Friday, 30 November 2012

M/M The Grand Medieval Bestiary The Animal in Illuminated Manuscripts


Image provided by Abbeville Press. All rights reserved.

Manner of Man Magazine Highly Recommended

The Abbeville Press catalogue of offerings proves repeatedly to us that print is not dead but that high-end quality publishing amongst collectors, scholars, and enthusiasts is alive, thriving and more important than ever before. Moreover, it is our objective opinion that Abbeville Press is the international leader of high-end print book publishing.

We have decided to highlight from their stunning selection for your serious consideration this season the amazing publishing achievement titled The Grand Medieval Bestiary The Animal in Illuminated Manuscripts.

As the 587 colorful images in this magnificent volume reveal, animals were a constant—and delightful—presence in illuminated manuscripts throughout the Middle Ages. Many proto-zoological illustrations, of great charm but variable accuracy, are found in the bestiaries, or compendiums of animal lore, that were exceedingly popular in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. But animals are depicted in every other sort of illuminated manuscript as well, from the eighth-century Echternach Gospels, with its geometrically schematized symbols of the Evangelists, to the early fifteenth-century Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, with its famously naturalistic scenes of peasant and aristocratic life.

Images provided by Abbeville Press. All rights reserved.

In his insightful opening chapters, the noted art historian Christian Heck explains that the prevalence of animals in illuminated manuscripts reflects their importance in medieval thought, an importance due in part to the agricultural society of that age, in which a variety of species—and not just docile pets—were the daily companions of man. Animals also had a greater symbolic significance than they do today: in popular fables, such as those of Reynard the Fox, they held up a mirror to the follies of mankind, and on the religious plane, they were understood as an integral part of God’s creation, whose attributes and behaviors could be taken as clues to His plan of salvation.

Images provided by Abbeville Press. All rights reserved.

The main part of the book explores the complex and fascinating iconography of the individual creatures most frequently depicted by medieval miniaturists. It is arranged in the manner of a proper bestiary, with essays on one hundred animals alphabetized by their Latin names, from the alauda, or lark, whose morning song was thought to be a hymn to Creation, to the vultur, which enjoyed a certain respect due to its impressive appearance, but whose taste for carrion also made it a symbol of the sinner who indulges in worldly pleasures. The selection includes a number of creatures that would now be considered fantastic, including the griffin, the manticore, and of course the fabled unicorn, tamable only by a gentle maiden. Not merely a study of art history, The Grand Medieval Bestiary uses a theme of timeless interest to present a panorama of medieval life and thought that will captivate even the most sophisticated modern reader.


Images provided by Abbeville Press. All rights reserved.

Christian Heck, a senior member of the Institut Universitaire de France and former curator-in-chief of the Unterlinden Museum in Colmar, is an authority on illuminated manuscripts. Rémy Cordonnier, a researcher at the University of Lille, specializes in medieval iconography.