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Trumpet-monsters and organ-heads

The 'Bohun Psalter', (Egerton MS 3277), produced during 2nd half of the 14th century in England, does not only showcase important examples of musical instrument in its full-page religious illuminations (as it will be shown in the following blog-post), but also a great amount of musical monsters decorating the psalter's texts. They tend to comment directly on the illuminated initials with instruments which are the instruments themselves or hybrids, half animal/ human and instrument. We see birds with trumpet-like beaks, dragons with organetto-heads, knaves with fiddle-heads, a bird lady playing its shawm nose or a naked man playing its own tabor head.

This type of instrument-creature hybrid is not that common in other medieval manuscripts, where one finds often animal - human hybrids playing instruments, but where the latter are not strictly part of the hybrid itself, (some of those types also in the images bellow). Thus, the 'Bohun Psalter' offers us a look into a conception of musical instruments being alive and part of the playful imagination of the middle ages.

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