Zoomorphic Interlace Initials, In A Volume Of Miscellaneous Prose And Verse Theological Texts
Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum
This manuscript is a compendium of well over a hundred different texts, most of which were composed earlier than the 12th century. The style of its handwriting has been recognised as that of Uilliam Mac an Lega, one of the most prolific scribes of the second half of the 15th century, and it has additions by his son, which suggests that it was written for Uilliam's own use, and remained in his family for a period. Later owners include the Fitzgeralds, Earls of Desmond, and it remained in Ireland until the 19th century.
The text on this page is an account of the life of St. Mary of Egypt. Its prologue begins with the very large letters 'IN' of a heading, 'The life of Mary of Egypt begins here.' The way the letters are merged to form a monogram or single shape follows a tradition in Irish manuscript decoration which goes all the way back to some of the earliest surviving ones written by Irish scribes, in the 7th century. The 'Life' itself begins with the strange-looking letter 'b'--also another decorative letter form which can be seen in early medieval Irish manuscripts, as does the animal decoration of the large monogram.