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How To Capture A Unicorn, In A Bestiary

How To Capture A Unicorn, In A Bestiary

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1235

Shelfmark: Harley MS 4751

Item number: f.6v

Length: 30.1

Width: 22.5

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

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In addition to their often attractive illustrations, bestiaries are appealing because--with their combination of real and misunderstood facts, fantasy, and religious interpretation--they seem to offer us a window into the medieval person's view of the natural world. They have traditionally described by scholars in terms of being natural history books, but recent research has shown that from the 12th century onwards the bestiary was used largely as a source of theological inspiration for sermons, rather than for information about animals. This copy is related to other manuscripts which may have been made in Salisbury. It was thought that a unicorn could only be caught by leaving a virgin in the woods where it lived: the unicorn would come and lay its head in her lap and go to sleep, allowing it to be captured.

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