Saturday, April 1, 2017

Calendar pages for April 1st

April 1st was also the Feast of Fools in the middle ages

Some medieval fools forApril Fools Day:  BL Harley MS 3000 f 189 BL Royal MS 19 D III f 266 BL Stowe MS 955 f 9* BL Royal MS 2 A XVI f 63v

 A calendar page for April 1st from the British Library

Calendar page for April, with a roundel miniature of an aristocratic couple courting, followed by a small child, from the Huth Hours, Netherlands (Bruges or Ghent?), c. 1480, Add MS 38126, f. 4v

So what delights does April bring us? The promise of early spring often yields images of very pleasant labours indeed for this month, and these calendar pages from the Huth Hours are no exception. Our first folio gives us a roundel miniature of a well-dressed couple courting while walking along a garden path. The themes of fertility, birth, and rebirth are emphasised by the flowering branch being carried by the ardent young man, and by the small child following the couple (whether he is acting as chaperone or as a sign of things to come remains a bit of a mystery).

 The saints' days and feasts for April are continued on the following folio, along with a small painting of a bull for the zodiac sign Taurus. In the roundel below is a charming scene of a shepherd surrounded by his flock, playing a recorder for his appreciative dog. A similar musical shepherd can be found on the calendar page for April of 2013; we'll let you know if we encounter any other examples! (British Library by Sarah J Biggs & Julian Harrison)

The first recorded association between April 1st and foolishness is in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

"In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (1392), the "Nun's Priest's Tale" is set Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two. Modern scholars believe that there is a copying error in the extant manuscripts and that Chaucer actually wrote, Syn March was gon. Thus the passage originally meant 32 days after March, i.e. 2 May, the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, which took place in 1381. Readers apparently misunderstood this line to mean "32 March", i.e. April In Chaucer's tale, the vain cock Chauntecleer is tricked by a fox.

Did Medieval people tell jokes? 

1 comment:

Carla Ives said...

Beautiful calendar pages. I love the old books with these types of illustrations and illumination. Thanks for sharing!