Travels of Sir John of Mandeville

Add MS 24189 - British Library (London, United Kingdom)

Alternate Titles:

I Viaggi di Sir John Mandeville , Los Viajes de Sir John Mandeville, Die Reisen des Ritters John Mandeville

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

I Viaggi di Sir John Mandeville
Los Viajes de Sir John Mandeville
Die Reisen des Ritters John Mandeville

Type
Extent / Format

32 pages / 22.5 x 18.0 cm

Origin
Date
ca. 1410 - 1420
Style
Genre
Language
Illustrations

28 full-page miniatures

Short description

The knight John Mandeville tells of his adventurous journey in an early 15th century manuscript with fantastic illumination from northern France. The 30-year trip around the world fills 168 pages, which are additionally illustrated by 74 delightful miniatures. They originate from three of the most talented illuminators of their time: the Mazarin Master, the Cité des Dames Master, and the Egerton Master. The Benedictine monk Jean d’Ypres is known to be the scribe, perhaps even hiding behind the pseudonym of John Mandeville. An idiosyncrasy of the manuscript is its parchment, which was completely dyed green and thereby represents an absolute unicum.

Facsimile editions available

Description

Travels of Sir John Mandeville

An enchanting parchment manuscript with Gothic illumination from northern France originated during the first half of the 15th century. The knight John Mandeville describes his 30-year-long adventure on 168 pages, which were illustrated by 74 small-format miniatures. These small works of art originated from the Mazarin Master, the Cité des Dames Master, and the Egerton Master. All three were active in Paris at the beginning of the 15th century and are known only by their names of convenience. Each left page of the text is adorned with tendrils of stylized leaves in red and blue alongside the fanciful illustrations. The scribe has been identified as the Benedictine monk Jean d’Ypres, who was possibly hiding behind the pseudonym John Mandeville. An idiosyncrasy of the manuscript is its parchment, which was completely dyed green and thereby represents an absolute unicum.

Three True Masters of their Craft

Instead of a single master and his workshop, three talented illuminators took part in this excellent décor. As always, it is still very difficult to differentiate between the artist’s hands. The Mazarin Master is known for a book of hours named after him that he painted ca. 1420, which found its way into the possession of Cardinal Jules Mazarin (1602-1661). The Cité des Dames Master was active in his Parisian workshop from ca. 1400 to 1415 and illustrated several manuscripts of the “Cité des Dames”. The Egerton Master probably came from Flanders and was also active in Paris ca. 1400. His name of convenience is owed to the book of hours that he furnished ca. 1410 for the collection of the English nobleman Francis Henry Egerton (1756-1829).

Innovative Miniatures with Fanciful Figures

The illustration mostly have to do with unusual themes such as miracles, for which there are no examples from nature. The talented artists could innovatively implement the knight’s exciting stories and thus stand in opposition to the art of the time, which favored the realistic portrayal of nature. In the manuscript, one can find fabulous creatures, which are half-man and half-animal like a centaur, or other fantastical creature like the griffin. These creatures are not always sympathetic to humans, as indicated by horned dragons, which are hidden among the mountains dining on small children.

Splendid Landscapes and Architecture

Lovingly designed landscapes and manifold architectures before a bright blue sky serve as the scenery for the knight’s adventurous tales. Each of the three painters placed great worth on portraying the vegetation in great detail and capturing the individual leaves of the trees or the summery grasses with delicate brushstrokes. The shimmering cityscapes, the imposing fortresses with numerous towers, and the ethereal sacred buildings are particularly splendid.

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