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536 posts categorized "Illuminated manuscripts"

05 June 2014

Medieval Comics Continued (Not for the Squeamish!)

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In our first post on medieval comic strips, we promised blood and gore and true romance, and so here it is – but beware!  Of course, Bibles and theological books can contain some really good material, but we have found great examples, too, in works of science, history and allegory. 

A 12th-century Medical Collection - Horrible Science

Perhaps this is stretching the analogy a little as there is no story-line, but here the comic-strip format is used for instruction in medical procedures.  The captions in Latin indicate the affliction that is being treated and the images are certainly gory – ouch!  There probably weren’t very long queues to see these GPs and not many would have made it to a second consultation!

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A  full-page miniature in four compartments of a doctor instructing an assistant on how to prepare medicine; two doctors operating on the head of a patient whose hands are tied behind his back; and two images of a doctor with patients who have cautery points marked on their heads and bodies, 4th quarter of the 12th century, England, N.? or France, N.?, Sloane MS 1975,
f. 91v

 Valerius Maximus: Memorabilia: intrigue and murder in Ancient Rome

Roman history is given comic-book treatment in this Paris manuscript from the 15th century. Here the story of Lucretia, early heroine of the Roman republic, is told in a series of very lifelike images.

Harley MS 4374 f. 211r 25744_2
Sextus Tarquinius threatens Collatinus' wife, Lucretia, with death (left), Lucretia commits suicide before Collatinus, Lucretius, her father, Brutus and Publius Valerius; King Tarquinius Superbus expelled from Rome (left), Lucretius, Collatinus, Brutus and P. Valerius swear to avenge Lucretia (right); P. Valerius Publicola, as Consul, orders his troops to remove the axe symbols of Tarquinius' authority (left), and orders his imposing, fortress-like palace to be demolished (right), France (Paris); between 1473 and c. 1480, Harley MS 4374, f. 211

Roman de la Rose - the original ‘True Romance’

In these images from a Rose manuscript, a range of characters including ladies and monks  have speech banners, each with a courtly phrase or lover’s lament, words that they seem to be saying themselves, like , 'Lonc temps vivre ne pouray' (I cannot live long), 'Ay ay nus ne doit amer' (Ai, nobody must love),  'Ma dame ie vous aim' (My lady, I love you), 'Lasse iai failli a ioie' (Alas, I am without joy).

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Full-page image with two compartments containing 8 figures including men, women, monks and a nun, all pierced by the arrows of love and holding scrolls, France (Paris); c. 1320 - c. 1340, Royal MS 19 B XIII, f. 4r

Taymouth  Hours  - Amoras, a medieval Andy Capp?

In medieval legend, Amoras the knight is the classic anti-hero and hapless husband in one of a series of miracles associated with the Virgin Mary. When in need of money he sells his wife to the Devil in return for a chest of gold, but on  their way to hand her over, they pass a chapel. The wife prays to the Virgin, who takes her place when the Devil appears and drives him away forever. The legend of Amoras is told in the Taymouth Hours in a series of bas-de page images with captions. It extends over the lower margins of 5 pages, with each image representing an episode in the story.

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Amoras the knight conversing with the devil, with a caption reading, ‘Cy fist ameroys le che[va]l[e]r omage au deable et a celi p[ro]mist de fere venir a li sa fe[m]me cele iour en un an.’ (recto);  Amoras opening a chest of coins, with a caption reading, ‘Cy le deable dona tresor a ameroise ap[re]s sun omage fere.’ (verso), 2nd quarter of the 14th century, England (London?), Yates Thompson MS 13, ff. 162r-162v

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Amoras taking his wife to the devil, with a caption reading, ‘Cy chevauche ameroyse et mene sa feme oue li ver le deable.’ (recto); the distraught wife of Amoras asleep before a large image of the Virgin and Child, with a caption reading, ‘Cy en g[ra]nt t[ri]stesce la fe[m]me ameroyse dort devaunt un ymage de n[ost]re dame.’(verso), 2nd quarter of the 14th century, England (London?), Yates Thompson MS 13, ff. 163r-163v

Here, in the final episode, the Virgin Mary sees that the devils get what they deserve and Amoras is left looking foolish:

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Amoras and the Virgin Mary riding, while two devils flee, with a caption reading, ‘Cy n[ost]re dame chevauche o amerois vers le deable en semblaunce de sa fe[m]me li noun sachaunt.’ 2nd quarter of the 14th century, England (London?), Yates Thompson MS 13, f. 164r

We hope you’ve enjoyed our tour through medieval comics, and that you have a chance to experience Comics Unmasked.

- Chantry Westwell

03 June 2014

The Burden of Writing: Scribes in Medieval Manuscripts

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When we speak to visitors or students about our medieval manuscripts, we frequently find ourselves spending a significant amount of time talking about how such books were created.  We discuss the ways that scribes worked and artists painted, and quite often we will then be asked just how it is that we can know such details.  There are, of course, medieval manuals for craftspeople that still exist, but often we can find clues in the manuscripts themselves.  Writing was a skill that was hard-won and greatly valued, and many authors and scribes were memorialised by their artisan brethren.  We’ll devote an upcoming post to an examination of these artists themselves, but today will concentrate on images of scribes at work. 

Royal MS 10 A XIII f. 2v K90098-50
Full-page miniature of St Dunstan at work, from Smaragdus of St Mihiel’s Expositio in Reglam S Benedicti, England (Canterbury), c. 1170 – c. 1180, Royal MS 10 A XIII, f. 2v

A spectacular leading example is that of St Dunstan, writing his commentary on the Rule of St Benedict.  Dunstan is shown in his bishop’s garb, seated in a spectacular if somewhat uncomfortable-looking chair.  On the stand before him is a manuscript, bound in a chemise fabric.  The opening lines of Dunstan’s text are already written in blue and red ink, and the saint is in the process of adding to them with ink from the pot before him.  In his right hand he holds a sharpened quill, while in the left he is wielding a knife.  This knife was a common tool, used to sharpen quills, scrape away scribal mistakes, and even hold the parchment in place while the author was writing.

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Detail of a miniature of a hermit at work on a manuscript, from the Estoire del Saint Graal, France (Saint-Omer or Tournai?), c. 1315 – 1325, Royal MS 14 E III, f. 6v

A knife is almost ubiquitous in medieval scribal scenes.  It can be seen employed in the image above, in which a more modest scriptorium is on display.  This miniature, from a copy of the Estoire del Saint Graal that once belonged to Charles V of France, shows a habited hermit in the act of writing at his desk; his quill dipped into the black ink that rests at his side and his knife steadying the page.  This scribe is working on a not-yet bound folio, which has been ruled with lines and is being held in place by a set of red weights.  Interestingly, we can see that rather than writing an original work, he is copying an older text, which rests on a stand above him; he has so far nearly completed the opening word.

Harley MS 4425 f 133r E070014
Detail of a miniature of Guillaume de Lorris or Jean de Meun at work writing the text, from the Roman de la Rose, Netherlands (Bruges), c. 1490 – c. 1500, Harley MS 4425, f. 133r

One of our favourites (of course) is the miniature above, which you hopefully are all already familiar with.  In this scene, the author of the Roman de la Rose is seated at an elaborate workbench with his manuscript before him.  Interestingly, it appears to be a finished copy, bound with gilded edges, which is fairly unusual in these sorts of depictions.  Our author is holding a quill in his hand as he turns towards the viewer, and delightfully appears to have another quill tucked up into his cap.  On the shelf below him are other bound books, some scrolls, and a glass of water, while on his desk we can see two pots of ink, one black, and one red – he may be at work rubricating (marking in red lettering) with the latter ink.  Above the desk is what looks like a sheaf of papers hanging from a hook, although exactly what that is has been a subject of some debate – please do let us know your thoughts!

Arundel MS 43 c5483-07
Full-page miniature of Donatus writing his grammar, from Sedulius Scotus’ Expositio super primam edicionem Donati grammatici, Germany, 2nd half of the 12th century, Arundel MS 43, f. 80v

Scribes didn’t always labour on their own, however.  A 12th century copy of Donatus’ Grammar is prefaced with a miniature of the scholar himself, hard at work.  He is surrounded by later inscriptions (and was apparently gifted by this inscriber with an odd variety of full-head crown), but he is also possessed of a small-scale assistant.  This tonsured man, labelled ‘Heinre’(?) is holding an ink horn, which he offers to Donatus.

Harley MS 2804 f. 188v E090574
Historiated initial ‘I’(nitium) of Mark and his lion writing the Gospel, from the Worms Bible, Germany (Middle Rhineland), 3rd quarter of the 12th century, Harley MS 2804, f. 188v

Such scribal helpers weren’t always human.  This is particularly the case with images of the four Evangelists, who are often shown being assisted by their animal (or angelic) counterpart in the tasks of writing their Gospels.  One especially charming example comes from the Worms Bible.  On the folio above, St Mark is writing the opening words of his Gospel attended by his lion, who helpfully holds the Evangelist’s ink-horn in his teeth while simultaneously serving as a bookstand. 

Royal MS 17 E III f. 209r E024568
Detail of a miniature of a scribe demonstrating to his pupils, from Jean Corbechon’s translation of Bartholomaeus Angelicus’ De proprietatibus rerum, France (Paris?), 1st quarter of the 15th century, Royal MS 17 E III, f. 209r

Royal MS 19 C II f. 48v G70017-94a
Detail of a miniature of Prudence writing at her desk, with pupils before her,from Laurent d’Orleans’ La somme le roi, France (Paris) 2nd quarter of the 14th century, Royal MS 19 C II, f. 48v

Of course, writing well was a skill that took years to develop, and careful training was necessary.  Many manuscripts include images of masters inducting their pupils into the secrets of the craft.  Interestingly, it’s rare to find an example of a student actually practicing writing; instead the pedagogical technique seems to have required them to watch closely (and occasionally express admiration for the scribe’s labours).  That said, we found one such example of apprentices at work, from Christine de Pizan’s Book of the Queen.  In the scene at the bottom we can see a busy scriptorium; fittingly for this manuscript, the young men are working under the supervision of a woman, Io.

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Detail of a miniature of a scriptorium under the supervision of Io, from Christine de Pizan’s Book of the Queen, France (Paris), c. 1410 – c. 1414, Harley MS 4431, f. 109r

At the end of a long apprenticeship – and presumably, eventually some actual writing practice – a pupil could hope to one day become a master scribe, a profession that was highly respected.  So much so that the tools of the trade were proudly displayed by those who had earned them, through sometimes literally back-breaking labour.  As the 10th century scribe Florentius of Valeranica wrote: ‘Because one who does not know how to write thinks it no labour, I will describe it for you, if you want to know how great is the burden of writing: it mists the eyes, it curves the back, it breaks the belly and the ribs, it fills the kidneys with pain, and the body with all kinds of suffering. Therefore, turn the pages slowly, reader, and keep your fingers well away from the pages, for just as a hailstorm ruins the fecundity of the soil, so the sloppy reader destroys both the book and the writing. For as the last port is sweet to the sailor, so the last line to the scribe.’  

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Detail of a miniature of Geoffrey Chaucer holding a rosary and wearing a pen-case on a string around his neck, from Thomas Hoccleve’s Regiment of Princes, England (London or Westminster), c. 1411 – c. 1420, Harley MS 4866, f. 88r

Royal MS 19 C XI f. 27v K040500
Detail of a miniature of a scribe with a knife, shears, a pen-case, and an ink-pot, from Jean de Vignay and other texts, France (Paris?), 1st or 2nd quarter of the 15th century, Royal MS 19 C XI, f. 27v

And that will be our last line; stay tuned for our next instalment on the subject of artists in medieval manuscripts!  As always, please do let us know about your favourites in the comments below, or on Twitter @BLMedieval.

- 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

31 May 2014

Scraped Away Songs

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As you may have already seen if you follow @BLMedieval on Twitter, we have just uploaded images of one of the British Library's smallest but most important medieval music manuscripts onto Digitised Manuscripts.

Egerton_ms_274_f003r
Ave gloriosa virginum regina, from a musical miscellany in French and Latin, Egerton MS 274, f. 3r

Egerton MS 274 is a fascinating and unusual collection of secular songs and liturgical music in French and Latin, written in northern France in the thirteenth century. The pages measure 15 x 10 cm, making this a perfect pocket-book for an individual singer. Some of the pieces are set for two different voices, though, which would have needed careful handling. You can read more about the contents at Trouvère Songs Online.

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A two-part conductus 'Mundus a mundicia', from a musical miscellany in French and Latin, Egerton MS 274, f. 41r

The manuscript is one of the major sources of French chansons of the Trouvères, but frustratingly most of the first stanzas of the songs – as well as quite a number of the melodies – have been scraped away by a fourteenth-century scribe and replaced by Latin plainchant.

Egerton_ms_274_f102r
The words and music of a French song scraped away and replaced by a Latin responsory chant, from a musical miscellany in French and Latin, Egerton MS 274, f. 102r

The book started life probably in the 1260s as a seamless collection of songs of divine praise and songs of courtly love, presumably intended for a noble patron who was as much involved at church as at court. A later owner in the fourteenth century evidently had less time for courtly love, and changed the function of the book, making a much more ecclesiastical compilation in the process.

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Detail of a miniature of a monkey at work, from a musical miscellany in French and Latin, Egerton MS 274, f. 37r

The manuscript contains a number of interesting miniatures throughout, including our favourite above, of a monkey at work - perhaps literally 'aping' the carpenter next to him.

We'll be adding some more medieval music manuscripts to the website over the next few months: keep an eye on this blog and our colleagues’ excellent Music Blog for more information.

-  Nicolas Bell

27 May 2014

Just Like Heaven: Dante's Paradiso

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When we last left Dante, he had met with his muse and lady-love Beatrice in Purgatory, and we were beginning to escort him into the third and last realm of the Divine Comedy – that of Heaven, or the Paradiso (see here for our previous posts about the Inferno and the Purgatorio).  

F. 144v K005808
Dominicans in Heaven, Egerton MS 943, f. 144v

It is worth noting how the style of the artwork changes throughout this manuscript to reflect the different stages of the poem.  Dante’s visual imagery is rich and occasionally quite strange, yet the artist of this manuscript took on the grand task of representing the un-representable (and we rather think he succeeded).

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The heavenly light, Egerton MS 943, f. 152r

The souls in the Heaven of Jupiter form the shape of an eagle.  Each stage of heaven corresponds to a virtue, and a planet.  Jupiter is where the just rulers abide.

F. 160r K005710
The eagle’s head, Egerton MS 943, f. 160r

F. 168r K005690
Souls in the 8th circle of Heaven, Egerton MS 943, f. 168r

See how Dante begins to pass into the concentric circles of Heaven as he approaches closer and closer to a final meeting with God Himself.

F. 172r K005694
Dante and Beatrice in Heaven, Egerton MS 943, f. 172r

A white rose, made up of the souls of the saintly, is at the very heart of heaven, and of the entire cosmos.  It’s a very beautiful image (see below), and our artist matches the poem’s glorious language.

F. 181r K004799
The Rose of Heaven, Egerton MS 943, f. 181r

Beatrice takes her place in this scene amongst the saints, and then St Bernard of Clairvaux takes over in the final explanation to Dante, whilst pointing to the Virgin Mary at the heart of the rose (see below).  It was very bold of Dante to place his love in such august company, but throughout the poem Beatrice is depicted as both human and as something so much more than that.  Dante makes love, even romantic love, the road to contemplation of God, and the force that binds all of heaven together, as we can see in the final moments of the poem, in the description of the vision of God.

F. 182r K005695
St Bernard shows Dante the Virgin Mary, Egerton MS 943, f. 182r

In the poem, Dante apologises that it was impossible for him to completely describe his vision of God, but that didn’t stop the artist of our manuscript from giving it a go.  God is shown here as three circles without circumference, representing the Trinity, and at the heart of it Dante sees a vision of both God and man in one.

F. 186r K004800
Dante before God, Egerton MS 943, f. 186r

To quote from Dante just once, there is something from the following description we can just about see in the image above:  ‘Alone, you know yourself.  Known to yourself / you, knowing, love and smile on your own being’ (Paradiso, Canto 33, verses 125-126).  We can perhaps see from the image above what the artist took from that – a smile!  For Dante, God’s innermost essence was reflected in the very smile, given in passing, that led him to devote his life to the adoration of a young woman he barely knew.  We would definitely recommend having a try at reading the Divine Comedy, and perhaps having Egerton MS 943 open as you do.  It’s not always an easy read, but you’ll find plenty of smiles within.

 - Arthur Westwell

22 May 2014

A Sense of Detachment

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Those of you who have spent a great deal of time on our Digitised Manuscripts site may have encountered the occasional instance of a detached binding amongst the wonderful array of medieval manuscripts on offer.  Many of the bindings are spectacular works of art in themselves, featuring amazing examples of medieval embroidery, leatherwork, or ivories.  Besides being beautiful to look at, these bindings are also vitally important to scholars investigating the history of the manuscripts they were once attached to.

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Detached binding containing an ivory plaque of St Paul, from the Siegburg Lectionary, 11th century, Harley MS 2889/1

Bindings can be detached for any number of reasons.  It was a policy among many collectors and institutions in the 18th and 19th centuries (the British Museum included) to automatically rebind every newly-arrived manuscript, and unfortunately many of the original bindings from this period are now lost to us.  Of course, this is no longer our procedure, and the British Library makes every effort to maintain the integrity of the manuscripts that come to us.  Bindings are only replaced these days when it is necessary for preservation or conservation purposes. 

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Detached silk curtain, formerly covering a miniature, from the Bedford Psalter and Hours, 15th century, Add MS 42131/1

Because these detached bindings are usually kept in our manuscripts store under the same shelfmark as their erstwhile interiors, there was initially no good way to display them on Digitised Manuscripts, save a wonky workaround in which the images were numbered as end flyleaves.  This at least allowed the images to be displayed, but we were aware of the potential for confusion for those interested in examining the bindings themselves, so we’ve been working to develop a better solution.  And at long last, here it is: we have created new shelfmarks for a number of the detached bindings, and have republished many of the images online accordingly.  We still have a few more to go, and we should issue one caveat – this new system does not incorporate all of the detached bindings in the Library’s collections, only those for select and restricted manuscripts on Digitised Manuscripts.  As always, if you have any questions or would like to examine any of these bindings, please get in touch with the Manuscripts Reading Room at mss@bl.uk.

Our newly republished manuscripts and detached bindings are below; we hope you enjoy browsing through them!

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Add MS 37768:  the Lothar Psalter, Germany (Aachen) or France (Tours), 9th century

Add MS 37768/1:  detached ivory carving from the cover of the Lothar Psalter, 9th century 

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Add MS 42130:  the Luttrell Psalter, England (Lincolnshire), 1325-1340

Add MS 42130/1:  box and volume containing the detached former binding and flyleaves of the Luttrell Psalter, England (Cambridge), c. 1625-1640

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Add MS 42131:  the Bedford Psalter and Hours, England (London), 1414-1422

Add MS 42131/1:  detached former bindings, paste-downs, spines, and silk curtains from the Bedford Psalter and Hours, England, 15th – 17th centuries

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Egerton MS 1139:  the Melisende Psalter, Eastern Mediterranean (Jerusalem), 1131-1143

Egerton MS 1139/1:  detached binding with ivory panels & backings, wooden panels and metal plates from the Melisende Psalter, 12th century (with later additions)

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Egerton MS 3277:  the Bohun Psalter and Hours, England (London?), second half of the 14th century

Egerton MS 3277/1:  detached binding from the Bohun Psalter and Hours, 18th century

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Harley MS 603:  the Harley Psalter, England (Canterbury), first half of the 11th century

Harley MS 603/1:  detached binding and flyleaves from the Harley Psalter, 19th century

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Harley MS 2820:  the Cologne Gospels, Germany (Cologne), fourth quarter of the 11th century

Harley MS 2820/1:  detached binding from the Cologne Gospels with an ivory panel of the Crucifixion, late 11th century (set in a post-1600 binding)

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Harley MS 2889:  the Siegburg Lectionary, Germany (Siegburg), 11th century

Harley MS 2889/1:  detached binding from the Siegburg Lectionary, with two 11th century ivory plaques (set in a 19th century binding)

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Royal MS 12 C VII:   Pandolfo Collenuccio’s Apologues and Lucian of Samosata, Dialogues, Italy (Rome and Florence), 1509 – c. 1517

Royal MS 12 C VII/1:   detached chemise binding embroidered with the badge and motto of Prince Henry Frederick (1594-1612)

Update (3 June 2014):

We've just added three more detached bindings to Digitised Manuscripts.  And here they are!

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Add MS 18850:  the Bedford Hours, France (Paris), c. 1410 - 1430

Add MS 18850/1:  detached former binding for the Bedford Hours, consisting of a wooden box, 2 red velvet covers with metal clasps and 4 folios, England, 17th century

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Add MS 42555:  the Abingdon Apocalypse, England, 3rd quarter of the 13th century

Add MS 42555/1:  detached former binding components from the Abingdon Apocalypse, 18th century

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Add MS 61823:  the Book of Margery Kempe, England (East Anglia?), c. 1440

Add MS 61823/1:  remains of the original white tawed leather chemise binding from the Book of Margery Kempe, England, c. 1440

- Sarah J Biggs

16 May 2014

Anyone for Hawking?

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We are delighted to tell you that the magnificent Kerdeston Hawking Book is now available on our Digitised Manuscripts site (Add MS 82949). This manuscript, together with the related Kerdeston Hunting Book (a fragment of 5 leaves, now Additional MS 82948), was in the collection of HRH Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, until his death in 1974, being acquired by the British Library in 2007.

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Ypocras sitting on a stool writing with a dog at his feet. Three hunters, each with a beating stick and three hawks on his arm stand in front of Ypocras. Two buildings are at the top of the miniature, with Kerdeston's arms in the upper centre, from the Kerdeston Hawking Book, England (Norfolk): London, British Library, MS Additional 82949, f. 31v

The library of a 15th-century country gentleman would not have been complete without books on everyday matters such as estate management, heraldry and hunting, sometimes compiled as one volume. The Middle-English ‘Kerdeston Hawking Book’ is from the library of Sir Thomas Kerdeston of Claxton, Norfolk (d. 1446), whose first wife, Elizabeth, was daughter of Sir Edward Burnell, one of the English soldiers killed at Agincourt in 1415. It is a tall, thin book, probably designed to be carried around, and the pages are worn, indicating that it was well-used  by its owner.

The first leaf of the book has two full-page images, one on either side, unfortunately rather damaged by cuts and rubbing. The first shows a man in very fine hunting dress, thought to be of the Master of the Hunt, with his pouch at his waist and hawk on his wrist, riding towards a stream with fish and fowl in it.

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The Master of the Hunt, shown on horseback, and, below, a hermit with beggars, from the Kerdeston Hawking Book: London, British Library, MS Additional 82949, f. 1r

On the verso of the first folio is an image showing a king in full regalia, holding three hawks on a leash in his right hand. In the lower third of the page are three hawksmen with poles, lures and pouches. The seated scholar in the middle has an open book and a scroll that reads ‘ypocras’. This refers to the first treatise in the book, a dialogue between Ypocras (Hippocrates) and Cosma, a Roman senator, on falconry.

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A royal figure, scholar and three hawksmen from the Kerdeston Hawking Book: London, British Library, MS Additional 82949, f. 1v

The book contains advice on how to care for falcons and hawks, with remedies and recipes for salves to keep their plumage in good condition, as well as instructions on their training and management.  The margins are decorated with images of birds, animals and the Kerdeston coat of arms.

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Marginal image of a dog with a duck in its mouth, from the Kerdeston Hawking Book: London, British Library, MS Additional 82949, f. 45r

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Marginal image of two hawks swooping on a heron, from the Kerdeston Hawking Book: London, British Library, MS Additional 82949, f. 48r

No English book on hunting would be complete without foxes and hounds, and here they are:

Add_ms_82949_f032r
Marginal image of two hounds chasing a fox, from the Kerdeston Hawking Book: London, British Library, MS Additional 82949, f. 32r

Chantry Westwell

You can read more about the Kerdeston Hawking Book here:

Bror Danielsson, 'Library of Hunting and Hawking Literature (early 15th c. fragments)', in Et Multum et Multa: Beiträge zur Literatur, Geschichte und Kultur der Jagd. Festgabe für Kurt Linder zum 27.November 1971, ed. by S. Schwenk, G. Tilander &C. A. Willemson (New York, 1971), pp. 47-60 [refers to the Kerdeston Hunting Book, a related manuscript: Add MS 82948].

Kathleen L. Scott, Later Gothic Manuscripts 1390-1490, A Survey of Manuscripts Illuminated in the British Isles, 6, 2 vols (London, 1996), no. 91.

 

 

13 May 2014

Comic Mania

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We received some lovely feedback about our recent post, Superheroes, True Romance, Blood and Gore ... so here are three more medieval comic strips. Some people suggested, incidentally, that the famous Bayeux Tapestry qualifies as one of the earliest "comic strips", but here are some British Library examples from the 12th century.

Silos Apocalypse - Daniel the Superhero

A vision of the life of Daniel is illustrated in graphic detail in this Spanish version of Revelations made in the monastery of Silos in Northern Spain. King Darius orders Daniel to be thrown into the lions' den. Daniel appears in the den, on the right, where he is given food and the lions lick his feet. In the lower half of the image, Darius lies awake, worrying about the punishment he has inflicted on Daniel.

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Scenes from the Life of Daniel, Spain, 4th quarter of the 10th century: London, British Library, Ms Additional 11695, ff. 238v-239r

The Guthlac Roll -  the life of a ‘cult’ hero

Saints’ lives were usually action-packed and gory, lending themselves easily to the comic-strip format. The Guthlac roll tells the story of the life of St Guthlac using a series of images in roundels with labels (see our recent blogpost On A Roll).

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St Guthlac receiving the tonsure at Repton Abbey, with the inscription 'Guthl[acus] tonsura[m] suscipit apud rependune', and inscriptions 'Epi[s]c[opus]', 'Guthlac[us]', and 'Ebba abbatissa' labelling the figures, England (possibly Crowland), c. 1175-1225: London, British Library, Harley Roll Y 6, roundel 3 

 

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Drawing of Guthlac exorcising a demon from Ecgga: London, British Library, Harley Roll Y 6, roundel 10

 

Bede’s Life of St Cuthbert - miraculous events 

St Cuthbert’s life is told in 46 pictures in this beautiful picture book from the 12th century:

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Miniature of Cuthbert accepting the bishopric at a synod of fellow monks; miniature of a man ministering to his ailing servant with holy water blessed by Cuthbert, from Chapter 24 & 25 of Bede's prose Life of St Cuthbert, Durham, 4th quarter of the 12th century: London, British Library, MS Yates Thompson 26, ff. 53v-54r

Here is an action-packed image of a man falling from a tree (degree of difficulty 1.7):

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Cuthbert's vision of the soul of a man, who was killed by falling from a tree, being carried to heaven, from Chapter 34 of Bede's prose Life of St Cuthbert: London, British Library, MS Yates Thompson 26, f. 63v

Don't forget that our exhibition Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK is on at the British Library until 19 August 2014.

Chantry Westwell