers.  In the roundel below can be found a roundel miniature of an aristocratic young couple on horseback, setting off to go hawking (it is perhaps, but not definitely, the couple found on the opening folio for April).  On the next folio is a small painting of a nude couple for the zodiac sign Gemini.  Beneath is a well-dressed lady sitting in a flowering garden, engaged in a somewhat mysterious activity.  Curators in our department have variously theorised that she is holding a tambourine, an embroidery hoop, or a skein of yarn; please do let us know what you think!

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Calendar page for May, with a roundel miniature of a couple going hawking, from the Huth Hours, Netherlands (Bruges or Ghent?), c. 1480, Add MS 38126, f. 5v

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Calendar page for May, with a roundel miniature of a lady in a pleasure garden, with the zodiac sign Gemini, from the Huth Hours, Netherlands (Bruges or Ghent?), c. 1480, Add MS 38126, f. 6r

- Sarah J Biggs

08 April 2014

Fore! The British Library's Golf Book

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The 2014 Masters starts at Augusta this week (that's golf for the uninitiated). And what better way to kick things off -- to mangle a sporting analogy -- than with this famous image from the Golf Book. The modern game of golf has its origins in 15th-century Scotland, when King James II had it banned, in order that his subjects should devote more of their time to practising archery. There were, however, other ancient and medieval games which resembled the game of golf, from China, Persia and Rome, among other places. Some say that golf developed from cambuca (chambot in French), a game played with a stick and a wooden ball that was taken up in the Low Countries and Germany.

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A game resembling golf in the Golf Book (London, British Library, MS Additional 24098, f. 27r).

We very much doubt that the modern golf professionals playing at Augusta will care for these niceties. But they might be interested to see this page from the British Library's Golf Book (Add MS 24098, available in full on our Digitised Manuscripts site). We have featured this manuscript before, most notably as our calendar for 2013 (see the month of September) and in the post A Good Walk Spoiled. The splendid book in question was made at Bruges around the year 1540, and the illumination is attributable to the famous Simon Bening (d. 1561) and his workshop.

You may wonder if the players in the bas-de-page scene are engaged in golf or in a game similar to cambuca. But we do suspect that the name "the Cambuca Book" would never have taken on, don't you agree? Watch out for those flying golf balls ...

Julian Harrison

05 April 2014

Royal Manuscripts Follow-on Project - Completed!

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The Royal Manuscripts project team are pleased to announce that with the publication of 1000 Years of Royal Books and Manuscripts, edited by Kathleen Doyle and Scot McKendrick, published by British Library Publications, the AHRC-funded follow-on to the Royal Manuscripts research project has been successfully concluded. 

Editors
Kathleen Doyle, Scot McKendrick, and 1000 Years of Royal Books and Manuscripts

In February 2012, the AHRC made an additional grant to the Library under the Digital Equipment and Database Enhancement for Impact scheme, to enhance the research undertaken for the original Royal: Illuminated Manuscripts of the Kings and Queens of England project, and its dissemination.  As a digital enhancement project, the principal goal was to augment the resources on Royal manuscripts available to researchers on the British Library’s Digitised Manuscripts website.  Regular readers of the blog will know that we have published regular updates on the project of this digitisation (see the links at the end of this post).

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God the creator, from a Bible Historiale, Royal MS 19 D III, f. 3r

The goal of the follow-on project was to provide freely-accessible full online digital coverage of 24,750 pages from approximately 40-50 manuscripts featured in the Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illuminated exhibition held at the British Library 11 November 2011-13 March 2012.  This objective was met and exceeded with 71 manuscripts now available on the website.  Thanks to all of you who provided ideas for digitisation selection.

Durham workshop

The project had two other objectives.  The first was to convene two workshops to allow students and scholars to build on the existing research undertaken as part of the Royal project by analysing texts and images of these manuscripts in collaboration with other researchers.  One workshop was held at Durham University on 6 June 2012, hosted by Professor Richard Gameson, Department of History.  At the workshop eleven undergraduate students presented papers on manuscripts included in the Royal exhibition, and Roger Middleton, Lecturer Emeritus, Department of French Literature at the University of Nottingham, presented a live display of the new research capabilities of the Digitised Manuscripts website.  The second workshop was designed for post-graduate students, and was held in London on 9 November 2012.  This workshop explored the research possibilities of digitisation in a seminar examining three original manuscripts together with their magnified digital images.

The third output was the publication of the book, which is a collection of ten essays on the development of Royal libraries, enhancing and building on the research completed for the initial Royal project.  Two of the essays (by Richard Gameson and Catherine Reynolds) were drawn from the new research presented at the Frank Davis lecture series held at the Courtauld Institute of Art in autumn 2011.  Four (by Michael Wood, Nicholas Vincent, John Goldfinch, and Jane Roberts) grew out of lectures given as part of the British Library lecture series accompanying the exhibition.  One (by James Carley) is on a royal manuscript that was once a part of the Old Royal Library but was not included in the exhibition, and so his research is presented in the volume for the first time.  The remaining three contributions (by Joanna Fronska, Scot McKendrick, and Kathleen Doyle) build on research that was undertaken for the initial Royal Manuscripts project presented in the exhibition catalogue.  Thanks to the grant provided by the AHRC, the book is extensive illustrated with ninety-four colour illustrations.   

AHRC

Previous Royal Manuscripts blog posts:

http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2012/11/new-additions-to-digitised-manuscripts.html

http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2012/08/chronicles-lancelot-and-a-journey-to-jerusalem-royal-manuscripts-now-online.html

http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2012/08/gospels-psalms-and-prayer-rolls-more-royal-devotional-manuscripts-online.html

http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2012/08/books-of-beasts-adventure-and-two-from-new-minster-new-royal-manuscripts-online.html

http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2012/08/psalters-bibles-and-the-end-of-days-devotional-texts-from-the-royal-collection-go-online.html

http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2012/06/books-of-history-war-and-mystery-more-royal-manuscripts-go-online.html

http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2012/06/crowns-romances-and-chronicles-aplenty-new-royal-manuscripts-online.html

http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2012/05/the-chosen-royals.html

http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2012/03/keep-your-royal-suggestions-coming.html

http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2012/02/which-royal-manuscripts-should-we-digitise.html

- Kathleen Doyle