Badger (Meles meles) photographed by Mark Robinson, CC-BY 2.0. Colour analysis is mine.
I’m currently working on translating and analysing a seventeenth century natural history text called Scotia Illustrata by Robert Sibbald. It’s lots of fun but there are occasional bits I have trouble with. This week I looked at how sophisticated his colour terminology is, and found something very surprising…
Species: Some cold turtles, seen off the coast of the Orkney Islands, probably leatherbacks (Demochelys coriacea), also some chilled-out pet tortoises (sp. unclear).
Source: Scotia Illustrata (Scotland Illustrated), a complete geography of Scotland written in early enlightenment Scotland by Robert Sibbald.
Date: First published 1684 CE.
Highlights: This blog post introduces, translates and comments what I believe to be the earliest record of a marine turtle (most probably a leatherback) from Britain. This record, from Robert Sibbald’s Scotia Illustrata has been overlooked by previous scholars because the book is only available in difficult Latin. It is a decade older, and more certain than the previous oldest record.
Photograph of leatherback turtle with Marian Garvie and other, unknown, taken by Steve Garvie, licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0.
You too can grow up this big and strong on a diet of Natural History and jellyfish.
Posted in Amphibians and Reptiles, Latin, Scots
Tagged Britain, coastland, ecosensitive approach, harmony with nature, historical approach, history text, leatherback turtle, native status, natural history, nature is amazing, rise of scientific method, robert sibbald, scotland, tortoise, turtle, wildlife history
Species: Pests, game, scavengers and royal beasts.
Source: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, The Acts for the Preservation of Grain, The Values of Wild and Tame.
Date: Medieval to Early Modern, c.1100-1566.
This week’s blog post is a guest post at the Academy for Distance Learning, where I have been challenged to provide a summary of Britain’s strangest laws in 500 words or less
The Academy for Distance Learning is a UK institution where you can take courses up to higher diploma level online or by correspondence. They have just started a (modern) Wildlife Law course which I will be teaching this year.
You can read the full blog post here.
Posted in Anglo-Norman, Birds, English, Mammals, Special Feature, Welsh
Tagged environmental management, exploitation, farmland, harmony with nature, historical approach, home, human-environment conflict, hunting, legal, nature is a pest, nature is amazing, persecution
Species: Semi-domestic wild sow (Sus scrofa).
Source: ‘De Antiquitate Glastone Ecclesie’ (The Early History of Glastonbury), originally by William of Malmesbury but heavily edited by monks at Glastonbury Abbey.
Date: Originally composed c.1129 A.D., but earliest extant version mid twelfth century.
Highlights: One day an old pig was so fed up it went exploring in a marsh, and sat under an apple tree on an island. When Farmer Glateing found it, he liked the place so much he named it Glastonbury. Aww, cute.
If you believe that, it’s because you aren’t used to the politically cut-throat, properganda-filled world of the medieval church!
Wild boar (Sus scrofa, probably male) from Additional 42130 f. 19v. Public domain from age of work.
Posted in Latin, Mammals
Tagged 12th century, apple tree, arthurian, Avellon, Avelon, environmental management, Glasteing, Glastonbury, Glastonbury Abbey, Glastonbury festival, harmony with nature, historical approach, history text, nature is a hero, old sow, origin legend, propaganda, wetland, wild boar, William of Malmesbury, woodland, Ynys Wytrin, Ynyswitrin
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
Part of the Vaughan coat-of-arms at Tretower Court, Brecon Beacons, south-east Wales.
Species: Generic snakey-snake, called an adder (Vipera berus) but has prey constricting habit like smooth snake (Coronella austriaca).
Source: The Vaughan family coat-of-arms and its descriptions (not as boring as it sounds, I promise!)
Date: c.1450 A.D.
Highlights: The Vaughan coat-of-arms shows three boys being strangled by snakes. This was inspired by the legend of a family member being born with a snake around his neck. Boring folklorists c.1900 interpreted this as an #IHateSnakes moment. They are wrong, it was originally the opposite. The writings of Lewis Glyn Cothi suggest comparing someone to a snake was a compliment. Continue reading
Posted in Amphibians and Reptiles, English, Welsh
Tagged adder, art history, artwork, battlefield, breconshire, coat-of-arms, eco-sensitive reading, figurative, folkloric approach, garden, harmony with nature, heroes as animals, history text, home, llys tre-twr, moreithig warwyn, nature is a pest, persecution, smooth snake, tretower, vaughan, vaughan family
Atlantic Salmon (S. salar) photographed by Hans-Petter Fjeld, licensed under CC-BY-SA-2.5.
Species: Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) and white-tailed sea eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) AT WAR.
Source: ‘Culhwch ac Olwen’ the oldest native (not imported) Welsh prose story.
Date: The version we have most probably c.1100 A.D., but some plot lines of the story also found mentioned in text from 828 A.D.
Highlights: The supposedly pointless oldest animals episode in Culhwch actually makes perfect sense, if you read it like a medieval person, with a knowledge of the species being discussed.
Click the “more” button below to read this post…
Posted in Birds, British, Monsters, Welsh
Tagged arthurian, coastland, ecosensitive approach, folkloric approach, harmony with nature, imported stories, linguistic approach, mabinogion, nature is a hero, wetland