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Folio Society Published Works Number 2606

de Hamel, Christopher - Liber Bestiarum Limited Edition

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de Hamel, Christopher - Liber Bestiarum Limited Edition (Published in by The Folio Society in 2008. Limited Edition of 1980 copies. Bound in full goatskin leather of finest Nigerian grade. Blocked in gold and three colours, with traditional raised bands on the spine, binding design by David Eccles. Gilding on all three edges, ribbon marker. 137 folios, with 135 miniatures with the original gold leaf reproduced in foiling. 282 pages in total. 12" x 7". Presented in a buckram-bound solander box. Commentary by Christopher de Hamel and translation by Richard Barber. 174 pages. Book size: 12" x 7". In the Middle Ages, men believed that studying animals allowed them to read God's plan as written in the natural world. Nowhere was this belief more prevalent than in England, where scribes toiled to produce some of the most enchanting and beautiful books of the age. This bestiary, dating from the mid-13th century and now housed in the Bodleian Library, is one of the finest produced in England, where there was a passion for these richly ornamented depictions of the natural world. Several bestiaries have survived the centuries, some heavily ornamented in gold, some as large as church Bibles, but of them all, this exquisite manuscript is the most charming. A perfect example of medieval illumination, it is clearly the work of a master artist and scribe - though richly ornamented in worked gold, the delicacy of the painting and the affectionate intimacy of the animal scenes are never overwhelmed. Opening it now, we can sense the pleasure the artist took in this work and the delight with which the completed manuscript was first received. Many bestiaries followed a set style of illumination. This one is unusual for including many scenes of animals interacting with the human world, from the noble lady out hawking with her servants to a knight on horseback abducting a tiger cub. The artist clearly has an affection for animals he knows well: the cat is shown curled up close to a fire, gazing longingly at a bird (in what is thought to be the first representation of a birdcage in English art) and proudly carrying a dead mouse. The size of the section devoted to birds is also exceptional - this was one of the first bestiaries to focus on them so heavily, an early indication perhaps of the English passion for ornithology. Specially commissioned by The Folio Society, de Hamel has written a detailed introduction providing a context for bestiaries in general and Bodley 764 in particular. Filled with fascinating revelations regarding the manuscript's provenance and style, this work is an ideal companion with which to decode the manuscript. For this limited edition commentary volume Richard Barber has significantly revised and expanded the translation he produced for The Folio Society in 1992. )

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