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The Nativity, in the 'Flowers of History'

The Nativity, in the 'Flowers of History'

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1400

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Claudius E VIII

Item number: f.43r

Length: 39.5

Width: 25.6

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

Responsibility for a mistake perpetuated through the centuries rests upon this manuscript of 'Flowers of History'. Its scribe misunderstood the name of one of its authors, the famous chronicler Matthew Paris, calling him 'Matthew of Westminster'. It is confusing, because Matthew Paris only wrote part of it, having edited and extended the work of Roger of Wendover, who in turn had compiled, rewritten and extended the writings of yet older sources which are now lost. Monks at St Albans and Westminster added further sections after Matthew of Paris died. If someone asks who the author of a medieval manuscript is, it is often hard to say. At any rate, the 'Flowers of History' produced by all these writers is a chronicle beginning with the Creation and ending with 1325. It is believed to have belonged to the Benedictine priory of Holy Trinity, at Norwich cathedral, because of some of its contents and notes written in its margins. This page has on it the story of the Nativity, compiled from biblical accounts. The pseudo-heraldry in the decoration is embellished with a red cross to indicate that the book chronicles Christian salvation.

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