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Illustrating a thirteenth-century natural history encyclopedia : the pictorial tradition of Thomas of Cantimpre's "De natura rerum" and Valenciennes Municipal Library Manuscript 320

Click to view the dissertation via Digital dissertation consortium
Author Gatewood, Deborah Anne.
ISBN/ISSN 0493077529
Broad Subject Fine Arts
General - Science
Summary The Dominican Thomas of Cantimpre composed his Latin natural history encyclopedia in twenty books titled De natura rerum (On the Nature of Things) around 1245. Subjects in the encyclopedia range from monstrous people to animals of the land and sea, trees, herbs, metals, great rivers, and astronomy. Fourteenth-century charters regulating the production of pecias at the University of Paris show that De natura rerum was prized in academic circles. Eleven finely illustrated manuscripts of the text exist.

This dissertation studies the medieval illustrative tradition of De natura rerum, which has never been the subject of scholarly inquiry. I introduce the topic with an overview of medieval natural history illustration. I focus on thirteenth-century Valenciennes Municipal Library Ms. 320, the earliest extant manuscript of the tradition; I provide a codicological, stylistic, and iconographic analysis of the manuscript. The 670 gold and color natural history illustrations in this codex are highly unusual for their time of production. Many reflect current interests in newly available translations ofAristotle. Accompanying the illustrations are hundreds of heretofore-unassessed vernacular illustrators' notes, which carry important information about the creation of the illustrations and suggest that Valenciennes 320 contains an original picture program upon which the illustrations of later manuscripts were based. In an analysis of the illustrations, coupled with some dialectal features in the illuminators' notes, I localize the Gothic manuscript in northeastern France, and provide compelling evidence that a member of the Order of the Augustinian Friars commissioned it. Using a closely related fourteenth-century Czech manuscript (Prague Klementinum Ms. XIV A 15) as an example, I address the transmission of the illustrations of Valenciennes 320 into later manuscripts. I also show that Cistercian patronage was important to the later illustrative tradition. The appendices of the dissertation provide a complete list of all the illustrations in Valenciennes Ms. 320 and Klementinum Ms. XIV A 15, and an annotated list of related fourteenth- and fifteenth-century manuscripts illustrated in the Holy Roman Empire.

Language English
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