Medieval manuscripts blog

Bringing our medieval manuscripts to life

04 January 2014

I Can't Stand the Rain

If you've been in London recently, or anywhere in the United Kingdom for that matter, you may have noticed that it's been extremely wet. Many areas were flooded during heavy storms just before Christmas, and the rains haven't relented. During daylight hours the sky has been an almost permanent shade of grey, and often it's also been blowing a gale, just to rub salt into the wounds.

So, to cheer everyone up, we thought that we'd find you some images of rain from the British Library's medieval manuscript collections. We defy you not to smile at some of these ingenious pictures.


This collection of love sonnets was made in 15th-century Italy, probably Milan, and presented to a lady identified in the text as Mirabel Zucharia. Look at the right-hand margin of the opening page, where you can see a heart on a bonfire, being quenched by the rain. London, British Library, MS King's 322, f. 1r.



Now, you may well ask yourself what's happening here. This is an abridged translation into Middle English of Giovanni Boccaccio's The Fall of Princes. On the page above, Croesus kneels in a fire which is extinguished by the rain pouring from a cloud above. Lucky for him that it was raining! London, British Library, MS Harley 1766, f. 133r.



As if not to be outdone, here is another Italian miniature, this time from a Tuscan copy of Dante's Divina Commedia dating from the 1440s. This illustration is taken from Canto VI, the third circle (of rain, hail, wind and snow, brrrr), and depicts Virgil flinging earth into the jaws of Cerberus. London, British Library, MS Yates Thompson 36, f. 11r.



Finally, what's this? Heavens above, it's the sun! We'd almost forgotten what that looked like. From the aptly-named Splendor solis. May the sun shine on you, wherever you are! London, British Library, MS Harley 3469, f. 2r.

You can search for all these manuscripts on our Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts. Have fun!

Julian Harrison


Thanks for really does cheer one up to see the interesting perspectives on rain throughout the ages.

Interesting perspectives on a timeless subject.


Happy New Year. My NY resolution will be to read your posts as they arrive. This one is a lot of fun; thank you.

I have been looking at a manuscript from Prince Edward (Edward III) aged 13 to Princess Philippa (aged 12) illustrated with a series of pictures of a horse that become a bishop and then gets carried away, the poor thing eventually ends up being cast into Hell. It has the most lovely love story attached to the origins of this manuscript which is written in old French. I have posted the pictures and love story on my blog

I need some help to untangle the story - I am neither a scholar or a French Speaker. Someone is working on a translation for me, but perhaps this is a good one for some group think?

I would be intersted in your thoughts


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