Aristotle’s Historia animalium


Since the 9th century, Aristotle’s Historia animalium, an orderly description of various creatures, had been available in an Arabic translation, which Michael Scotus translated into Latin in 1220. The decoration of the initials in this manuscript, which Johannes Heynlin purchased in Paris and bequeathed to the Carthusian monastery of Basel, is rich in drolleries. Throughout the volume, there are annotations by various hands.


This manuscript was written by Johannes Heynlin during his time in Paris between 1469 and 1471. It contains three “classic works for education”, the (annotated) Bucolics, the Georgics, and the Aeneid by Virgil, as well as a whole series of pseudo-Virgilian works. The volume is finely decorated with figural initials from a Parisian studio with scenes from Virgil’s works. The manuscript was probably bound in Basel, perhaps at the instigation of the Carthusian monastery, into whose possession it came when Heynlin entered the monastery.

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