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Law And A Monkey Musician, In John de Breton, English Laws

Law And A Monkey Musician, In John de Breton, English Laws

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1305

Shelfmark: Harley MS 324

Item number: f.2v

Length: 24.7

Width: 14.5

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

At the order of Edward I, John de Breton, Bishop of Hereford (1268-1275), compiled tracts of English law in French. One of the greatest medieval English lawyers, John de Breton produced the work about 1275, just before his death. His legal compilation was part of the programmes of the king, one of whose most important accomplishments was his legal reform. John de Breton's book is written in French, the language of the Plantagenet king and the nobility. This manuscript copy of it is decorated in a general, contemporary style, the animals and scenes adding an entertaining and slightly luxurious note to its borders rather than having any relation to the text. In it an inscription states that it belonged to the small Cistercian Abbey of the Blessed Virgin Mary, at Merevale, near Atherston. A page near the beginning of the manuscript identifies the author with an inscription at the top of the page. The title of the section beginning with the large, coloured letter 'E' is written in large letters, while in the left margin, a reader's note corrects or marks a point in the book. Below, the margin becomes a highway for a musical monkey, who manages to play his instrument on a furiously galloping horse.

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