• Medieval manuscripts

    More on the Bristol Vulgate Cycle fragments about Merlin

    Fragments of a medieval Merlin manuscript in Old French discovered two years ago in a Bristol’s central library have been more thoroughly examined. The fragments, found in a binding, are from the Old French Vulgate Cycle or Lancelot-Grail Cycle. While the Vulgate Cycle was composed circa 1220-1225, the fragments are dated to 1250–1275 via paleographic analysis, with a provenance in northern, possibly north-eastern, France. Professor Leah Tether, medieval historian and manuscript specialist Dr Benjamin Pohl and medievalist Dr Laura Chuhan Campbell, after digital processing images of the fragments, realized that the Bristol fragments offer previously unknown variants of the texts. Dr Laura Chuhan Campbell: “In most manuscripts of the better known [version],…

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  • Calendar,  Medieval manuscripts

    August from Walters W.425

    This August image from the fragmentary Walters Museum prayer book Walters W. 425 f. 8r features the astrological symbol for Virgo, the virgin, in the roundel on the top right, more flowers, and a very typical labor for August, threshing grain. The barn is open, allowing the chaff from the dried grain, which looks like wheat, to blow away, and to prevent the workers choking in the dust from the chaff. The flails look to the the sort where the actual flail is joined to the shaft of the handle with chain, allowing it to flex and thus be far more effective at removing the chaff without crushing the grain.…

  • Medieval manuscripts

    July from Walters W.425

    The two most common labors for July depicted in the calendar images of Books of Hours (and in psalters and prayerbooks like W.425), are mowing hay, and harvesting wheat with a scythe. This image from f. 7r of Walters Museum prayer book fragment W.425 shows a fairly typical scene of two men in a field reaping the wheat with scythes. The margin shows a medallion featuring a lion, the zodiac sign for Leo. I have no idea why there appears to be grid; the lines don’t appear thick enough to be stacks of mown hay. This is another month with flowers in the border, and again, they are close to…

  • Medieval manuscripts

    The British Library on Medieval Killer Rabbits

    From the British Library Medieval Manuscripts blog: Vengeful, merciless and brutally violent… yes that’s right, we’re talking about medieval bunnies. Rabbits can often be found innocently frolicking in the decorated borders or illuminations of medieval manuscripts, but sometimes, for reasons unknown, these adorable fluffy creatures turn into stone-cold killers. These darkly humorous images of medieval killer bunnies still strike a chord with modern viewers, always proving a hit on social media and popularised by Monty Python and the Holy Grail’s Beast of Caerbannog, ‘the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on!’.

  • Calendar,  Medieval manuscripts

    June from Walters W.425

    Typical labors for June include sheep-shearing and hay-mowing, (or scything) and raking the dried hay into small piles. Despite what The Walters Museum says about this June calendar image from Walters W.425, “Three figures farming,” they are in fact  two figures scything hay. The two men in the front are mowing or cutting the grass, which once it dries, magically becomes hay. They men are both using scythes mounted on a long shaft called a snath. The snath has an extra handle which makes the two-handed swinging motion of mowing the hay more efficient. As they mow they create small piles of drying hay. Once the hay is dried, it is…

  • Calendar,  Medieval manuscripts

    May from Walters W.425

    This May calendar page from the Walters Museum prayer book fragment W.425 is a very typical May image. The astrological medallion, looking a little worn but centered in the middle of the border on the right margin, shows the Gemini twins. The calendar image shows a very typical May scene of a lady on horseback, using a side saddle and  accompanied by two youths, all of them wearing aristocratic clothing. The man in the front on the left, and the lady, both bear branches of greenery, attesting to their errand to “bring in the May.” This is another border that features naturalistic flower images. The image on the top right…

  • Archaeology

    Lost and found: Viking Age human bones and textiles from Bjerringhøj, Denmark

    Researchers stumbled upon a box of human bones that had been missing for 100 years. They may come from Viking-age royalty. Ulla Mannering and Charlotte Rimstad are used to studying textiles, not bones. Since 2018, they’ve helped reconstruct Viking-age clothing at the National Museum of Denmark by analyzing fabric from ancient burial sites. But recently, they stumbled across a box of human remains. These weren’t your average bones, they quickly realized. “We looked at each other and said, ‘OK, we think we have the Bjerringhøj bones actually here,’” Mannering told Insider, referring to bones from the Bjerringhøj burial mound in northern Denmark. The gravesite likely dates back to around 970…

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  • Archaeology

    Possible Bronze Age Tomb Discovered in Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula

    A possible bronze age wedge tomb has been discovered on private land in Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula. The previously unknown and untouched tomb was lined with stone. Partial excavation reveals human bones, and a worked round stone. Initial inspection suggests that there are two chambers, and that much of the tomb remains underground. See RTE’s Ancient “untouched” tomb discovered on Dingle Peninsula for pictures.

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  • Calendar,  Medieval manuscripts

    April from Walters W.425

    This April calendar image from the Walters W.425 prayer book fragment is another calendar page featuring a naturalistic border, like the March calendar page from Walters W.425. The calendar proper includes the feast of Saint Euphemia on April 7. Taurus, the astrological symbol for April, is a recognizable bull, set off by a medallion. Above and below the astrological medallion naturalistic pink and white flowers add a decorative spring-time touch. I don’t know what the flowers are; I suspect, given the detail, that a Flemish gardener of the 15th century would be able to identify them as popular spring time blossoms. There are, I think, three types of flowers in…

  • 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…