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The rainbow, in Isidore, De natura rerum

The rainbow, in Isidore, De natura rerum

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 970

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Domitian I

Item number: f.28v

Length: 21.2

Width: 14

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

The scribes of Anglo-Saxon England copied books on scientific as well as religious subjects in the expansion of learning that had begun under Alfred the Great and continued, fed by increasing contacts with the continent, through the 10th and 11th centuries. This is a copy of one of the most well-known scientific books of the day, 'On the nature of things', on physical science, by Isidore, bishop of Seville, who lived in the late 6th and early 7th century. Written in an elegant script (style of handwriting) which was based on Carolingian styles, the small book is illustrated with diagrams labelled with capital letters in a style that looks back to types of Roman handwriting.

Most medieval copies of 'On the nature of things' include diagrams of some kind. A simple diagram illustrates Isidore's section on the rainbow, showing the earth as a straight, horizontal bar with the arc of the rainbow above. The colours are minimal because the book was produced for study rather than showing off. The text, however, discusses the colours of the rainbow.

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