10 Surprising Facts about Books of Beasts from the European Middle Ages

Art history students offer a bite-sized introduction to the bestiary of the European Middle Ages. Introduction The medieval book of beasts, a kind of encyclopedia of animals known as the bestiary, was full of fascinating creatures both real and fantastic. While the bestiary often linked animals to Christian beliefs, teaching readers moral and religious lessons,[…]

The Bad Side of the Medieval Bestiary

Medieval books of beasts reflect the attitudes of the people who made them—including antisemitism, homophobia, misogyny, and indifference to animal cruelty. Introduction The splendidly illustrated bestiaries displayed in the exhibition Book of Beasts: The Bestiary in the Medieval World and described in the accompanying catalogue tell us much about medieval fascination with all of Creation: beasts, birds, fish, reptiles,[…]

Behind This Cover Lies a World Treasure

A small and ornate book opens up to reveal one of the great masterpieces of Renaissance manuscript illumination. The exquisite Rothschild Prayer Book, one of a handful of peerless illuminated manuscripts produced at the end of the 15th and the early 16th centuries, will be the centrepiece of an exhibition featuring the collection of media[…]

Ancient Manuscripts from the Desert Libraries of Timbuktu

These ancient manuscripts cover every aspect of human endeavor. Introduction Timbuktu, Mali, is the legendary city founded as a commercial center in West Africa nine hundred years ago. Today it is synonymous with the phrase “utterly remote,” but this was not always so. For more than six hundred years, Timbuktu was a significant religious, cultural,[…]

The Sierra-Texupan Codex: Three Cultural Traditions, Two Writing Systems, and One Shopping List

Europeans, speaking Spanish, Italian and French, had to communicate with indigenous peoples through Nahuatl, the lingua franca under the Aztecs. Once the dust settled after the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire in the year 1521, a new government system was established in Mesoamerica, the region spanning present-day Mexico and Central America. That was the[…]

Palaeography: Medieval Scribes and the Transmission of Hebrew Scientific Works

Before the age of printing, the texts and layouts of Hebrew works were not standardised. This is because the transmission of works was out of the hands of their authors and in the hands of scribes. Dr Israel Sandman considers the intervention of scribes when copying Hebrew scientific works. When transmitting Hebrew works, scribes were[…]

A Thousand Years of the Persian Book

Persian gained prominence as a literary language and a lingua franca—a common cultural language—about a thousand years ago. Introduction In the past millennium, a rich and varied written and spoken heritage has developed in the Persian language, elevating the visibility of Persian civilization among world intellectual traditions. That tradition is particularly strong in the fields[…]

The Dawn of the Age of Print and the Adult Coloring Craze in the 15th Century

Its dizzy heights may have passed, but the fad for adult coloring books is far from over. Many trace the origins of such publications to a wave of satirical colouring books published in the 1960s, but as Melissa N. Morris and Zach Carmichael explore, the existence of such books, and the urge to colour the[…]

Late Medieval Translation of Ancient Texts

During the fifteenth century, and notably in Italy, the art of translating was profoundly changed by Humanists as well as by a better knowledge of the Greek language and Greek texts. Practices changed and multiplied, while an increasingly intense theoretical reflection emerged regarding the very phenomenon of translation. Summary The Renaissance was a crucial period[…]