Click here to skip to content

A Letter Decorated With A Persian Mythical Beast, In A Prayerbook

A Letter Decorated With A Persian Mythical Beast, In A Prayerbook

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 820

Shelfmark: Royal MS 2 A.xx

Item number: f.17r

Length: 23

Width: 16

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

A collection of prayers, hymns, liturgical material, charms, and extracts from the gospels on healing miracles, this prayerbook belongs to a group which, on the basis of their scripts, probably were produced in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia (in the Midlands)during the late 8th and early 9th centuries. It may have been at Worcester Cathedral during the Middle Ages. Like the other prayerbooks, this one gathers the material around a theme, in this case centred upon healing, focusing on the Trinity as healer of mankind. It has been suggested that it was made for a medical person, possibly a woman physician, based upon some feminine word endings in the text. An acrobatic animal enlivens the first letters of a prayer, 'In primis obsecro,' by acting as the bar of the letter N. It resembles a Senmurv, a Persian mythological beast signifying the meeting of the elements. Mercian art of this period often favoured exotic eastern influences. Other animal heads emerge from the lower ends of the letters while coloured interlace and a network of red dots give further interest. This fanciful ornament is typical of a style of manuscript decoration current in early 9th-century Mercia. At the top of the page, the word 'Oratio' ('Prayer'), originally in red but now oxidised (chemically changed by the atmosphere) to grey, identifies the text. Smaller coloured letters, some offset in the left margin, aid the reader in separating sentences. Mid-page, a line had to be continued in a blank space above it, a 'runover', marked by a later hand with an inelegant right-angled sign.

Search within this collection

Elsewhere on our websites

Newsletter

Latest events - register free online

Mobile app

For iPhone, iPad and Android

Report a Concern

What is the nature of your concern?

Report a Concern

What is the nature of your concern?

Email link to a friend

Write a brief note to accompany the email

Your friend's email address: