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"Attitudes toward Nature in Medieval England: The Alphonso and Bird Psalters"
G. Evelyn Hutchinson
Isis, 65:1 (March), 1974, 5-37
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"This study attempts to throw some additional light on the understanding and appreciation of nature during the Middle Ages by a scrutiny of certain illuminated manuscripts made in England at the end of the thirteenth and beginning of the fourteenth centuries. It has long been realized that during the thirteenth century the growth of a naturalistic tradition reflected changes in the whole outlook of medieval man. Some attention has been given to the movement as it can be observed in botanical iconography, while the recently published and magnificent work of the late Francis Klingender has provided a basic history of the use of animal forms in medieval art. There have been few attempts, however, and these mainly botanical, to see whether natural history as well as art history might illuminate some aspects of the illustrations of animals and plants in the surviving works of art from the high Middle Ages. Such an attempt, which is of interest not only to the historian of art but also to the historian of science, is made in the following pages. The study is primarily concerned with two psalters. One of these, the Alphonso or Tenison Psalter (B.M. Add. MS 24686) is very well known, though the significance of some of its aspects has escaped notice. The other, the Bird Psalter (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge 2-1954), has been less studied. Both manuscripts are decorated with motifs derived from natural history and by this common character are certainly related, though the historical connection between the two books is possibly not so close as sometimes has been supposed in the past. In addition to these two works, the less extensive zoological illustrations of three other nearly contemporary manuscripts have been studied and are discussed; one of these, the well-known Ashridge College Historia scholastica of Petrus Comestor (B.M. Royal MS 3, D vi) has proved to be of unexpected importance. A number of other fourteenth-century English illuminated manuscripts include illustrations of birds in their decoration. Some of these are mentioned in passing..." - Hutchinson

Language: English

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