26 May 2016
On this day in AD 735 the Venerable Bede died in his monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow in Anglo-Saxon Northumbria. Bede is most famous for his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, and is often affectionately known as the father of English history. However, this text was written at the end of a long career, in which Bede wrote many works on hagiography, natural science and theology. When another monk of Wearmouth-Jarrow wrote an account of Bede’s death, he described how Bede continued with his scholarly pursuits right up until his final moments. On the anniversary of Bede’s death, it seems fitting to explore some of Bede’s greatest hits, which can be found within the British Library’s manuscript collections.
Beginning of the second book from Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, England (Wearmouth-Jarrow?), c. 775-825, Cotton MS Tiberius A XIV, f. 39r
The Ecclesiastical History of the English People survives in a number of copies here at the British Library. Our earliest copy of the text can be dated to the late 8th century or the beginning of the 9th century, having been made in the decades after Bede’s death. Although this manuscript was damaged in the Ashburnham House fire in 1731, it is still possible to see ornate features such as the decorated initials above which begin book 2 of the History.
Bede’s work was widely copied within a few years of his death and for centuries thereafter. The British Library has a lavishly illuminated, early 9th-century manuscript of the Ecclesiastical History from Southumbria (Cotton MS Tiberius C II), which will soon be available in full on Digitised Manuscripts. We have also recently uploaded a 10th-century copy of the Ecclesiastical History to Digitised Manuscripts (Royal MS 13 C V).
Page from an Old English translation of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, England, late 9th or early 10th century, Cotton MS Domitian A IX, f.11r
The British Library also holds several fragments of an Old English translation of the Ecclesiastical History written in the late 9th or early 10th century, including the recently digitised fragment in Cotton MS Domitian A IX. It is not known exactly when the Ecclesiastical History was first translated into Old English, although it is thought to have been part of King Alfred of Wessex’s programme to provide the ‘books most needful for men to know’ in English in the late 9th century.
St Cuthbert greeting King Ecgfrith, from Bede’s Prose Life of Cuthbert, England (Durham), c. 1175-1200, Yates Thompson MS 26, f. 51r
Bede is also well known for writing biblical commentaries, hagiographies, and poems on religious subjects (such as the recently digitised Add MS 11034). These include both a prose and a verse Life of St Cuthbert. A number of manuscripts of Bede's Lives of St Cuthbert were recently uploaded to Digitised Manuscripts, including a 12th-century manuscript which contains a number of well-known illustrations to the text (Yates Thompson MS 26).
Image of a scribe, perhaps Bede, from Yates Thompson MS 26, f. 2r
In this same manuscript, the preface to the prose Life of St Cuthbert includes a miniature of a scribe writing at a desk. As it accompanies the preface, the figure within this drawing is often thought to be Bede himself.
Bede’s scholarly interests were not limited to history, hagiography and theology; he also wrote a number of works describing the natural world. He was the first European to note the relationship between the moon and the tides and he was skilled in very complex forms of mathematics. One of these works was entitled On the Nature of Things, and includes chapters on the creation of the world, and descriptions of astronomical and metrological features. The page above is taken from a 10th-century fragment of this text.
Page from Bede’s De temporibus illustrated with zodiac symbols, England, c. 1244, Egerton MS 3088, f. 16v
Bede wrote a brief introduction to the subject of computus, which was designed to give its readers basic knowledge of the methods of calculating the date of Easter. This was a tricky subject in Bede’s day, and in this work he used simple Latin and short sentences in order to make the text accessible to a beginner. Pictured above is a 13th-century English copy of the text, and is accompanied by an illustration of four zodiac figures; Aries, Gemini, Taurus, and Cancer.
Page from Bede's De temporibus illustrated with a diagram of the sun, moon, earth and planets, Egerton MS 3088 f. 17v
In addition to these other works, Bede wrote a number of letters throughout his life. The letter on the page below is a 12th-century copy of a letter written by Bede to Bishop Ecgberht of York only a few months before Bede’s death in May 735. In this letter, Bede is heavily critical of the current state of the Northumbrian Church and outlines various ways in which it could be reformed. Within this letter, Bede explains to Ecgberht that he is writing a letter because he is physically unable to travel to York in order to speak to Ecgberht in person. This gives some sense of Bede’s declining health in the months before his death.
Beginning of Bede's letter to Ecgberht, England (Durham), c. 1100-1150, Harley MS 4688, f. 89r
Cuthbert, a monk from Wearmouth-Jarrow, wrote an account of Bede’s death in the form of a letter. This letter can often be found in manuscripts of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History such as Harley MS 3680, copied in the 12th century. In his account of Bede’s death Cuthbert included a short poem, which he claimed was composed by Bede in Old English upon his deathbed. The poem translates as:
Facing that enforced journey, no man can be
More prudent than he has good call to be,
If he consider, before his going hence,
What for his spirit of good hap or of evil
After his day of death shall be determined.
Trans. J. McClure and R. Collins (eds), The Ecclesiastical History of the English People (Oxford, 1994), p. 301
Image of Bede from Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, England (East Anglia?), c. 1375- 1406, Arundel MS 74, f.2v
Cuthbert described how, upon hearing this poem, he and his fellow monks shared in Bede’s sorrow. He claims that they ‘read and wept by turns’ or wept continually as they read. Their reaction demonstrates that Bede was heavily valued as a scholar and a teacher at Wearmouth-Jarrow. Perhaps there are also a few modern readers of this blog who will shed a little tear on this anniversary of Bede’s death.
23 May 2016
The British Library’s Digitised Manuscripts website reveals a number of remarkable things in the text and decoration of over 1460 complete manuscripts (and counting). One thing Digitised Manuscripts cannot show you, however, is the actual size of the manuscripts, since our viewer is limited by the size of your screen. Medieval book-makers did not have those limitations, and the British Library’s manuscripts come in all shapes and sizes.
We recently uploaded a two-volume Anglo-Saxon Bible to Digitised Manuscripts (Royal MS 1 E VII and Royal MS 1 E VIII). These volumes are notable for a number of reasons: first, they form one of only two more or less complete Bibles which were made in England before 1066 and which still survive. Secondly, they are remarkable for their large size, measuring 570 x 350 mm (making it the size of a small child). Here’s one of these volumes next to a 22 cm ruler.
Front cover of the Royal Bible vol. 2, Royal MS 1 E VIII
Many of the British Library’s largest manuscripts are Bibles or liturgical manuscripts. This makes sense, given these texts’ spiritual importance and the role they might have been expected to play in ceremonies and impressive performances. Other texts exist in large formats, too. Cotton MS Augustus V—which recently travelled to the Everlasting Flame exhibition in New Delhi—contains the Trésor des histoires, a middle French version of an anonymous historical compilation in prose from Creation to the pontificate of Clement VI, with other 14th-century texts interpolated. Like many luxurious manuscripts, it was designed to express the social status of its owner. Such manuscripts were sometimes copied more to be seen than read. Cotton Augustus V was made in Bruges and measures an impressive 480 x 230 mm. Its elaborate fifty-five miniatures show a special concern for the treatment of light. This manuscript was part of King Henry VIII of England’s library: it is the 'item 23' in the 1535 Richmond Palace booklist (February 1535). Its size, the high quality of illumination and script, and the rarity of the text make it a perfect example of a deluxe manuscript intended to display the King’s treasures at court.
At the other end of the scale—literally—the British Library recently acquired a very small manuscript, known as the Taverner Prayerbook (Add MS 88991). Probably made for Anne Seymour (b. c. 1497, d. 1587), Countess of Hertford and later Duchess of Somerset, this manuscript contains a number of prayers and beautifully detailed illumination on pages measuring only 70 x 52 mm.
The Taverner Prayerbook, Add MS 88991, with a 22-cm ruler
But the Taverner Prayerbook is by no means the smallest manuscript in the British Library’s collection. For example, the tiny Stowe MS 956 may have been worn on a necklace or girdle and is only slightly bigger than a modern postage stamp.
Portrait of Henry VIII, from Psalms in English Verse, South East England, c. 1540, Stowe MS 956, ff. 1v-2r
In between these, there are many other interestingly shaped manuscripts at the British Library, from long thin almanacs designed to be worn on belts to the earliest surviving ‘pocket-sized’ English law book (Cotton MS Nero A I) to the recently acquired St Cuthbert Gospel (Add MS 89000). That handy manuscript is just slightly larger than a person's palm.
The St Cuthbert Gospel, England (Wearmouth-Jarrow), early 8th century, Add 89000
You can see the St Cuthbert Gospel and many of the other manuscripts mentioned in this post on Digitised Manuscripts, but remember to check the dimensions listed in the 'Full Display' page: size matters!
Laure Miolo and Alison Hudson
10 May 2016
The Cycle of Alexander the Great, a group of stories surrounding the great hero of antiquity, is dealt with at length in H.L.D. Ward’s Catalogue of Romances in the British Museum, along with other legends with classical origins: Apollonius of Tyre, The Destruction of Jerusalem and The Prophecy of the Tenth Sybil. Some of our most beautifully illuminated manuscripts of the Roman d’Alexandre and the Histoire Ancienne, containing the legends of Alexander the Great, have been fully digitised, including Additional MS 15268, produced in Acre in the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the late 13th century.
The Amazons surrendering to Alexander on his throne, Histoire Universelle, Acre, late 13th-century, Additional MS 15268, f. 203r
Also digitised are Add MS 19669, Royal MS 20 D I, Royal MS 19 D I and perhaps the most famous of our Alexander manuscripts, Royal MS 20 B XX, which featured in our very popular blogpost Lolcats of the Middle Ages. The young Alexander is often depicted with his father, Philip II of Macedonia, accompanying him on his campaigns.
Philip and Alexander discussing envoys; Philip and Alexander setting out against Armenia; Pausanias and others marching against Philip, Roman d’Alexandre en prose, France, 1333-1340, Royal MS 19 D I, ff. 7v-8r
No earlier forebears are mentioned. In time, though, a popular hero like Alexander needed to have more than one illustrious ancestor, and so a prequel involving a fearless hero, Florimont, his paternal grandfather, came to light.
Aimon de Varennes, a native of Chatillon d’Azergues in the Lyonnais district of France, claims to have unearthed the tale of Florimont during a trip to Philippopolis (now Plovdiv, Bulgaria) in the late 12th century. He may have in fact travelled to that part of the world, but his assertion that he translated the text from Greek to Latin and then into French appears to be fictive, though he retains certain ‘Greek’ words, which in fact demonstrate a very elementary knowledge of the language. The author’s intentions and his claims as to the origins of the tale are laid out at the beginning of the text in Harley MS 4487, one of the manuscripts of the text in the British Library:
Aymez….Fist le Rommans si sagement Aymon conceived the romance well
(f. 3r: column 1, lines 8-9)
Il lavoit en grece veue He had seen it in Greece
A Phelippole la trova He found it in Philippolis
A chastillon len aporta Brought it to Chatillon
Ainsi com il lavoit enpris As he had learned it
Lat de latin en romanz mis He changed it from Latin into Romance
Opening folio with author’s name and 14th century ownership inscription, 'Pierre Derloit prestre ?Corodathis' in the lower margin, Florimont, France, East (?Lotharingia), 1295, Harley MS 4487, f. 3r
The romance of Florimont is in two parts, beginning with the story of the original King Philip I of Macedonia, whose daughter and heiress, Romadanaple married Florimont (‘flower of the world’), son of Mataquas, Duke of Albania. Their son, Philip II, married Olympias and was father to Alexander the Great.
Olympias giving birth to Alexander the Great, with two eagles on the roof of the palace (foretelling Alexander's two empires in Europe and Asia), Netherlands, S. (Bruges); c. 1485 – 1490, Royal MS 20 C III f. 15r
In some versions of the legend, Nectanebus, the last pharaoh, is involved in Alexander’s conception, as depicted in this miniature from a manuscript of the Roman d’Alexandre en Prose.
The conception of Alexander, with Nectanebus in the form of a dragon, flying over Queen Olympias and King Philip in bed, Roman d’Alexandre en prose, France, N. or Netherlands, S., 1st quarter of the 14th century, Royal MS 20 A V, f. 6r
The second part of the story tells of Florimont’s victory over the monster terrorising his father’s kingdom and his love for the enchantress of the Isle of Celée, which causes him to reject his birth-right and travel to Albania under the name Pauvre Perdu (Poor lost boy). We do not have an image of Florimont, but here is one of his grandson, Alexander, fighting monsters:
He defeats Camdiobras, king of Hungary, enemy of Mataquas of Albania, and is awarded the hand of his daughter, Romadanaple, together with his lands, which he unites with his own.
Ward’s Catalogue lists two manuscripts of the Romance of Florimont in the British Library. Both have recently been digitised, as, although they are not illustrated, they are important early copies of the text and contain examples of the south-eastern dialect of French. The earliest of the two manuscripts, Harley MS 4487, is dated to 1295 in the scribal colophon and on the previous page the author states that French is not his mother tongue:
As fransois voel de tant server
Que ma langue lor est sauvage
(f. 85v: column 2, lines 13 and 14)
The penultimate folio of Florimont, France, East (?Lotharingia), 1295, Harley MS 4487, f. 85v
The later Harley MS 3983 is written in a neat Gothic cursive of the early 14th century with decorated initials and flourishes in the upper margin.
Text page from Florimont with decorated initials at ‘A lostel le povre perdu’ and ‘Romanadaple la pucelle’, France, 1323, Harley MS 3983, f. 34r
Florimont is followed by a French minstrel’s chronicle known as the Récits d’un ménestrel de Reims that begins with the conquest of Antioch by Godefroi de Bouillon and ends with the death of the eldest son of St Louis, King of France, in 1260, including a fable relating to Ysengrin the wolf and Renard the Fox. The manuscript is dated to 1323 in the scribal colophon at the end of the Florimont text.
Last folio with colophon, Florimont, France, 1323, Harley MS 3983, f. 81v
There are close to 20 surviving manuscripts of Florimont including several in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France with miniatures illustrating the text.
30 April 2016
Looking for a story about an exiled princess who married a count called Drogo? Forget Daenerys: the real story revolves around Godgifu.
Initial B from a Gospel-book, England (Canterbury?), 11th century, Royal MS 1 D III, f. 9r
The British Library has recently digitised an intriguing 11th-century Gospel-book. This manuscript is full of surprises: a red-eyed figure pops out of an arcade surrounding some canon tables. An initial in red and orange decorated with criss-crossed and curly patterns jumps out at the start of the Pater Noster. In other parts, the manuscripts seems to be unfinished, with blank spaces left for initials which were never completed. And at the bottom of a page with a giant initial ‘B’, a 13th-century monk left a useful note, which claims that this 'text [belongs to] the church at Rochester, through Countess Goda.’
Canon tables, from Royal MS 1 D III, f. 4r
‘Countess Goda’ can probably be identified with Edward the Confessor’s sister, called Godgifu or Gode. Although she was the daughter of Æthelred the Unready and Emma of Normandy, little is known about Godgifu herself. Like her brothers, she probably spent some time in exile on the Continent in the years before and after her father’s death in 1016. At some point, she married Drogo (sometimes spelled Dreux), count of Vexin, with whom she had three sons, including Walter (or Gautier) of Vexin and Ralph the Timid, Count of Hereford, who accompanied his uncle Edward the Confessor to England and supported Edward throughout his reign. When Drogo died in 1035, Godgifu married Eustace II, count of Boulogne. It is not known when Godgifu died: some scholars suggest she predeceased her brother Edward the Confessor. She should not be confused with her contemporary who was also called Lady Godgifu—or Lady Godiva—who allegedly rode naked through Coventry to protest a toll imposed by her husband Leofric, Earl of Mercia. (At least, that is what the 13th-century chronicler Roger of Wendover claimed.)
Pater Noster, from Royal MS 1 D III, f. 23v
While Godgifu left England, her manuscript did not, or at least not permanently. The book was in an Anglo-Norman environment by the end of the 11th-century, when an ‘Exultet’ with musical notation was added to the opening pages. Although the text is written in a style associated with English scribes, musicologists have suggested that the music represents the Norman version of the melody.
Exultet with musical notation, England (Canterbury?), late 11th century, Royal MS 1 D III, f. 7v
The book may have stayed with one of Godgifu’s former manors. After Godgifu’s manor of Lambeth was given to Rochester Cathedral by William Rufus, the book may have been taken to the Cathedral, where it was recorded in the list of books copied or acquired by Alexander, the precentor, soon after 1201.
Detail of a library inscription, England (Rochester), c. 1201, Royal MS 1 D III, f. 9r
Although little is known about Godgifu today, her name evidently meant something to the 13th-century member of the Rochester community who chose to inscribe it. And while librarians never encourage writing in books, scholars are indebted to this anonymous scribe for giving us a glimpse into the world of Godgifu.
07 April 2016
by Chantry Westwell
Spring is in the air and April is upon us, so it is high time for a floral gift to our readers. Here it is: all 14 of our Roman de la Rose manuscripts have now been fully digitised and are or will soon be available online at Digitised Manuscripts.
Detail of the God of Love locking the Lover's heart with a large gold key, from Roman de la Rose, France (Paris), c. 1380, Additional MS 42133, f. 15r
The ‘Roman de la Rose’, the most famous allegorical love poem of all time, was composed in France in the thirteenth century, at the height of the age of chivalry and courtly love. It was a best-seller in the Middle Ages, with over 300 manuscripts surviving from the 13th to the 16th centuries (many more than Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales). This work exerted a strong influence on literature in France and beyond: Dante, Petrarch, Gower and Chaucer were well acquainted with it and the latter’s Middle English ‘Romaunt de la Rose’ is a partial translation.
Historiated initial 'M'(aintes) of the lovers sleeping, with a full border bar border at the beginning of the Roman de la Rose, France (Paris), 15th century, Royal MS 19 B XII, f. 2r
Our collections are representative of the types of Rose manuscripts produced, mainly in France: some have extensive cycles of miniatures and others, for more modest patrons, have little or no decoration. Below, a page from one of the most lavishly illuminated copies, made in Bruges, is compared to a plainer manuscript from France; both were produced in the 15th century.
Miniature of the Lover outside the Castle of Jealousy, where Bel Accueil (Fair Welcome) is imprisoned by Jealousy, from Roman de la Rose, Netherlands (Bruges), c. 1500, Harley MS 4425, f. 39r
Text page with decorated initials from the Roman de la Rose, France, 1st quarter of the 15th century, Royal 20 D VII, f. 39r
The first part of the Roman de la Rose, by Guillaume de Lorris, consists of about 4030 lines composed between 1225 and 1245 and tells of the Lover’s dream in which he is let into the garden by Oiseuse (Idleness), and there he takes part in a carole or dance, meets representatives of the courtly virtues, including Amour and Doux Regard (Sweet glance) and sees the fountain where Narcissus fell in love with his own image and perished. Narcissus and the fountain is a popular subject with artists, featuring in most series of Rose illuminations
Detail of Narcissus at the fountain, from Roman de la Rose, France (Paris), c. 1320-1340, Royal MS 20 A XVII, f. 14v
The Lover with a rosebud at Narcissus’ fountain, from the Roman de la Rose, France, 14th century, Additional MS 31840, f. 14r
The above are two of our earliest Rose manuscripts, dated to the first half of the 14th century, while the one below is from the second half of that century.
Narcissus and his reflection in the water, Roman de la Rose, France (Paris), c. 1380, Egerton MS 881, f. 11r
Finally in a late 15th-century representation the Lover sees the rose bush reflected in the fountain:
Narcissus and the fountain, Roman de la Rose, France (Paris), 1475-1500, Egerton MS 2022, f. 22v
The Lover is wounded by the arrows of Amour, falling hopelessly in love with the Rose and embarks on a quest to win her love, but she is guarded by Danger, Fear and Jealousy, who erects a castle around the Rose bush (see the image above from Harley MS 4425), and imprisons Bel Acueil, his sweet accomplice. Here the section by Guillaume de Lorris ends abruptly.
Bel Acueil imprisoned in the castle, Roman de la Rose, France (Paris) 1320-1340, Royal MS 19 B XIII, f. 31v
Jean de Meun’s continuation, consisting of some 17,700 lines, takes up the Lover’s quest, but adds long digressions on morality and a variety of topics of contemporary interest such as free will, the influence of heavenly bodies and the increasing power of the friars in medieval society. Examples from history and legend are invoked to instruct the Lover and to illustrate the topics covered. The story of Pygmalion and the statue is included, recalling de Lorris’ reference to the legend of Narcissus.
Paulin Paris, the 19th-century manuscript scholar and French academician, dated de Meun’s composition to before 1285, as in it he refers to Charles of Anjou, who died in that year, as King of Sicily.
The romance ends with the Lover achieving his goal of attaining the Rose, as depicted in this 15th-century manuscript.
The Lover and the Rose, Roman de la Rose, France, 15th century, Additional MS 12042, f. 166r
The contents are summed up in the final couplet:
Explicit le Romaunt de la Rose / Ou lart d’amor est tout enclose.
Here ends the Romance of the Rose, where everything about the art of love is included.
28 March 2016
What are these Easter bunnies (or hares) hurrying towards?
Detail of hares, from Roman de la Rose, France, c. 1325-1375, Add MS 31840, f. 3
An updated list of all the early and medieval manuscripts digitised in full by the British Library! Every quarter, we try to publish a list of all the medieval manuscripts uploaded to the British Library’s Digitised Manuscripts website. The most recent list can be found here: Download List of Digitised BL AMEMM Manuscripts by Shelfmark, March 2016. And, by special request from our friends on Twitter, a list of manuscripts with the most recent digitisations at the end can be found here: Download List of Digitised BL AMEMM Manuscripts with More Recent Uploads at the End, March 2016.
Riddle about an elephant, from Aldhelm’s Riddles, England (Canterbury?), c. 970-1020, Royal MS 12 C XXIII, f. 100v
Particular highlights uploaded in the past three months include:
All 4 of the British Library’s copies of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
2 collections of material related to the cult of St Cuthbert
One 1,000-year-old collection of riddles (Royal MS 12 C XXIII).
Miniature of Christ appearing to Margaret of York, from the Dialogue de la Duchesse, Low Countries (Brussels), c. 1468-1477, Add MS 7970, f. 1v
With several different digitisation projects under way, new manuscripts are regularly uploaded to Digitised Manuscripts. In order to get the latest news about our digitisation, please consult our Twitter page, www.twitter.com/blmedieval, where we announce the most recent uploads to Digitised Manuscripts.
18 March 2016
by Becky Lawton
This week sees the arrival online of the manuscript containing the ‘Wulfstan’s Letter Book’, which has been digitised as part of our Anglo-Saxon manuscripts digitisation project. The manuscript (Cotton Vespasian A XIV) is a compilation of three sections, written in the 11th and 12th centuries.
Page for February from a calendar, South Wales?, c. 1150-1200, Cotton MS Vespasian A XIV, f. 1v
The first section of this manuscript is believed to have been written in south-eastern Wales, and contains a calendar, a Latin-Old Cornish glossary containing over 300 words and a collection of saints lives. The page above is taken from the calendar page for February, and it features the feast day for St Brigid at the top of the page. Dedicated followers of the blog may remember some interesting aspects from the Life of St Brigid from a post on her feast day, 1 February.
An extract from the Libellus Responsionem in Bede, Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum, England, c. 1130-1170, Cotton MS Vespasian A XIV, f. 109r
The second section of the manuscript is a selection of extracts from ‘The Ecclesiastical History of the English Church and People’, completed by Bede in 731. The extracts in this manuscript were copied in the mid-12th century; but a copy of Bede’s text made in the late 8th or early 9th century was uploaded to Digitised Manuscripts last month.
Extract of a letter from Alcuin to King Æthelred of Northumbria, from the Letter Book of Archbishop Wulfstan, England, c. 1002-1023, Cotton MS Vespasian A XIV , f. 114r
The final section in this manuscript is commonly known as the ‘Wulfstan Letter Book’. This text is a collection of letters written by Alcuin of York (c.735-804), which was compiled by Archbishop Wulfstan of York (d.1023) in the early 11th century. Alcuin was raised and educated at the church of York before moving to the court of Charlemagne in Francia in the 790s. Alcuin did not forget his fellow Englishmen, and sent many letters back to Anglo-Saxon England. Chief among his correspondents were the monks at York and King Æthelred of Northumbria, who is the recipient of the letter on the page above. Alcuin wrote to Æthelred to advise him on how to combat the Viking invasions of the time and how best to rule his kingdom. Archbishop Wulfstan also had connections to York, lived during a time of Danish invasions in England, and his king was also named Æthelred. Wulfstan may have found the advice in Alcuin’s letters helpful in his own day, and perhaps had them copied for this very reason.
Extract of a letter from Alcuin to King Æthelred of Northumbria, Cotton MS Vespasian A XIV, f. 117r
On some pages it is possible to see sections that have been highlighted by a pointing hand or underlining. It is commonly thought that these annotations were made by Archbishop Wulfstan himself, owing to his close associations with the manuscript.
Extract of a letter from Alcuin to King Æthelhred of Northumbria, Cotton Vespasian A XIV, f. 116v.
Many of the phrases which were underlined or pointed to contain advice on good kingship and how to rule a good, Christian kingdom, in order to prevent the Viking invasions. Wulfstan’s specific interest in these passages may reflect his concerns for the behaviour of his own king and the state of the kingdom of England.
Verses written in Archbishop Wulfstan's own hand, Cotton MS Vespasian A XIV, f. 148v
After compiling his collection of Alcuin’s letters, Wulfstan added a number of other items to the manuscript. On f. 148v is a poem, which includes Archbishop Wulfstan’s name six times. This poem is thought to have been written in Wulfstan’s own hand, rather than by a scribe.
Discover a beautifully illuminated single volume Latin Vulgate Bible produced at Alcuin's monastery of Tours in the 9th century.
20 February 2016
King Priam of Troy sends his son, Paris, to Greece. Grand Chroniques de France, Paris, c. 1320-30, Royal MS 16 G VI, vol. 1, f. 4v
It's that time of year. London Fashion Week began today. To celebrate, we have decided to republish an important op-ed piece we published 18 months ago. We were delighted to see some medieval inspired looks at the Dior Fall '17 couture show, which we suspect was inspired by the V&A's Opus Anglicanum show. However, we feel there is more to be made of the marriage of fashion and medieval culture.
Here’s a run-down of some looks we want to see next season.
- The Wimple/Barbette
It hasn’t been on-trend since c.1550, but we think it’s time it made a come-back. Team with killer heels for maximum impact.
Detail from La Somme le roy, France, late 13th century, Add MS 28162, f. 9v
A scalloped hem will give your wimple a more relaxed feel. Perfect for a first date.
Detail from a historiated initial, Israelites consulting the Lord, from a Bible, England, ?London, c. 1400-25, Royal 1 E IX, f. 56v
- Statement Headpieces
The fascinator has had its day. Millinery needs to get theatrical.
Detail of the queen of Macedon and her ladies from ‘Histoire d’Alexandre le Grande', Paris, late 1420s, Royal MS 20 B XX, f. 7r
Experiment with diaphanous fabrics for an improbable, wind-defying look.
Jean de Courcy is led form the Forest of Temptation by the Seven Virtues from 'Chemin de vaillance', Bruges, Master of the White Inscriptions, late 1470s, Royal MS 14 E II, f. 194r
Offset a linear silhouette with head-wear more suited to bee-keeping.
Lady out hunting, Alphonso Psalter, England, c. 1281-4, Add MS 24686, f. 13v
Even a monochrome outfit can be made to stand out with some serious underpinning.
Detail of Christine de Pizan presenting her work to Louis of Orléans from 'The Collected Works of Christine de Pizan', Paris c. 1415, Harley MS 4431, f.95r
3. Upsized Outfits
Outfits? The attire of one person? It’s starting to look at bit dated. We want to see clothing put together with an eye for a person’s surroundings. For example, stockings should be matched to the robes of nearby bishops.
The Coronation Book of Charles V of France, Master of the Coronation Book of Charles V, Paris, 1365, Cotton Tiberius B VIII f. 48r
Or your horse.
Sir Geoffrey Luttrell, mounted, being assisted by his wife and daughter-in-law, The Luttrell Psalter, Northern England (Diocese of Lincoln), c. 1325-50, Add MS 42130, f. 202v
4. The Bocking
We’re calling it the Bocking. It’s the stocking-boot. The shoe-boot (shoot) was big on the high street recently, but this year we want it to be all about the continuous sharp-toed stocking-boot.
The longer the toe, the better. Preferably so long, your shoe extends into the personal space of people nearby or over the lip of an image frame.
(Left) Le Songe du vergier, Paris , Master of the Bible of Jean de Sy, c. 1378, Royal MS 19C IV, f 1v
(Right) Detail, Philippe de Mézières presenting his treatise to Richard II of England. Philippe de Mézières, 'Epistre au roi Richart', France, 1395-6, Royal MS 20 B VI, f.2
5. Beards: Bigstyle.
The hipster beard is big right now, but it can be bigger. Think beard meets onesie.
A Wildman (Wodewose) from the Genealogy of the Infante Dom Fernando of Portugal, Lisbon and Bruges, Antonio de Holanda and Simon Bening, 1530-4, Add MS 12531 f. 1
~ Mary Wellesley
The Fashion-Show in 1547
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