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An Elephant, In Matthew Paris's 'Book Of Additions'

An Elephant, In Matthew Paris's 'Book Of Additions'

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1255

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Nero D I

Item number: f.169v

Length: 34.5

Width: 23

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

Matthew Paris (c. 1200-1259) became a monk of St. Albans in 1217, and in 1236 became the abbey chronicler, a task which allowed him to exercise and explore his talents as a scribe, and as an accomplished and inventive artist. Most of this manuscript is written in Matthew's own distinctive handwriting, as are the miniatures, except for some added in the 14th century. Known by Matthew as his 'Book of Additions', it contains a variety of miscellaneous texts and images.

In 1255 King Louis of France sent an elephant to King Henry III of England as a gift. He kept it at the Tower of London, and this is doubtless where Matthew saw it. He must have been particularly fascinated by the animal's most unusual and distinctive feature, its trunk.

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