Medieval manuscript shows cat pwning fox

February 26, 2014 • 3:07 pm

This 13th-century manuscript shows that, although foxes are Honorary Cats, their title will always and only be honorific.


From Eric Kwakkel’s Tumblr:

Defiant cat riding a horse

This amusing illustration is from a French copy of Reynard the Fox. It shows the scene where Reynart and Tybert the Cat are racing each other. The latter seems to be winning and is sticking out his tongue to spite the fox. What makes the scene even more hilarious is the pointing hand to the left of this scene, drawing attention to it. It appears out of nowhere, through a hole in the parchment. It seems to hurry the animals along.

Pic: Paris, BnF, Fr. MS 12584. Check out the entire manuscript, with more images, here. [JAC: there are 327 pages of that manuscript, many with strange animal pictures.]

Tybert, by the way, is a great name for a cat.

Here’s a closeup of Tybert giving Reynart the raspberry:

Screen shot 2014-02-26 at 8.34.29 AM

12 thoughts on “Medieval manuscript shows cat pwning fox

  1. Amazing, the calligraphy. So regular, it looks like a computer-generated typeface.

    Also interesting, the two “s”, one that looks like today’s “s” and one like an “f”.

    You have the word befte (in fact beste) for animal, now bête, now the accent indicates a missing “s”.

    1. This is the ‘long s’ that was introduced in the 8th century. It was abandonded by European type founders in the early 19th century, but can be found on gravestones (in England) up to 1860 and in handwriting until at least 1880. It is still used in the Germanic Fraktur typeface. Excellent article in Wikipedia.

  2. Oh, so that’s where the French renard comes from! Or at least the tapestry shows middle French use of the word.

  3. Another humorous but unmentioned detail is the horse’s tail is noticeably raised which was more than likely intentional. This may be Monty Python’s inspiration to the French guard’s “I fart in your general direction” flame.

  4. Just to add a piece of info, the index finger (also known as manicule) is common in manuscripts of the era and also in typography well into the 19th century. I don’t see a trompe l’oeil hole in the manuscript so much as a cuff from which the pointing finger protrudes. (I base this interpretation on half-remembered bits from Keith Houston’s excellent book of typographical curiosities, “Shady Characters”.) Aaanyway, cool picture!

    1. I don’t know Henry’s cat, but Tybert reminds me of Max in his wolf suit, making mischief of one kind and another.

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