Eagles and the Sun in a Medieval Bestiary

Summer has finally properly arrived in England, and the sun has made a stronger-than-usual appearance in Cambridge. While we humans need to dust off our sunglasses, the eagle, as described by Isidore of Seville in the early 7th century, is capable of staring directly into the sun. In fact, the eagle tests its young by holding them... Continue Reading →

History by the Month: March and Alexander III

Manuscripts from medieval Scotland are rare. This is the unique copy of a chronicle of Scottish history assembled c.1447-49 for Walter Bower (1385-1449), abbot of Inchcolm Abbey, on the island in the Firth of Forth, north of Edinburgh. The illustration here shows the funeral of Alexander III, king of Scotland 1249-86, who died following a riding... Continue Reading →

Monsters at the end of the world

It's nearly Halloween, and accompanying days of All Saints and All Souls, so in many parts of the world people have been gearing up for the night by watching horror films, procuring masks and makeup, and generally revelling in the monstrous and terrifying. However, the thrill of pondering pure terror is nothing new, and medieval manuscript illustrations can be filled with grotesque... Continue Reading →

Happy Magna Carta Day

Finally, after what seems like years of barely restrained anticipation, Magna Carta has officially turned 800. Like most 800th birthday parties, we're celebrating it by looking at pictures from the subject's wild youth, and exclaiming over how young it looks. Corpus Christi College MS 16 is an autograph copy of Matthew Paris' Chronica Maiora, which contains... Continue Reading →

History by the Month: May

The autograph Chronica Maiora of Matthew Paris (c1200-1259), monk of St. Albans, is one of the most famous sources for thirteenth century English history. It is a history of the world, but is especially important for events of the author’s lifetime. The manuscript is in two volumes and contains hundreds of little drawings by Matthew... Continue Reading →

MS 291 and the Computation of Easter

While today we simply have to struggle to adapt to the one-hour difference when the clocks change before enjoying a convenient bank holiday weekend, our medieval predecessors struggled to reach a consensus as to when Easter fell in the year, and how to pinpoint it. In the early Middle Ages, constructing a calendar was complicated... Continue Reading →

Medieval Welsh Law (Cyfraith Hywel)

Over the next couple of weeks I'm going to be focusing on various digital projects and resources both old and new which incorporate data concerning one or more manuscripts from the Parker Library collection. The first project is one that's just gone live, Cyfraith Hywel (the Laws of Hywel Dda), a resource for the study... Continue Reading →

Herbert of Bosham: Manuscripts and History

Our recent conference on Herbert of Bosham, secretary, confidant and biographer of Thomas Becket, was a great success with fascinating papers on the making of Herbert's manuscripts, his Hebrew scholarship and his letters, on his relationship with Becket, and his connections with the court. The final paper of the conference, by organiser Michael Staunton, was... Continue Reading →

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