Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Medieval East Anglian Hunting Manuscripts Saved for the Nation

By 24 Hour Museum Staff 31/07/2007
photo of two pages of a medieval illuminated manuscript

The Kerdeston Hawking Book contains details on hawk and falcon training and treatment. © British Library

A pair of unique 15th century East Anglian illuminated manuscripts have been saved for the nation, revealing details of medieval hunting and hawking techniques.

The Kerdeston Hawking Book, along with leaves from the Kerdeston Hunting Book, were declared national treasures and received in place of inheritance tax by the British Library through the government’s Acceptance in Lieu scheme.

“These two manuscripts are an important addition to our collection of Middle English manuscripts, which is the largest in the world,” said Dr Claire Breay, Head of Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts.

“Now that these manuscripts are in the British Library we can give scholars access to this material which includes unique and previously unstudied texts.”

Detail from the Hawking Book. © British Library

photo of a detail from a page of a medieval illuminated manuscript

The Kerdeston Hawking Book was made in the 1430s for Sir Thomas Kerdeston of Norfolk and his wife Elizabeth. It was written by an East Anglian scribe using local dialect spellings and includes six texts on hawking, and preserves the only known copy of two of them.

It contains instructions on the care and training of hawks and falcons along with the diagnosis and treatment of their ailments. The illuminations depict scenes with hawks and were produced in a Suffolk workshop.

Only five leaves remain of the Hunting Book but they are finely illuminated and are of a fine quality book originally produced in London around 1420 which was later added to. The leaves include two previously unstudied treatises in Middle English and have two half-page miniatures, one depicting St George and the Dragon flanked by portraits of Sir Thomas and his second wife Phillipa.

photo of a page from a medieval illuminated manuscript

The Kerdeston Hunting Book contains two previously unstudied treatises. © British Library

In addition to the Kerdeston books the British Library has also been allocated two medieval religious manuscripts under the Acceptance in Lieu scheme.

A decorated 10th century Latin liturgical sacramentary listing prayers said at mass will help the library discover more about the Christian church and its liturgy in the Middle Ages, while a 11th or 12th century Greek Gospel Lectionary (book of gospel readings) is of special importance in the study of Byzantine art and book production.

More than £25m worth of national treasures came into public ownership this year through the Acceptance in Lieu scheme, which is administered by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council on behalf of the government.


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