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: 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: 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: Imported garden laurel tree (?Laurus nobilis ; Prunus Laurocerasus?)
Source: ‘Balyn & Balan’ in Le Morte Darthur.
Date: Complete by 1469-70, first printed 1485 A.D.
Highlights: Sir Balyn is the least subtle knight that’s ever lived. Once Balyn brought a sad, jilted knight to visit his lover. She was otherwise engaged. Balyn snuck his friend in anyway. Balyn can’t be held responsible for EVERY murder right?
Well-maintained laurel tree (Laurus nobilis) in Westbury Court Gardens. CC-BY-SA 2.0. Photograph by Pauline Eccles.
Posted in English, Plants (incl. Trees)
Tagged 15th century, arthurian, Balyn & Balan, bay, bay leaves, chivalric, chivalry, ecosensitive approach, garden, introduction, knights, laurel, Le morte darthur, literary approach, marxist approach, native status, nature is a texture, romance, sir Balyn, syr Balyn
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
Brown bear photographed by Makeen Osman, licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0. Great spotted woodpecker photographed by Maarten Visser and licensed under CC-BY-SA-2.0. Compilation created by Lee Raye, and hereby released under CC-BY-SA 3.0.
Species Mentioned: Possibly one bee-wolf (?Ursus Arctos? Dendrocopus Major?)
Source: ‘Beowulf’ the most famous Old English story.
Date: Uh-oh, best not to ask. The version we have probably somewhere c.700-1050.
Highlights: Beowulf is the all-star hero of his story, so his name must mean something, right? It quite nicely breaks down to beo-wulf (=bee-wolf). But what could a bee-wolf be?
Posted in Birds, English, Mammals
Tagged bee-keeping, eco-sensitive reading, extinction, figurative, folkloric approach, heroes as animals, heroic age, heroic cycle, hierarchy of birds, honey, imported stories, linguistic approach, linguistic drift, native status, persecution
Photograph of a brown bear taken by Malene Thyssen, Licensed under CC-AT-SA.
Species mentioned: Eleven, but most importantly the BEAR (U. arctos).
Source: ‘Naw Helwriaeth’ (the Nine Huntings). A secret book written by a gentleman to explain to other gentlemen which wild animals are the most fun to hunt down and/or eat if you’re bored.
Date of source: Sixteenth-seventeenth century Welsh text, and therefore NOT a good insight into pre-Conquest times.
Highlights: Even though a grizzly is mentioned among all the other animals in this text, this doesn’t mean that brown bears managed to survive in hiding until 1600, or even 1000 AD.