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01 August 2016

A Calendar Page for August 2016

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For more information about the Bedford Hours, please see our post for January 2016; for more on medieval calendars in general, our original calendar post is an excellent guide.

Calendar page for August from the Bedford Hours, France (Paris), c. 1410-1430,
Add MS 18850, f. 8r

It’s a beautiful August on the pages of the Bedford Hours calendar.

Detail of miniatures of a man threshing wheat and the zodiac sign Virgo, from the calendar page for August,
Add MS 18850, f. 8r

The month of August was one of heavy labour for medieval peasants, and at the bottom of the first folio for August we can see a man hard at work threshing wheat.  The landscape surrounding him seems hotter and drier than in previous months, and this background is mirrored in the accompanying miniature.  A young lady in blue appears to be saluting the noble peasant, for the zodiac sign Virgo.

Detail of a marginal roundel of Augustus, from the calendar page for August,
Add MS 18850, f. 8r

At the bottom of the folio is a miniature that echoes that of Julius Caesar from the end of July, with a king seated on a throne, surrounded by his counsel (albeit without the treasonous murder).  This is no accident, as this miniature is of Caesar Augustus (Octavian), Julius Caesar’s great-nephew and adopted heir.  August was named after the said Augustus, as the rubrics tell us, for this ‘nephew of Julius wanted a month to be dedicated to him like his uncle’.  And he apparently got his wish!

Calendar page for August,
Add MS 18850, f. 8v

The emphasis on Caesar Augustus continues on the following folio.  Adjoining the remainder of the saints’ days for August are two miniature roundels that illustrate additional episodes from the life of this Roman Emperor.  At the middle left is a scene of battle; in the midst of this a gray-bearded man looks at the viewer in a similar way as the throne miniature – this may be Augustus himself.  The rubrics tell us that this shows how ‘Augustus won victory from Anthony his comrade’, illustrating the defeat of Mark Antony and Cleopatra in 27 BC.  Following this is a miniature of company travelling on horseback, many of whom are playing trumpets adorned with banners reading ‘paix’ (peace) in gold lettering.  This mirrors the rubrics yet again, which describe how Augustus ‘gave peace to the whole world in his time’. 

Detail of marginal roundels of Caesar in battle and bringing peace, from the calendar page for August,
Add MS 18850, f. 8v

-  Sarah J Biggs

30 July 2016

Caption Competition 6

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It's time to get your thinking caps on again. Can you think of a witty caption for the image below, taken from one of the magnificent medieval manuscripts in the British Library's collections, the incomparable Gorleston Psalter?

Tweet us your suggestions to @BLMedieval, or add a comment at the foot of this post. There is no prize, but we will retweet and update this post with some of our favourite entries. Good luck!

Lovers of gastropods out there may want to check out our blogpost Knight v Snail. And you can also view the whole of the Gorleston Psalter, for free, on our Digitised Manuscripts site.




27 July 2016

Metaphors, Misogyny and Courtly Love

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In the early 15th century, there was a major literary debate at the French court. Featuring crude language, naughty metaphors, courtly love, misogyny, poetry and early humanism, this debate was inspired by a text in some illuminated manuscripts which have just been loaded to the British Library's Digitised Manuscripts site. The controversial text was the continuation of the medieval best-seller, the Roman de la rose by Jean de Meun, written 40 years after Guillaume de Lorris wrote the first part of the Roman (c. 1230). Some writers, like Christine de Pizan, saw Jean de Meun’s conclusion of the Roman de la Rose as highly provocative, crude and misogynistic. For others, such as Jean de Montreuil, the continuation’s themes and naughty metaphors were just stylistic devices and an improvement of the poetic genre.

The Lover and la Vieille, Le Roman de la Rose, c. 1490-1500, Harley MS 4425,  f. 129v

The debate took place between the king’s secretaries, clerks and Christine de Pizan between 1401 and 1405. It began with a short treatise composed in 1401 by Jean de Montreuil, the humanist and secretary of Charles VI and Provost of St Peter of Lille. In this text, now lost, Montreuil praised the Roman de la Rose and more particularly the part written by Jean de Meun. Jean de Montreuil was supported by his close friend Gontier Col, another secretary of Charles VI, and by Gontier’s brother, Pierre Col, canon of Notre-Dame.

Harley 4431   f. 4
Christine de Pizan writing in her study, from the Book of the Queen, France (Paris), c. 1410-1414, Harley MS 4431
, f. 4r 

By contrast, Christine de Pizan, a famous author at the court of Charles V and Charles VI, was a fierce opponent of the continuation of the Roman de la Rose by Jean de Meun, partly because of its misogynistic passages and lack of decency:

Mais en accordant a l’oppinion a laquelle contrediséz, sans faille a mon avis, trop traicte deshonnestment en aucunes pars – et mesmement ou personnage que il claime Raison, laquelle nommes les secréz membres plainement par nom.

'According to the viewpoint you oppose, in my opinion, he writes in several places in an indecent manner, even when he speaks as the character he calls Reason and names the secret parts explicitly.'

The monologue of Raison is one of the problematic passages Christine de Pizan underlined. She also objected to the story of the castration of Saturn and the explicit metaphor of the picking of the Rose. She also defended women, who were depicted by Jean de Meun ­­in passages involving allegorical figures like le Jaloux (the jealous one) and la Vieille (the old woman), as keepers of several sins:

Regardons oultre un petit : en quel maniere puet estre vallable et a bonne fin ce que tant et si excessivement, impettueusement et tres nonveritablement il accuse, blame et diffame femmes de pluseurs tres grans vices et leurs meurs temoingne estre plains de toute perversité.

'Furthermore, let us consider a little bit: what can be of value and of good quality when he excessively, impetuously and most untruthfully blames and accuses women of several serious vices and he claims their behaviour is full of perversion.'

According to her, this was not representative of the allegorical character of the Roman de la Rose but was rather the author’s opinion.

During the quarrel several letters were exchanged between Jean de Montreuil, Christine de Pizan, Pierre Col and Jean Gerson and others including a high-ranking prelate and a poet. Pizan was supported by Jean Gerson, chancellor of the University of Paris. The debate was an epistolary exercise within a changing literary movement: more than a simple quarrel, it was a literary controversy. On one side, there were the supporters of morality and of courtly love, including Christine de Pizan and Jean Gerson. On the other, there were the first French humanists such as Jean de Montreuil, promoting a new vernacular poetry. In the background, there was a literary movement for the codification of courtly literature initiated by the Burgundians under the patronage of Charles VI. Known as the Cour Amoureuse (1400), this movement took the form of a gathering of ecclesiastics, nobles and bourgeois at court, who advocated ‘joieuse recreacion et amoureuse conversation’ (‘happy recreation and lovely conversation’) with poetical plays and courtly songs.

Garden of pleasure, from the Roman de la Rose, Low Countries (Bruges), c. 1490-1500, Harley MS 4425, f. 12v

The participants took this literary debate very seriously. In 1402, Christine de Pizan gathered together all the letters involved in the debate and submitted them to Queen Isabeau of Bavaria and Guillaume de Tignonville (Provost of Paris) for arbitration under the title, Epistres sur le Roman de la Rose. In the same year, she wrote the Dit de la Rose, a poem of 650 lines dedicated to Charles VI’s brother, Louis d’Orléans, duke of Orléans. The allegorical character Loyauté, under the tutelage of Amour, founds the movement the Ordre de la Rose (which was based on the Cour Amoureuse of Charles VI). This Ordre de la Rose aims to defend women against slander. However, the Ordre de la Rose was designed as a circle where women played a central role, as opposed to the Cour Amoureuse which had the same purpose, to honour women, but was almost exclusively composed of men.

The quarrel finally came to an end with a new work by Christine de Pizan, La cité des Dames (1403-1404), which told the stories of virtuous women in the Bible and in French history. In addition to this, Jean Gerson produced several sermons on deadly sin and especially lust, which he used to condemn the Roman de la Rose.

Christine de Pizan presenting her book to Queen Isabeau of Bavaria, from
Harley MS 4431, f. 3r.

The quarrel was relatively short-lived, lasting only a few years; however, it had a major impact on literature and manuscript production. Not only did it inspire one of the most enduring works of medieval literature—the Cité des Dames – it also impacted manuscript production. Later, Christine de Pizan solicited the help of the Queen once again, this time for a highly illuminated book that Christine supervised (now Harley MS 4431) which is mainly a compilation of her own works. She presented this manuscript to Isabeau of Bavaria in 1414. Ironically, the above controversy drew attention to the second part of the Roman de la Rose, the part by Jean de Meun. It had been generally neglected by illuminators but from that period onwards it was illuminated more frequently.

Laure Miolo



22 July 2016

Updated List of Digitised Manuscript Hyperlinks

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Saints and monsters and centaurs, oh my! Continuing our tradition of releasing roughly every 3 months an updated list of hyperlinks of ancient, medieval and early modern manuscripts digitised by the British Library, we are pleased to present our most up-to-date list here:  Download List of Digitised Manuscripts Hyperlinks, July 2016 . For our long-term followers who are interested only in the manuscripts uploaded since the March hyperlist was made, they can be found at the end of this file:  Download July 2016 Updated Hyperlinks Masterlist. You can find all our digitised content on the British Library's Digitised Manuscripts site.

The past few months have seen some major releases on Digitised Manuscripts. We are now close to digitising almost 1500 manuscripts. Highlights of the most recent upload include:

  • A copy of the Gospels translated into Old English, made nearly 1000 years ago.

Opening of St John’s Gospel, from an Old English translation of the Gospels, England (Wessex?), c. 1000–1050, Cotton MS Otho C I/1, f. 70r 

  • The earliest surviving world map which includes a depiction of the British Isles. This manuscript — a scientific miscellany made in England in the mid-11th century — also contains colourful depictions of the labours of the month, of constellations and of the Marvels of the East.

Sagittarius, from a scientific miscellany including Cicero’s Arator, England, 11th century, Cotton MS Tiberius B V/1, f. 37r 

  • A copy of Usuard's Martyrology used at St Augustine's Canterbury and updated there in the 12th and 13th century. One addition commemorates the death of 'Harold, king of the English, and many of our brothers' at the battle of Hastings. 

Historiated initial at the beginning of entries for the month of September, from Usuard's Martyrology, England (St Augustine's, Canterbury), late 11th-early 12th century with later additions, Cotton MS Vitellius C XII/1, f. 139r

This is to name but a few of the recent uploads. And stay tuned: there are many more exciting uploads coming up in the next few months. We’ll publish an updated list in the autumn, but until then please check our Twitter account for announcements about the manuscripts which have most recently been added to Digitised Manuscripts. (Our Twitter account is also good for London Underground-inspired puns and pictures of woodwoses, among other things.)


19 July 2016

Alexander Neckam’s Collections of Prometheus

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You shouldn’t have pressed that button. As the time machine sputters to life, your lab disappears, to be replaced with a forest and stone buildings. A group of monks take you in, and you regain a sense of calmness as you listen to them sing the daily office in the chapel. But what was that word that just came up? Zizania? You reach for your phone, only to remember that the Oxford English Dictionary and the Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources won’t be online for centuries to come. You absolutely need to know what that word means. How will you find out?

Opening of Corrogationes Promethei in Royal MS 5 C V, f. 2r, late 13th to early 14th century.

Opening of Corrogationes Promethei in Royal MS 5 C V, f. 2r, late 13th to early 14th century.

You might turn to Alexander Neckam’s Collections of Prometheus (Corrogationes Promethei), a guide to reading difficult sections of the Bible written around the year 1200. Seven copies of Collections are in the British Library, and two of them can be browsed in full on Digitised Manuscripts: Harley MS 6 and Harley MS 1687. It is divided into two ‘books’. This does not mean that it was physically divided into two physically separate volumes: ancient writers used this term to divide a work into large sections, which in turn could be split into chapters (a tradition that continues to this day, as in The Lord of the Rings). The first section is a compilation of pointers from ancient grammarians such as Priscian, providing a refresher in Latin when you might have forgotten its subtleties. The second part works through the entire Bible in order, giving quotations of unusual passages with a running commentary on their correct interpretation, and notes on typical errors in the hand-copied Bibles of the day.

A fifteenth-century depiction of the fifth-century grammarian Priscian, Burney MS 235, f. 4r.

A 15th-century depiction of the 5th-century grammarian Priscian, Burney MS 235, f. 4r.

This might today seem a rather odd approach for a reference book. We often take the index for granted, but at this time it was still a nascent invention. Works such as Isidore of Sevile’s Etymologies were organized by subject, and required familiarity; readers did not expect to get answers from their books in a matter of seconds. It was not for almost a century that some copies of Alexander’s Collections were rewritten in alphabetical order.

The book was widely loved. There are 38 known manuscripts that survive, and records of another 46 – not quite a blockbuster in medieval terms, but very respectable. After the author’s death, the prior of Malmesbury, known only by the initial ‘S.’, wrote to Walter de Melida, formerly Alexander’s clerk at Cirencester Abbey. One of two copies of the unpublished letter is now in Royal MS 5 C V, f. 57r–v (the other is Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, Latin 11867, f. 240v). He goes into raptures about the book:

Hence, as though entering the porch of Solomon, while I admire the scholastic scenes once handed down – as if through the pleasant greens of my forgotten youth – I energetically admire the scents of flowers which I had thought to have withered in such a man. But the happy storeroom of the memory is to be praised that embraces so many and so great and so different treasures of storehouses, and succeeds in protecting them without decay. This householder should well be called good and rich, who brings forth from new and old things from his treasury, and he should doubtless be called the seat of wisdom; occurrence and fulfilment direct his soul with experience. This is the faithful spouse who keeps every new and old fruit for his beloved, so that he can say with restrained cheerfulness, as if on behalf of his family: ‘We have ripe apples, tender chestnuts, and plenty of pressed cheeses.’ [Virgil, Eclogues 1.80–81]

In spite of the enthusiasm for Alexander’s work, there was immediate confusion about the meaning of the title Corrogationes Promethei. What did Prometheus have to do with grammar? A letter survives with a 13th-century copy of the work glossing the title as ‘collections of a wise or prudent man’ (Évreux, Bibliothèque municipale, MS Latin 72, f. 1v). The most convincing theory is that the title refers to Rhetorica ad Herennium 4.9, the classic textbook on the art of rhetoric. In a quotation that Priscian popularized, it compares Prometheus to a ‘ridiculous master’. As was typical for Alexander Neckam, the title was meant to be self-deprecating and slightly humorous.

— Andrew Dunning (@anjdunning)

14 July 2016

Manuscript the Tube

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Some time ago I was alone in the office on a Friday evening and was left in charge of the @BLMedieval Twitter account. This is sometimes dangerous. Among my sillier inventions is the hashtag #WodewoseWednesday, which created a low-velocity Twitter storm as people sent us images of endearing, furry Wildmen (or Wodewoses) from manuscripts across the world. By the end of that day, Twitter had reduced me to near hysterical giggles and I wondered if I might have to lie down under my desk. 

It all started quite innocently on the Friday in question, when Johan Oosterman @JohanOosterman posted an image of the British Library’s Egerton MS 1900, f. 100r, with the caption ‘Elephant and Castle’. Here is that image, taken from a late 15th-century German travelogue, which describes a journey from Venice to Egypt.

Elephant and castle

Amused by this tweet, I thought of other names of London Tube stations that could be represented by manuscript images. I retweeted the first suggestion and invited people to #manuscriptthetube. The results showed just how inventively people engage with manuscripts that have been made digitally available. It was also a reminder that medieval London is not far from the surface and you do not need to dig deep, not even as deep as a Tube platform, to find its traces. Here, in the most modern of media – digital images representing a modern transport network – was a reminder of the city’s past, of its rich lexicon of medieval place names and the imagination of its inhabitants and an online community further afield.

 Royal 16 F II f73
Earliest known topographically accurate view of London, with the Tower of London and Duke Charles d’Orléans writing in the Tower, from Charles d’Orléans, Poetry and Pseudo-Heloise, Epistles, 'Les demands d'amours', and  'Le livre dit grace entiere', Low Countries (Bruges), c. 1483 (this image) with later additions, c. 1492 – c. 1500, Royal MS 16 F II, f. 73r

Tower of London Underground Ralf Roletschek
A 21st-century view of the Tower of London, photographed by Ralf Roletschek, England (London), 13 October 2010. 

Like many Londoners, I have a great affection for the iconic London Tube map. It’s a masterpiece of design. The map was designed by Henry Beck (1902-1974) in 1932. His innovation was to take some liberties with geography and thereby make the stations appear evenly spaced, ordered and legible. In its broad palette and dovetailing lines it’s a visual representation of all of London’s colour and variety. In many ways, Beck's map is similar to a manuscript like Egerton MS 1900, itself a colourfully illustrated travelogue with some distortions of distance. 

Below is a run-down of some of our favourite tweets which #manuscriptthetube. Please continue to send us your suggestions via @BLMedieval. We've embedded the links to all the original tweets in everyone's Twitter handles. 


A Run-Down of Our Favourites

Some suggestions gestured to the medieval history embedded in London's place names, like this one from Buckland Abbey @BucklandAbbeyNT, for Blackfriars. Blackfriars is named after a community of Dominican monks or ‘black friars’, so called because of the black habit they wore. It was established in 1221 near Lincoln’s Inn. The image here is from @thegetty's MS 107, f. 224r


Some punned on the names of Tube stations, like Acton Town from Susannah Davis @aethelflaed with an image from the Bodleian Library @bodleianlibs MS Auct F 2 13

Acton Town

Harrow on the Hill  station proved to be a rich source of inspiration for Adam @pseudomonas, with an image from our 'Taymouth Hours', ?London, c. 1325-50, Yates Thompson MS 13, f. 68v

Harrow on the hill, YT

Harrow on the Hill got a second outing in my personal favourite of the punning suggestions from @SLevelt, Sjoerd Levelt, with an image from our Speculum humanae salvationis, England, c.1485-1509, Harley MS 2838, f. 33v

  Harrow on the hill

Geoff Griffiths @Cheoffors offered both Baker Street/Baker's Treat and also Pudding Lane with this image from the Getty Museum @theGetty from a mid 13th-century psalter, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. 14, f. 8v


Baker's treat

@Cheoffors also suggested a wonderful image for Heat-throw/Heathrow (All Terminals) from Codex Skylitzes Matritensis, Biblioteca Nacional de Madrid, Vitr. 26-2, Bild-Nr. 77, f.  34 v


Richard Fitch @tudorcook was in playful mood with an image of Arsenal from @MorganLibrary's late 14th-century copy of Jacques de Longuyon's Vows of the Peacock, in MS G 24, f. 25v



And we also loved his suggestion for Hatch End from the Hague's MS MMW 10 B 25, f. 31r

Hatch end


 Commonplace Berk @stambuch was typically witty in his suggestion for Kilburn from the Bodleian Library's Douce MS 332. You can see his other suggestion here (caution advised). 


Others were more literal representations of the names of tube stations, like London Bridge (Mind the gap!) from @DollyJorgensen with an image from our Yates Thompson MS 47, a copy of John Lydgate's Life of Saint Edmund, made in ?Bury St Edmunds, c. 1461-75.

  London bridge


We are thrilled that the Getty Museum @thegetty took up our British challenge and suggested Seven Sisters from an image of Philosophy presenting the seven liberal arts to Boethius by the Coëtivy Master.

Seven sisters

 Geoff Griffiths @Cheoffors also used this image for High Barnet. For our non-British readers, 'barnet' is cockney rhyming slang for 'hair' (it comes from 'Barnet fair') and also means 'head'.

 High barnet

Rayners Lane, from Susannah Davis @aethelflaed was a very British suggestion, with a detail of Croesus from John Lydgate's Fall of Princes, ?Bury St Edmunds, c. 1450-60, Harley MS 1766, f. 133r

H 1766 f133r

And there was a bleak and brilliant humour to her suggestion for Amersham from Add MS 18851, the Breviary of Queen Isabella of Castile, made in Bruges in c. 1497. 


Elephant and Castle  got a second outing from @SophieVHarwood with a detail of the death of Codrus, from Speculum humanae salvationis, England (London), c. 1485-1509, Harley MS 2838

H 2838 f27

C R Stillman-Lowe @SICathy sent us this lovely angel for, um, Angel from the 'Taymouth Hours', our Yates Thompson MS 13


C R Stillman-Lowe @SICathy also tagged some bemused-looking barons for Barons Court, with a detail of Merlin standing before King Arthur, from the Lancelot-Grail (The Prose Vulgate Cycle), Northern France (Saint-Omer or Tournai), 1316, Add MS 10292, f. 200v 

Tw Add 10292 f200v

@DollyJorgensen was on fine form, suggesting Hammersmith with detail of a blacksmith, from a fragmentary Book of Hours, England (London), c. 1320 - c. 1330, Harley MS 6563, f. 68   

H 6563 f68v

I loved some of the madder ones. Like this suggestion of Oval from Anthony Bale @RealMandeville. Yep, it's a wound. 


Our very own @julianpharrison gave us Fulham Broadway (or possibly Tott[ering]ham Court Road?). No we didn't get it either, but we thought we should put it up in any case to keep him happy. And it does depict a pig on stilts, from Jean Froissart's Chroniques (the 'Harley Froissart'), Low Countries (Bruges), c. 1470-1472, Harley MS 4379, f. 19v

H 4379 f19v

Finally, Erik Kwakkel @erik_kwakkel gave us a very witty suggestion which gestured to the history of our collection. He suggested Burnt Oak, with an image of some of the charred fragments of manuscripts destroyed in the Cotton Fire. You can read about the terrible fire which destroyed part of the library's Cotton collection here

Burnt oak

 Which are your favourite entries from #manuscriptthetube? We'd love to hear your suggestions: please tweet us @BLMedieval or leave a comment below this blogpost.





Susan Reed @sureed67 reminded us that Saint Pancras was 'Beheaded by the Emperor. So you could say the King was Cross with St Pancras'. Find out more about who this king, or rather emperor, was and why he was cross with St Pancras,  by checking out our St Pancras' Day blog post).

Detail Royal 2 B VII f. 249v

Detail of St Pancras and the Emperor Diocletian, from Queen Mary Psalter, England (Westminster or East Anglia?), c. 1310-1320, Royal MS 2 B VII, f. 249v

11 July 2016

Robert of Cricklade: Why I Write

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The problem of whether to write something new or dig something up from the past is perennial. As Ecclesiastes puts it, ‘There is no end to the writing of books, and much study is wearisome.’ This was especially a problem for medieval writers, from whom we have inherited a concern for demonstrating the authorities supporting our assertions. Some intellectuals in the Middle Ages wondered whether there was any purpose in writing at all, given the wealth of books already available.

Robert of Cricklade thought otherwise. Born in Wiltshire, he was first a teacher, later becoming an Augustinian canon (halfway between a monk and a secular priest) at nearby Cirencester Abbey. Around 1138/9, he was put in charge of St Frideswide’s Priory in Oxford, much of which still stands today as part of Christ Church. One of five copies of his unpublished book On the Marriage of Jacob (De connubio Iacob) is in the British Library.


Robert of Cricklade’s On the Marriage of Jacob, late 12th century, Royal MS 8 E II, f. 1.

Robert was an indefatigable supporter of contemporary writers. He asserts that if others think he should stop writing, perhaps they were merely jealous. He offers a challenge: Do you want me to pay attention to you? Then give me something to read (Royal MS 8 E II, f. 49r–v):

Let them call to mind that it is written, ‘jealousy slays the simple’ [Job 5:2], those namely who in being jealous prove that they are lesser than those of whom they are jealous. If they grieve that I write, let them also write, and I will certainly read their writings, as it is said, ‘with a bowed head’ [Horace, Saturae 3.80], as theirs; I read now those who write now, not being jealous and disparaging, but giving thanks that thus far ‘the Lord’ has not, as the prophet says, ‘forsaken the land’ [Ezekiel 8:12, 9:9], since even in our age people may be found who can stir us up to love of his sayings and writings.

For I also read the writings of the venerable abbot of Clairvaux that came into our hands; and I not only read the splendid work of the man of highest erudition, William, monk and cantor of the church of Malmesbury, that he compiled on the Lamentations of Jeremiah, but I also had it written, so that it might be found in our church. I read also his book on the miracles of the most blessed mother of God and perpetual virgin, Mary, which is also found in our church. What shall I say on his compilations from the works of the most blessed Pope Gregory, in which the violent uprooter of sins and loving builder of virtues appears so that in him in a certain way it seems to be fulfilled which is written, ‘See, I have set you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to build and to plant.’ [Jeremiah 1:10] I have not yet read his other works, but I will read them if it should please God and the space of my life is extended. For I am not jealous of writing monks, but I rejoice with them, although I am not a monk, but the most unworthy of the canons of Cirencester of the church of St Mary, the mother of God, under the discipline of the holy and venerable Serlo, the first abbot of the place, praying to God for the remission of their sins.

Robert’s approach was not mere words; although his copies of William of Malmesbury do not survive, some of the other remaining books from Malmesbury and Cirencester show evidence of exchanges between the two locations, only 20 km apart. In Oxford, he wrote a life of St Frideswide that showed the priory’s patron saint as a precocious learner (and far more intelligent than a typical male child). Even after Robert’s death (between 1174 and 1180), his work at Oxford and Cirencester inspired the work of the famous Alexander Neckam (1157–1217).

Robert’s advice holds true for any of us today suffering from writer’s block. Bragging that your talent exceeds even that of J.R.R. Tolkien won’t achieve anything. ‘Nunc lego qui nunc scribunt’ – ‘I read now those who write now’.

— Andrew Dunning (@anjdunning)

09 July 2016

Caption Competition No. 5

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Dear Readers,

It's caption time again! And today (you lucky people) we're giving you not one but two — yes, TWO — chances to exercise your brains/show off to your friends. Over to you!

For inspiration (if you need any), the original images are found in an English Apocalypse manuscript, dating from the 1st quarter of the 14th century (British Library Royal MS 2 D XIII, ff. 18v, 43v).

We look forward to receiving your contributions – the best suggestions will be published on our Twitter account (@BLMedieval) in the next few days.







Update (13 July)

We received some fantastic suggestions for our latest caption competition. Thank you so much to everyone who contributed: here is a small selection of our favourites.

Caption 1

@keithedkins OK Jeremy, you've had long enough, here are my 50 nominations to stand against you

@julianpharrison Thank goodness you've brought the toilet paper

Caption 2

@obrienatrix Early experimental stages: how the hole got in the #medievaldonut

@tudorcook Oh and that's a poor effort from the Heavenly Host team in this first round of the shot putt!