Aberdeen Bestiary: secrets of ancient book owned by Henry VIII revealed

Digital imagery reveals secrets of 800-year-old royal book.
A lavishly illustrated medieval book which once belonged to King Henry VIII

Digital imagery reveals secrets of 800-year-old royal book. A lavishly illustrated medieval book which once belonged to King Henry VIII

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A lavishly illustrated medieval book that belonged to Henry VIII was not created for the royal elite but was a tool for teaching, new digitally enhanced photography has revealed.

The Aberdeen Bestiary, created in England around 1200 and first documented in the Royal Library at Westminster Palace in 1542, is one of the finest surviving examples of a medieval illuminated manuscript and has been in the care of the University of Aberdeen for almost 400 years.

Digital imagery reveals secrets of 800-year-old royal book.

Digital imagery reveals secrets of 800-year-old royal book.

It has been digitally enhanced and made available online for the first time in high definition. This enhancement has provided answers for experts who have long debated whether the Bestiary was commissioned for a high-status client or seized during Henry VIII’s reign from a dissolved monastic library.

Art historian Professor Jane Geddes of Aberdeen University said marks and annotations that were not previously visible point to it having been handpicked by scouts of Henry VIII when they scoured monasteries for valuables, rather than it being commissioned.

She said: “We can see clear evidence that it was produced in a busy scriptorium. There are sketches in the margin, newly visible with enhanced photography, which show the artist practising with models.”

Digital imagery reveals secrets of 800-year-old royal book.
A lavishly illustrated medieval book which once belonged to King Henry VIII

Digital imagery reveals secrets of 800-year-old royal book. A lavishly illustrated medieval book which once belonged to King Henry VIII

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