With legends about Saint Francis of Assisi: the oldest Arabic manuscript with beautiful animal depictions in gold leaf miniatures

From the usage of animals

1354

From the usage of animals

From the usage of animals

— 1354

  1. A treatise concerning various domesticated and wild animals written by Ibn Al-Durayhim Al-Mawsili

  2. The rare Mamluk bestiary is also combined with stories of the life and deeds of St. Francis of Assisi (1181/82-1226)

  3. It is the earliest example of miniatures depicted in a precious gold leaf technique from the orient

From the usage of animals

Alternative Titles:
  • San Francesco - Legenda Maior
  • Franz von Assisi - Legenda Maior
From the usage of animals – ms. árabe 898 – Real Biblioteca del Monasterio (San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain)
From the usage of animals – ms. árabe 898 – Real Biblioteca del Monasterio (San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

The work From the Usage of Animals is a treatise concerning various kinds of domesticated and wild animals, which was written by the Mamluk author Ibn Al-Durayhim Al-Mawsili. It is the only manuscript from the Arab world that can be attributed to a specific author and time of origin. The informative work additionally contains the Legenda Maior: The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment.

From the Usage of Animals

A bestiary is a medieval fable, which allegorically connects the moralizing characteristics, real or supposed, of animals as well as mythical creatures with the Christian doctrine of salvation. Bestiaries belong among the most beloved manuscripts of the Middle Ages and were often richly illustrated. A particularly enchanting example of this literary genre is the 1354 work by the Mamluk Ibn Al-Durayhim Al-Mawsili. His work bears the title From the Usage of Animals and described a large assortment of domestic and wild animals. 91 exciting illustrations on gold backgrounds, which the scribe himself made, illustrate his achievements.

A Unique Document

The book From the Usage of Animals is a collection of texts, in which the most varied kinds of animals are described and classified. The work is of unusual historical worth, because it is one of the only a few surviving illuminated codices from the Mamluk period of book art. Additionally, it is the only manuscript from this art-historical epoch that can be dated to a concrete time of origin and which can be attributed to a well-known author. It is an astounding masterpiece and one of the few pieces of evidence remaining of oriental art whose fame in the western world endured into modernity.

Francis of Assisi and Animals

The treatise by Ibn Al-Durayhim Al-Mawsili was combined with the Legenda Maior: The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi. The connection between Francis of Assisi and animals is best clarified by two special legends. The first legend is the tale of the bird sermon. Francis sees a large flock of birds, he walks among them and speaks to them. In his sermon he says: “My brother and sister birds, you should praise your Creator and always love him: He gave you feathers for clothes, wings to fly and all other things that you need.” The second legend is the Tale of the wolf of Gubbio. Assisi reconciles the city of Gubbio with a wolf, which is always preying on its people. Francis mediates, and the wolf stops its attacks in exchange for the promise that the citizens of Gubbio will feed it. Francis of Assisi considered all of God’s creatures to be his brothers and sisters, for that reason he is known as the patron saint of animals and the environment.

Precious Illumination

The miniatures in From the Usage of Animals are drawn in a particularly-enchanting manner. It is the earliest example of miniatures depicted in a precious gold leaf technique from the orient. The pictures show animals in typical and realistic poses. At the same time, the animals were enshrined in a background of glimmering gold. Every miniature is a small, standalone work of art, which still astounds its beholders centuries later.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
San Francesco - Legenda Maior
Franz von Assisi - Legenda Maior
Size / Format
154 pages / 27.0 x 19.0 cm
Date
1354
Style
Gothic
Language
Illustrations
93 miniatures of animals on golden ground
Artist / School

2 available facsimile edition(s) of „From the usage of animals“

Libro de la utilidad de los animales
From the usage of animals – ms. árabe 898 – Real Biblioteca del Monasterio (San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain)
From the usage of animals – ms. árabe 898 – Real Biblioteca del Monasterio (San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain)
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Libro de la utilidad de los animales

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
AyN Ediciones – Madrid
Limited Edition
950 copies (co-edition)
Binding
Leather
Commentary
1 volume by Carmen Ruiz Bravo
Price Category: €€
Edition available
Price: Login here!
Libro de la utilidad de los animales
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Libro de la utilidad de los animales

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Kaydeda Ediciones – Madrid, 1990
Limited Edition
950 copies (co-edition)
Commentary
1 volume by Carmen Ruiz Bravo
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