In my last blog post I announced I had found funding to start a research project looking at a seventeenth century Latin Natural History text. I am now well underway, kindly sponsored by the Antiquaries of London and the Alice McCosh Trust.
Robert Sibbald’s (1684) Scotia Illustrata is a really important text. One of the reasons for this is that it gives a full catalogue of wildlife found in seventeenth century Scotland. Most naturalists of the time period wanted to just write down every species of wildlife known at the time. Sibbald however, restricted himself to just writing about the species he had observed or had had people write to him about. That makes it a really important work for trying to reconstruct Scotland’s pre-industrial fauna. That includes some quite surprising species, and I’m planning to publish my findings next year.
Click more to keep reading.
Posted in Birds, Latin
Tagged ecosensitive approach, exploitation, extinction, home, linguistic approach, linguistic drift, natural history, nature is for humans, persecution, rise of scientific method
Scotia Illustrata: pre-industrial Scotland, is a postdoctoral research project run by recent Cardiff University postgraduate Lee Raye, starting on July 1st 2016.
This will be the first ever project to fully translate and comment upon a pre-Linnean Natural History from Britain.
Robert Sibbald’s Scotia Illustrata (1684) provides a full record of Scotland’s natural resources in the years before the Industrial Revolution.
The first phase of the project has been generously funded by the Society of Antiquaries of London, and the Alice McCosh Trust.
Interested parties can find out more about the work, author and text by visiting the project website: www.robert-sibbald.co.uk.
Posted in Amphibians and Reptiles, Birds, Invertebrates, Latin, Mammals, Plants (incl. Trees), Special Feature
Tagged 17th century, extinction, historical approach, linguistic approach, native status, natural history, nature is amazing, rise of scientific method, robert sibbald, Scientific Revolution, Scotia Illustrata
Species: Beaver (Castor fiber)
Source: My paper looks at an exhaustive list of reliable historical documents, selected depending on their reference to other wild species of mammal.
Date: The texts range from c.1200-1607 in south Britain and 1526-1684 in Scotland. Beavers are only found in those at the start of each period.
Highlights: If beavers were still around in south Britain after 1300 and Scotland after 1600 they must have suddenly started hiding-out.
Photograph of European beaver by Harald Olsen, licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.
Posted in British, English, Latin, Mammals, Scots, Special Feature, Welsh
Tagged beaver, beavers, Bryony Coles, ecosensitive approach, exploitation, extinction, historical approach, historical biology, history text, hunting, linguistic drift, low profile species, nature is amazing, persecution, re-introduction, wetland
Species: One woodland-adapted sea-eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla).
Source: ‘Ymddiddan Arthur a’r Eryr’ (the Conversation between Arthur and the Eagle), a teaching text on Christian theology with an Arthurian frame story.
Date: Most probably original to the Jesus 20 manuscript: 1300-1350 A.D.
Highlights: Once Arthur found an eagle laughing at him. He was annoyed until he found out it was his dead nephew, Eliwlad. At that point he hinted he could make war on God if it would help…
Sea Eagle photographed by GerardM, licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0. Sea eagles (=white-tailed eagles; fish-eagles) often nest in lowland trees.
Posted in Birds, Welsh
Tagged arthurian, catechism, cornwall, extinction, fourteenth century, heroes as animals, heroic age, literary approach, medieval christianity, native status, sea eagle, sermon, species history, white-tailed eagle, woodland
Species: Red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris); oak (Quercus robur); crow (Corvus corone) ; tawny owl (Strix aluco); wild cat (Felis sylvestris).
Source: ‘Coed Marchan’ by Robin Clidro.
Date: Around 1580 A.D.
Highlights: After Marchan Wood was cut down, a delegation of red squirrels went to Parliament in London to request no more deforestation. They begged this on behalf of the wild animals mentioned above, but also mentioned the poor domestic stock and humans that were suffering. Sadly they weren’t listened to.
This week’s blog post is on the RSPB web site. Click here to see it.
Image from British Library Additional Manuscript 18852, a red squirrel from c.1500 AD. Image in the public domain.
Posted in Birds, Mammals, Plants (incl. Trees), Special Feature, Welsh
Tagged Bible Welsh, deforestation, early modern, ecocritical approach, environmental management, exploitation, extinction, harmony with nature, human-environment conflict, literary approach, nature is a hero, RSPB, satire, sixteenth century, vote for bob, Welsh poetry, woodland
Strand of Scots Pine photographed by Gwen and James Anderson and licensed under CC-AT-SA. This photo is missing DEATH.
Species: ‘pin’, usually thought to be (Pinus sylvestris) but could be yew (Taxus Baccata) or generic term for conifers.
Source: The ‘Song of Roland’, a piece of Crusades propaganda.
Date: Most probably c.1098-1100 A.D.
Highlights: If you believe the ‘Song of Roland’, every soldier rushes to the nearest pine tree whenever they are either (i) meeting a rich person or (ii) about to die. Pretty cool, eh?
The only trouble is, pine trees are supposed to have been extinct in England and northern France when the text was written…
Posted in Anglo-Norman, Plants (incl. Trees)
Tagged charlemagne, churchyards, ecosensitive approach, epic, extinction, ganelon, garden, linguistic drift, literary approach, marsilla, native status, nature is a texture, pine, pine tree, postcolonial approach, propaganda, song of roland, woodland, yew trees
The portrait of St. Mark in the Lichfield (St Chad) Gospel.
In 2013 I had an academic paper accepted by the Journal of Late Antique Religion and Culture (JLARC). The journal is open access and you can read it here (link to pdf in the right hand column). I found that the manuscript animals were copied from manuscript to manuscript by closeted scribes, and were not based on real animals (e.g. lynxes, cats, wolves).
Species: The manuscript images were all derivative and made up a coherent, although unrealistic tradition of depicting lions (Panthera leo) not lynxes (Lynx lynx), wolves (Canis lupus) or cats (Felis catus; Felis sylvestris).
Source: Some of the oldest manuscripts in Britain: The illuminated gospels.
Date: 650-1000 A.D.
Highlights: One lion, that from the Lichfield (St Chad) Gospel (above) provoked a great deal of interest. It only had the stub of a tail and the scribe’s style made its body looked speckled. However in every other respect the lion was drawn in a derivative way to the mainstream tradition, and the answer is probably that the scribe simply forgot to paint the rest of the lion’s tail.
Posted in British, Latin, Mammals, Special Feature
Tagged archaeological approach, art history, biblical, ecosensitive approach, extinction, figurative, heroes as animals, home, imported stories, material culture, monastic, nature is a texture, saint's life