Real Biblioteca del Monasterio de El Escorial, MS R.I.5
(Pliny Historia naturalis)


Produced: Bologna, ca. 1300
Location: Real Biblioteca del Monasterio de El Escorial, Madrid, Spain
Type: Encyclopedia
Language: Latin
Folios: 218
Author: Pliny the Elder
Illustrated: No
Media: Parchment
Dimensions: Height: 40.5 cm Width: 28 cm
Folio 1r


An illustrated copy of Pliny the Elder's Historia naturalis.

See also these related manuscripts:

[From Armstrong, 1983]

...the earliest known manuscript with a long series of historiated initials related to Pliny's text, and it is therefore fundamental for investigating the genesis of the iconographic cycle. ... Some gatherings are missing which include Books XI, XX, XXV, and XXVI. Folio i has two historiated initials and marginal decoration. Initials with images are found at the beginning of Books I-X, XII-XIX, XXI, XXIII and XXVII-XXXVII; marginal images are found at the beginning of Books XVI and XXII. ... The first known copy of Pliny with historiated initials related to the text appears to have been decorated in Bologna around 1300. The frontispiece of this manuscript ... resembles a number of Bolognese manuscripts from the period 1290 to 1310. ... The half-length figures in the remaining initials of the Escorial Pliny are probably by a different artist from that of the frontispiece, but are still Bolognese in character. They exhibit quite distinctly the flatness and linear quality associated with the Byzantine component in Bolognese illuminations around 1300. The figures are outlined by strong dark lines, while features such as eyebrows, noses and the edges of garments are accentuated with white lines. ... The iconographic scheme of the historiated initials in the Escorial Pliny is composed of images which fall into three principal groups: animals, plants and half-length figures of men, some of them with attributes. The animals, such as the elephant for Book VIII and the birds for Book X, appear at the beginning of the zoological books. Initials with one to three tiny trees begin many of the botanical books, that is Books XIII to XV, XVII and XXIII, while low-growing plants and flowers initiate Books XVI, XVIII and XXI. Half-length figures of men are painted in the initials of several of the earliest books, and again in the last third of the volume for Books XXVII to XXX, XXXII, XXXIV and XXXVII.

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