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War, in Pseudo-Aristotle's 'About the Secrets of Secrets'

War, in Pseudo-Aristotle's 'About the Secrets of Secrets'

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1327

Shelfmark: Additional MS 47680

Item number: f.43r

Length: 23.7

Width: 15.2

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

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Believed in the middle ages to be Aristotle's letter to Alexander the Great, 'About the Secrets of Secrets' concerns government and is a Latin translation of an Arabic work. A London scribe and King's Clerk, Walter of Milemete, and a team of artists probably made this richly decorated copy in 1326-1327. Milemete intended it to accompany his own treatise on royal virtues for presentation to Edward III. The 'Secrets' was owned by the Earls of Leicester, at Holkham Hall in Norfolk, from the 17th to the 20th centuries.

War, an important subject for a king, has a large section devoted to it. Figures of kings and nobility were to decorate the section, but they remain unfinished, raising doubt that Milemete's two manuscripts were ever given to the king. Nevertheless, this page provides an opportunity to see working procedures. It has been laid out, decoration sketched, text written, gilding applied, and ink applied over the sketch. Work stopped during the last stage, application of colour. In the right border, instructions for the painter are visible on one of the figures.

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