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Archive for December 15th, 2014

A pair of facing turtle doves in a roundel, f.32r, Aberdeen Bestiary (Aberdeen University Library MS 24). Image via Aberdeen University Library website.

A pair of facing turtle doves in a roundel, f.32r, Aberdeen Bestiary (Aberdeen University Library MS 24). Image via Aberdeen University Library website.

One of the most wonderful sights in this world is the shimmer of gold leaf on a manuscript page as it comes into the light. It is of course most well-known from medieval manuscripts, but has never quite stopped being used altogether. Consider Phoebe Traquair’s illuminated manuscript of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese. A full page, or a full miniature, with a background of gold leaf, never fails to catch my breath, just for a moment. Thus I have chosen as today’s image of light just such a miniature from the Aberdeen Bestiary (Aberdeen University Library MS 24). This manuscript was produced in the 12th century, and has a most interesting history. It has been fully digitised and is available online here, complete with translations and transcriptions. The birds are beautifully realised and stand out wonderfully against the shimmering gold. I chose the turtle dove image because two of these birds were sent, along with a partridge in a pear tree, to the singer of “The Twelve Days of Christmas, on the second day.

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