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60 posts categorized "Calendars"

01 October 2014

A Calendar Page for October 2014

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

While the summer growing season may be over, the agricultural labours are by no means at and end, as these calendar pages for the month of October display.  On the opening folio is a roundel miniature of a man scattering grain in a plowed field.  Behind him are some turreted buildings and a bridge, while above, some hopeful birds are circling.   On the facing folio is a small painting of an ominous-looking scorpion, for the zodiac sign Scorpio.  Below, a tired man is heading home from his labours in the field, carrying a bag on his shoulders.  His dog is bounding before him, and swans can be seen swimming in the river beside.

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Calendar page for October, with a roundel miniature of a man sowing grain, from the Huth Hours, Netherlands (Bruges or Ghent?), c. 1480, Add MS 38126, f. 10v

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Calendar page for October, with a roundel miniature of a man heading home after his work is done, with the zodiac sign Scorpio, from the Huth Hours, Netherlands (Bruges or Ghent?), c. 1480, Add MS 38126, f. 11r

- Sarah J Biggs

01 September 2014

A Calendar Page for September 2014

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

September marks the beginning of the wine-making season in the northern hemisphere, and this is as true today as it was on the pages of our medieval calendar.  In the opening folio, the process is beginning in earnest, as three women are busy picking grapes in a vineyard, loading them into the basket of a waiting man.  Behind them are several grand buildings, while the oenophilic theme of the month is mirrored by the acanthus vines circling round the page.  The labour continues on the facing folio.  Below the saints’ days for September and a woman holding a balance (for the zodiac sign Libra), a man is bringing a full basket of grapes into a barn.  He is greeted by a fellow worker, who stands in a tub full of grapes, crushing them beneath his feet.

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Calendar page for September, with a roundel miniature of people harvesting grapes, from the Huth Hours, Netherlands (Bruges or Ghent?), c. 1480, Add MS 38126, f. 9v

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Calendar page for September, with a roundel miniature of a men making wine, with the zodiac sign Libra, from the Huth Hours, Netherlands (Bruges or Ghent?), c. 1480, Add MS 38126, f. 10r

- Sarah J Biggs

21 August 2014

Three More Books of Hours

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In one of our blog posts last week, we featured the Wardington Hours, a relative newcomer to our collections. Three other Books of Hours have been acquired by the British Library since 2000, each of particular interest to art historians and scholars.

Add MS 74754: ‘The Small Bedford hours’

In the last blog post we mentioned the Bedford Hours (Add MS 18850), since it was made by the same group of Bruges artists as the Wardington Hours. It has been in our collections for more than 150 years, having been bought by the British Museum in 1852. In 2000, we acquired a manuscript known as the ‘Small Bedford Hours’, also probably made for John of Lancaster, duke of Bedford (b. 1389, d.1435). The evidence linking it to this famous patron is the following: the tree-stock, which appears on ff. 51r, 201r and 392r, was one of his badges.

Add MS 74754, f. 201r
Full page illumination with Historiated initial 'D' of David at prayer and tree stock, from ‘The Small Bedford Hours’, Paris, c. 1430, Add MS 74754, f. 201r

The two partially erased initials on ff. 369r and 385v probably contained the arms of England and France. 

Add MS 74754, f. 385v
Partially erased initial ‘O’(mnipotens), which probably contained the arms of England and France, from Add MS 74754, f. 385v

Finally, the special prayers include these words: ‘et in domo regia servorum tuorum me nasci fecisti ac populum magnum michi commisisti regendum’, which seems to indicate that the owner was of royal blood, and ‘Semper vero in tu gratia me et ancillam tuam annam thori unius vinculo in nomine tuo michi coniunctam fovere digneris […]’, which indicates that the owner had a consort named Anne.  Bedford was married to Anne of Burgundy in 1423, and she died in 1432. 

There is no calendar and the Hours of the Virgin at the beginning are of the Use of Sarum, which was the most popular rite in England in this period. Prayers or suffrages to St George, St Thomas Becket (scratched out) and St Catherine are included after Lauds. The last part contains the usual psalms, prayers and litany.

Add MS 74754, f. 357r
A page of the Litany from Add MS 74754, f. 357r

Add MS 82946

This Book of Hours, by contrast, contains three calendars.  First, a calendar of Sarum use (ff. 4r-8r) followed by two York calendars, the second (ff. 15r-31r) with facing astronomical tables by Richard de Thorpe, friar of York (b. c. 1339). The Sarum calendar seems to originate in Northern France, as it includes the feasts of the Norman saints Michel and Eloi. This part of the manuscript, with the accompanying Hours (ff. 32r-78v), was made in Bruges, as the illuminated initials and borders are in the same style as a manuscript made there in 1409 (now Durham, Ushaw College, MS 10).

Add MS 82946, f. 8v
Sarum Calendar from a Book of Hours previously in the Pincus Collection, Bruges, c. 1410, Add MS 82946, f. 8v

The two York calendars and scientific material (including figure drawings and tables), were added to the manuscript in the 1420s, as indications in the calendars suggest.  They are by a single hand and in a uniform decorative style, believed to be of York Augustinian origin but made for an outside patron rather than the Austin Friars themselves, as the feast of Saint Augustine in August is not in red or blue to mark a major feast. Another interesting feature is the use of green ink, which is unusual in England at this time.

Add MS 82946, f. 15v
York Calendar added to a Book of Hours, York, c. 1420, Add MS 82946, f. 15v

On f. 30v there is an astrological calendar in the form of a wheel with an enlarged centre hole, which indicates that it probably had a movable pointer like the hand of a clock.

Add MS 82946, f. 30v
Astrological diagram, York, c. 1420, Add MS 82946, f. 30v

There are two full page images of naked men on folios 31r and 31v, following the second calendar. Zodiac man on folio 31 is shown with the zodiac symbols clustered over him indicating the parts of the body they govern. He stands in the large pool that seems to be the result of Aquarius hanging around his lower legs emptying his water-pots. The image is boldly painted with unusual green borders and an orange patterned background, which perhaps show Bohemian influence. The second diagram shows the phlebotomy points and is rougher in execution.  

Add MS 82946, f. 31r
Diagram of Zodiac man, York, c. 1420, Add MS 82946, f. 31r

For much of the above, and for further information on this manuscript, see an article by John B Friedman, 'Richard de Thorpe's Astronomical Kalendar and the Luxury Book Trade at York', Studies in the Age of Chaucer, 7 (1985), 137-60.

Egerton MS 3883

This Book of Hours was also made in the southern Netherlands, probably in Bruges, with some material being added in England in the fifteenth century: a treatise on the fifteen joys of the Virgin, and three short poems in Middle English addressed to the Virgin, God and Christ, by Lydgate among others. The scribe of these additions signs his name ‘Chetwyn’ and there are four devotional diagrams including the following, entitled 'The iiii Cardinal vertuws’.

Egerton MS 3883, ff. 43v-44r
Devotional diagram and decorated page from a Book of Hours, Netherlands, S. and England, 15th century, Egerton MS 3883, ff. 43v-44r

The circular marks on ff. 124v, 133r-34v, 142v and 158v-59v are all that remain of pilgrim badges – medieval souvenirs of journeys to holy sites – that had once been affixed there.

Egerton MS 3883, f. 142v
Erased prayer to St Thomas Becket and off-set from a pilgrim badge, Egerton MS 3883, f. 142v

On this page a prayer to St Thomas Becket has been erased. Perhaps the owner had been on pilgrimage to Canterbury – possibly taking this book with them – and had placed his or her badge there to commemorate it whenever they recited the prayer.

- Chantry Westwell

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.

Add MS 18850 f14r detail 1
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.

Add MS 20916, f. 15r
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.  

Add MS 21114 f. 7r c12404-03
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!

Add MS 21114 f. 11 c12404-04
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