Matthew Paris, Visual Exegesis, and Apocalyptic Birds in Royal MS. 14 C. VII
Dorothy Kim (notes)
This article argues that the prefatory maps in Royal MS. 14 C. VII act as a visual distillation of the vast system of emblems in the margins of the other Chronica Majora manuscripts. Recently, scholars have discussed Matthew Paris’s visual marginalia as reading devices and finding aids that distill sections of written text into single images. This article expands that conversation by arguing that the imagery in the prefatory maps of Royal 14 C. VII is even more condensed and refined, focusing on how apocalyptic birds painted in the manuscript link England with the crusader East. Specifically, the apocalyptic birds of Royal MS. 14 C. VII link geographical space and marginal commentaries on the Historia Anglorum and Chronica Majora with Joachim of Fiore’s eschatological historiography in particular and Franciscan cosmology in general. In essence, these condensed visual images are forms of visual exegesis – a type of visual reading theorized by Paolo Berdini. As a result, Royal MS. 14 C. VII’s prefatory maps reorient cartographic hierarchies and entwine the contemporary crusader present with the apocalyptic future.