• Calendar,  Medieval manuscripts

    March from Walters Museum W.425

    Walters Museum W.425 is a fragmentary prayer book. Fortunately, all the calendar images are extant. In the astrological medallion in the border on the left, Aries, the sign of the ram, is featured. The astrological symbol is, again, particularly worn, and I wonder if that’s because someone holding the prayer book open  had a thumb resting there. This March image is the first to feature a “naturalistic” border in the calendar images. On the right is a strawberry, and just below the strawberry, a strawberry blossom. The strawberry, because of the three-lobed leaves was associated with the Trinity, and the white blossoms with purity. The labors of March typically show…

  • Archaeology

    Stonehenge: Monmouth May Have Got it Right

    An ancient myth about Stonehenge, first recorded 900 years ago, tells of the wizard Merlin leading men to Ireland to capture a magical stone circle called the Giants’ Dance and rebuilding it in England as a memorial to the dead. Geoffrey of Monmouth’s account had been dismissed, partly because he was wrong on other historical facts, although the bluestones of the monument came from a region of Wales that was considered Irish territory in his day. Now a vast stone circle created by our Neolithic ancestors has been discovered in Wales with features suggesting that the 12th-century legend may not be complete fantasy. Its diameter of 110 metres is identical…

  • Medieval manuscripts

    February from Walters MS. W.425

    This image from the Walters Art museum fragmentary prayer book MS. 425 f. 2r shows the February calendar with a short list of the saint’s days in February, and in the border on the right, a roundel that the Walter’s description says is Pisces, which is exactly what one would expect, but the image is very worn, suggesting that the ms. was actually used. The February calendar image in Walters MS. W.425 shows a typical labor for February; an outdoor scene of two men cutting wood, a common labor for the month in colder climates. One of the men on the right is using a wedge in a log that…

  • Medieval manuscripts,  Uncategorized

    January from Walters MS. W.425

    This leaf from the Walters Museum prayer book fragment, Walters MS. W.425 f. 1r shows the calendar page for January, with a partial list of saints days in the month. In the border on the right of the page is a small roundel featuring an image of Aquarius, the water-bearer, in the form of a small naked figure (male?) carrying a jug of water in each hand.is The calendar image shows a fairly conventional labor for the month of January. The scene is indoors. A well dressed man is seated at a table, with his back to a fire. The man wears a fur-trimmed robe; the scene looks domestic, suggesting…

  • Calendar

    New Years 2021

    A yere yernes ful yerne, and yeldez neuer lyke, the forme to the fynisment foldez ful selden. —Sir Gawaine and the Grene Knighte Let us hope that this year is an improvement in every single way over 2020. I hope that you and yours are warm and safe and healthy. I hope the same for the U.S. and people everywhere.  

  • Literature,  Music

    I Syng of A Mayden

    “I Syng of a Mayden,” sometimes titled “As Dewe in Aprille” is a Middle English Marian lyric (or perhaps more accurately, a carol) about the virgin Mary, with reference to the Annunciation story in Luke 1:26-38. The Middle English is 15th century, with enough oddities that I hesitate to speculate about the dialect. “I Syng of A Mayden” is preserved in a single British Library manuscript MS Sloane 2593 f.10v, a collection of 71 carols and songs or lyrics on paper, with the exception of a strip of parchment used to mend a folio. The MS. has been damaged; a number of folios are missing from the beginning. The first poem…

  • Archaeology,  Celtic Art & Archaeology

    Exhibition National Museum of Scotland The Galloway Hoard: Viking-age Treasure

    From the exhibit announcement: Bringing together the richest collection of rare and unique Viking-age objects ever found in Britain or Ireland, the internationally significant Galloway Hoard is transforming our understanding of Scotland’s connections with the wider world during this period. The Hoard was buried around AD 900 and contains over 100 diverse objects, from silver, gold and jewelled treasures to rarely surviving textiles, including wool, linen and Scotland’s earliest examples of silk. Discovered by a metal detectorist in Dumfries and Galloway in 2014, the Hoard was allocated to National Museums Scotland in 2017, when a selection of items went on display as part of a fundraising campaign to save it…

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  • Calendar,  Medieval manuscripts

    December from the Hours of Henry VIII

    This image for December from the Hours of Henry VIII is a really standard image for the labor of December, so much so that I suspect some master pattern book for books of hours is involved. The pigs, shown fattening on mast in November, are now slaughtered and being prepared for butchering. The butcher with his cleaver on the table stands ready, sharpening his knife, already bloodied from the pigs. The weird vaguely pink pointed tongues behind the pigs are meant to be flames; the bristles on the boars are being singed off in preparation for butchering. You don’t generally butcher sows if you can avoid it. There’s a reason…

  • Calendar,  Medieval manuscripts

    November from the Hours of Henry VIII

    The labor for November is often a butchering scene; typically, hogs. But another popular labor for November scenes in books of hours is that of feeding acorns or nuts “mast” to swine, as here and in the Très Riches Heures. In this image from the Morgan Library’s Hours of Henry VIII, as in the November scene form the Très Riches Heures, we see a man allowing swine to graze on the fallen acorns, while another man beats the trees with a stick to encourage the nuts to fall. Here too the trees are pollards, the lower limbs having been removed for their wood. Notice that both men are dressed warmly…

  • Calendar,  Medieval manuscripts

    October from the Hours of Henry VIII

    This October labor from the Morgan Library’s Hours of Henry the VIII is actually two labors; on the left, a nattily dressed man in a hat, vest, stockings and shoes is sowing seeds, while on the right another man is ploughing the filed with a team of horses. The crop being sowed is almost certainly a variety of winter wheat, destined to be harvested in summer. The wheat sprouts before the snow falls, and continues, somewhat somnolently, to grow under its winter blanket of snow. The man with with the seeds is scatteringly, rather than planting in rows. You can see a sack with additional seeds on the ground behind…