A Calendar Page for May 2017
Spring has well and truly sprung — let’s celebrate with a look at the calendar pages for May in everyone’s favourite Additional MS 36684! For more information on the manuscript, take a peek at January’s post, and for an excellent general guide to medieval calendars, please see our original calendar post from 2011.
Calendar pages for May, from a Book of Hours, St Omer or Théouranne, c. 1320, Add MS 36684, ff. 5v–6r
While May doesn’t have quite as many frolicking nude figures as April, there is still plenty of fun going on. The labour of the month showcases the traditional aristocratic pastime of falconry (or hawking), with a gentleman astride his horse, a falcon perched on his right hand. A popular sport for the moneyed upper classes and royalty, falconry entailed using trained birds of prey to hunt small animals, and remained an elite status symbol for centuries.
Falconry, Add MS 36684, f. 5v
The marginal figures next to the falconer are the usual mash-up of animal and human hybrids, save for the man labouring at the bottom of the margin. As the page has been cut down some point after the manuscript was made, we can only guess what activity he might be up to.
Detail of marginalia, Add MS 36684, f. 5v
The zodiac symbol for May is Gemini, represented by a pair of human twins. In Additional MS 36684, the twins are — as was typical — partially nude, their lower halves modestly covered by a large red shield marked by a white bird (perhaps a pelican?). They embrace congenially — everyone is in a good mood in May, when the weather is nice!
Gemini, Add MS 36684, f. 6r
Don’t forget that you can digitally flip through all of Additional MS 36684 online on Digitised Manuscripts. See you back here on 1 June for more fun!