Medieval manuscripts blog

01 September 2017

A calendar page for September 2017

September: school is starting up again (or has already begun, for some of our readers), the weather is cooling off – time to check in with Additional MS 36684! If you’d like to know more about the manuscript, check out January’s post, and for more on medieval calendars, please see our calendar post from 2011. 

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Calendar pages for September, from a Book of Hours, St Omer or Théouranne, c. 1320, Add MS 36684, ff. 9v-10r

While the first page of each month in the Additional MS 36684 calendar has sometimes included an extra scene or two involving a human figure (see, for instance, the bathing woman in July), September’s first page is a riot of animal decoration, a combination of the usual strange hybrids and more realistic-looking birds and rabbits. 

Detail of text noting the feast of Saint Omer, Add MS 36684, f. 9v

Notable on the first page is the red-letter feast day on the 9th of September, the ‘Depositio sancti Audomari’, the deposition (or burial) of St Omer. As remarked in January’s post on the manuscript as a whole, it was probably made in the monastery of Saint-Omer in Northern France, or perhaps in nearby Thérouanne. Regardless, St Omer was clearly important to the recipient of the book of hours, appearing more than once in the calendar.  

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Labour of the month for September, Add MS 36684, f. 9v

The base of the first page includes the labour of the month: a peasant wielding a flail, a tool used in threshing wheat. Wheat threshing involved hitting the wheat so that the edible grain would separate from the inedible husk. The wheat was then bundled up, and we can see our thresher has several neat bundles stacked outside his miniature gothic structure.  

Scorpio, Add MS 36684, f. 10r

As discussed in August’s post, the Additional MS 36684 artist has skipped ahead one month in his zodiac figures, leaving Scorpio (traditionally October-November) to fill in the gilded niche on the second page of September’s calendar. Scorpio is an interesting pastiche of animals: his mammalian head is paired with a serpentine body, and instead of pincers and eight legs, he has only two legs, which end in hooves.  

Remember, you can see Add MS 36684 in full digital glory on our Digitised Manuscripts site. Happy threshing!

Taylor McCall 
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