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Painted Initial, In A Volume Of Various Works Of Cicero, With Added Ghost Stories

Painted Initial, In A Volume Of Various Works Of Cicero, With Added Ghost Stories

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1200

Shelfmark: Royal MS 15 A.xx

Item number: f.99r

Length: 21.9

Width: 15.4

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

Classical texts, such as the writings of the Roman orator and statesman Cicero (106-43 BC), were relatively rare in 12th-century monastic libraries, but were eagerly collected as models of elegant Latin. This manuscript of a collection of Cicero's works has the remains of an ownership inscription of a church dedicated to St. Mary in a place beginning with 'B'. It also has a series of ghost stories added into blank spaces, which relate to Byland and the surrounding area: the book must therefore have belonged to the Cistercian abbey of St. Mary's, Byland. The page marks the start of a treatise on rhetoric which was long though to be by Cicero. The very simple red initial 'S' is typical of Cistercian manuscripts: in keeping with Cistercian ideals of simplicity and frugality an early 12th-century statute had decreed that initials in manuscripts should be of only a single colour.

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