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Psalter of Frederick II
This remarkable illuminated psalter decorated in the Byzantine style was commissioned by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II of Sicily (1194–1250) for his third wife, Isabella of England (1214–41). Frederick married Isabella in 1235. By design and execution, the manuscript illuminations combine the color palette of Byzantium with the stylistic rendering of the plasticity of the human body common to the Italian school of the period. Probably executed at the scriptorium in Acri, a hill town in Calabria, the manuscript is decorated with a full-page initial letter encompassing ...
This parchment manuscript, of which only a part has survived, is from the first quarter of the 13th century. The year 1221 was written on the manuscript at a significantly later date and may have been copied from an original colophon by a later owner. Known as the Dobreisho Gospel, the manuscript is an important witness to the history and early development of the Bulgarian language. Of particular interest is the rich illumination, including two full-page miniatures of the evangelists Luke and John. The portrait of the latter is accompanied ...
The Dresden Codex
Only four Mayan manuscripts still exist worldwide, of which the oldest and best preserved is the Dresden Codex, held in the collections of the Saxon State and University Library. The manuscript was purchased for the Dresden court library in 1739 in Vienna, as a “Mexican book.” In 1853 it was identified as a Mayan manuscript. Consisting of 39 leaves, inscribed on both sides, and approximately 358 centimeters long, the manuscript originally was folded in an accordion-like manner. The chalk-coated writing material, amatl, is a paper-like matter produced from fig-tree fiber ...
Fragment of the Old Västergötland Law
Äldre Västgötalagen (Old Västergötland law) is the oldest legal text written in Old Swedish in Latin script and the oldest of Sweden’s medieval provincial laws. The law was formulated around 1220 and was used in Västergötland in western Sweden. This manuscript fragment dates to about 1240. It contains the oldest record of the law and, along with another manuscript in the holdings of the National Library of Sweden dating from the early 1290s, is the only source for the law. The two leaves come from the same manuscript and ...
Bible Pictures by William de Brailes
This manuscript comprises 24 leaves of Bible pictures by William de Brailes, an English artist active in Oxford in the middle of the 13th century. Seven leaves from the same set of images are now in the Musée Marmottan in Paris. These 31 leaves are all that remain of an image cycle that once contained at least 98 miniatures, and which was the longest cycle of Bible miniatures surviving from the 13th century in England. In all probability these Bible pictures were actually prefatory matter to a psalter (now Stockholm ...
This English manuscript was made in East Anglia in the mid-13th century for a patron with special veneration for Saint Olaf, whose life and martyrdom are prominently portrayed in the Beatus initial of Psalm 1. Known as the Carrow Psalter, because of its later use by the nunnery of Carrow near Norwich, it is more accurately described as a psalter-hours, as it contains, among other texts, the Office of the Dead and the Hours of the Virgin. The manuscript is striking for its rich variety of illuminations, including full-page cycles ...
This manuscript, written at the Cistercian abbey of Himmerode in Germany in the early 13th century, is one of 22 surviving Latin copies of the Speculum virginum (Mirror for virgins). Attributed to Conrad of Hirsau, the text was written in the first half of the 12th century as a guide for nuns, offering them theological lessons in the form of a hypothetical conversation between a teacher, Peregrinus, and his student, Theodora. The 12 illustrations in the manuscript portray the protagonists as well as the mystical visions and diagrams they discuss ...
Classified Materia Medica from Historical Classics for Emergency
Jing shi zheng lei bei ji ben cao (Classified materia medica from historical classics for emergency), often abbreviated as Zheng lei ben cao, is an encyclopedic work on materia medica. The compiler, Song physician Tang Shenwei, systematically collected all 365 herbs recorded in Shennong ben cao jin (Shennong’s materia medica) of the Qin and Han. He also studied classics of the Liang and Tang, such as Ben cao jing ji zhu (Variorum of the classic of materia medica) by Tao Hongjing (452−536) and Xin xiu ben cao (Newly ...
Revised Zhenghe Edition of Classified and Practical Basic Materia Medica Based on Historical Classics
Chong xiu Zhenghe jing shi zheng lei bei yong ben cao (Revised Zhenghe edition of classified and practical basic materia medica based on historical classics) is an encyclopedic work on pharmacopeia by Song physician Tang Shenwei. Its origins range from Shennong ben cao jing (Shennong’s materia medica) of the Qin and Han dynasties to Zheng lei ben cao (Classified herbal medicine), also by Tang and published before this edition. The work lists 1,746 herbal medicines. It was widely known and recommended in medical circles for its rich contents ...
The Codex Gigas (or Devil´s Bible) is a large 13th-century manuscript from Bohemia, one of the historical Czech lands. Renowned for its size and its striking full-page rendition of the devil (found on page 577), it contains a number of parts: the Old and New testaments, two works of Josephus Flavius, Isidore of Seville´s Etymologies, the standard textbook for teaching medicine in the Middle Ages known as Ars medicinae (The art of medicine), the 12th-century Chronica Boëmorum (Chronicle of the Bohemians) of Cosmas of Prague, and a calendar ...
The Four Books in Chapter and Verse with Collected Commentaries
The Analects is one of the important classics for Ruist (Confucian) scholars. It was compiled by the disciples of Confucius and their disciples. It mostly records conversations and dialogs relating to Confucius and his disciples that reflect the views and principles of Confucius as applied to administration, ethics, morality, and education. The generally accepted version of The Analects has 20 sections. Zhu Xi (1130-1200) of the Song dynasty took “The Great Learning” and “The Doctrine of the Mean” from The Book of Rites and combined these extracts with The Mencius ...
The Book of Medicinal and Nutritional Terms
This manuscript is a copy of Kitab Al-jami li-mufradat al-adwiya wa al-aghdhiya (The book of medicinal and nutritional terms), an alphabetical encyclopedia by the Andalusian author, ‘Abd Allāh ibn Aḥmad ibn al-Bayṭār al-Mālaqī (circa 1197–1248), containing the names and properties of more than 1,000 plants and substances of medicinal value. The author quotes many earlier scientists, including Dioscorides, Galen, and Avicenna. Ibn al-Bayṭār was born in Malaga, hence the reference al-Mālaqī in his name, and the text contains numerous references to Andalusia and to Andalusian place-names such as ...
The Black Book of Carmarthen
The Black Book of Carmarthen (so called because of the color of its binding and its connection with the Priory of Saint John the Evangelist and Teulyddog, Carmarthen) is thought by modern scholars to be the work of a single scribe writing at different times before and about the year 1250. This makes it one of the earliest surviving manuscripts written solely in the Welsh language. Apart from a small group of triads relating to the horses of legendary Welsh heroes, the Black Book is essentially a poetry manuscript. It ...
Wolfram von Eschenbach composed his medieval German epic poem Parzival, which consists of more than 24,000 lines, in the first decade of the 13th century. It tells the story of the juvenile fool Parzival who, having grown up in the seclusion of the forest, is ignorant of the world and causes much grief as he ventures out to become a knight. He arrives at the Castle of the Grail, but fails to pose the question to the sick King Fisher Anfortas about the source of his suffering—a question ...
13th-Century Qur’an from Seville
This early 13th-century manuscript is among the very few surviving dated Qur’ans from Islamic Spain. Completed in Seville in 1226 AD (624 AH), it was rescued from destruction during the Reconquista (reconquest) by Muslim refugees who fled Spain for North Africa. In 1535, when the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1500–58) conquered Tunis in an expedition against the Barbary pirates, his troops seized the Qur’an and took it back to Europe. The manuscript subsequently came into possession of Johann Albrecht Widmanstetter (1506–57), a diplomat and orientalist ...
Golden Munich Psalter
This manuscript is one of the most lavishly illuminated psalters of the Middle Ages. It includes 91 full-page miniatures, most of which contain gold, in five picture cycles that give an overview of the most important scenes of the Bible, and especially the Old Testament, which is depicted in no fewer than 176 scenes. Among these, several very unusual motifs concerning heroic women are especially noteworthy. The style of the illumination is typical for the transition period between late Romanesque and early Gothic art. With its calendar, the texts of ...
Psalter from Polling
Originating in southwestern Germany after 1235, this marvelous psalter was long preserved in the monastery of Polling, Upper Bavaria, before it entered the collections of the Bavarian State Library. It is especially remarkable for the extensive cycle of biblical scenes that precedes the text of the psalter. Four representations taken from the life of Adam and Eve are followed by scenes from the New Testament, beginning with the Annunciation and with a Majestas domini (Glory of the Lord), surrounded by evangelist symbols at the end. The view of Christ descending ...