The Byzantine poet Manuel Philes (c. 1275–c. 1345) is best known now for his work De Animalium Proprietate (‘On the Nature of Animals’), a long poem dealing with various beasts of land, sea, and air. The survival of this work owes a great deal to the 16th-century Cretan scribe Angelos Bergikios, who made something of a career out of producing lavishly-illustrated copies of this poem for French aristocrats. Burney 97, made in the middle of the 16th century, is one of these copies. Combining Bergikios’ distinctive hand with coloured illustrations of the animals Philes mentions, it is an important witness to the ongoing demand for luxury manuscripts a century after the introduction of the printing press.
By the late 17th century it was in the possession of the Abbey of Moutier-St-Jean, in the diocese of Langres. It was acquired by Charles Burney (1757–1817) at the sale of the library of the bookseller James Edwards (1757–1816). Burney’s vast collection of manuscripts, theatrical ephemera, and newspapers was acquired by the British Museum after his death in 1818.