St Albertus Magnus (1)

Penflourish initial I and full border at the beginning of Book XII, De causa membrorum consimilium et dissimilium in complexione eorum
Peterhouse MS 2, f. 124r
Albertus Magnus, De animalibus
England, ca 1410–1440

Image reproduced by kind permission of the Master and Fellows of Peterhouse

St Albert the Great (ca 1200–1280) is not only among the greatest of Dominican philosophers and theologians but the greatest Dominican writer of scientific works. The De animalibus is his most important scientific text, inspired by the work of Aristotle with the same title. It is in twenty-six chapters and gives accounts of the human body as well as those of animals, birds, fish and reptiles. The first three books are mainly concerned with the human anatomy, books four to eight on animals, birds, fish and reptiles, books nine and ten on human procreation, book eleven is a general consideration of the differences between the various categories of creatures, books twelve to fifteen on their anatomical and physiological differences, book sixteen on procreation and the soul, books seventeen and eighteen on differences in procreation, books nineteen to twenty-one on differences between the animals and humans, and books twenty-two to twenty-six a catalogue of the different species of quadrupeds, birds, fish, snakes and other reptiles. The text includes theological and philosophical discussion of these topics when relevant. This copy made in England in the early fifteenth century has both illuminated and penflourish initials and borders in blue, red and purple at the beginning of the books, although most of the illuminated initials have been excised.

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