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De Natura Avium; De Pastoribus et Ovibus; Bestiarium; Mirabilia Mundi; Philosophia Mundi; On the Soul
Thérouanne ?, France (formerly Flanders) (Place created)
1278 to 1299
Tempera colors, pen and ink, gold leaf, and gold paint on parchment bound between pasteboard covered with paneled calf
Leaf: 23.3 × 16.4 cm (9 3/16 × 6 7/16 in.)
A bestiary is a collection of stories about animals, birds, fish, plants, and even stones, whose properties were interpreted as reflections of the divine order of God. During the 1200s, curiosity about the natural world was so prevalent that the illustrated bestiary reached the height of its popularity. In addition to the main text of the bestiary, this manuscript contains five other studies of the natural world: treatises on birds, astronomy, the relation of the soul to the body, and a remarkable series of seven full-page miniatures illustrating the exotic peoples believed to inhabit the world.
In the introduction, the author states, "What the mind of simple people would scarcely be able to capture with its mental eye, it can at least capture with its physical one." The "simple people" were beginning students at the monastery who could read Latin but for whom complex theological material was new and difficult. The lively and entertaining images found in this manuscript were intended to help readers remember the contents of the works.
Gothic Manuscript Illumination: 1250-1375 (January 16 to March 13, 1985) (fols. 117v - 118)
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Secular Manuscripts (October 21, 1986 to January 4, 1987) (fols. 117v - 118)
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Illuminated Gothic Manuscripts (January 20 to April 5, 1987) (fols. 118v - 119)
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Illuminated Secular Manuscripts (July 17 to September 30, 1990) (fols. 117v - 118)
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Illuminated Secular Manuscripts (January 24 to April 9, 1995) (fols. 117v - 118)
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Ten Centuries of French Illumination (April 23 to July 7, 1996) (fols. 111v - 112)
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Illuminating the Mind's Eye: Memory and Medieval Book Arts (July 23 to October 6, 1996) (fols. 2v - 3)
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Medieval Mastery: Illumination from Charlemagne to Charles the Bold (800-1475) (September 21 to December 8, 2002) (fols. 117v - 118)
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The Glory of the Gothic Page (December 16, 2003 to March 7, 2004) (fols. 73v - 74)
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The Medieval Bookshelf: From Romance to Astronomy (January 24 to April 9, 2006) (fols. 111v - 112)
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Medieval Beasts (May 1 to July 29, 2007) (fols. 118v - 119)
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Gothic Grandeur: Manuscript Illumination 1200-1350 (December 13, 2011 to May 13, 2012) (fols. 73v - 74; fols. 94v - 95)
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Traversing the Globe through Illuminated Manuscripts (January 22 to June 26, 2016) (fols. 117v - 118 and fols. 119v - 120)
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Remembering Antiquity: The Ancient World Through Medieval Eyes (January 24 to May 28, 2017) (fols. 157v - 158)
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