This post kicks off a 3-part special on birds with a most unusual book I came across on Atlas Obscura.
In 1618, Dionisio Minaggio, Chief Gardener of the State of Milan, created a series of pictures. They were images of birds and scenes from the era: hunters, tradesmen, musicians and actors from the Commedia Dell’Arte. The difference was that these pictures were made of feathers, along with some supplementary bird parts: skin, beak and feet.
In total, there were 156 images, which were bound into a book: the appropriately titled Feather Book, or Il Bestario Barocco (The Baroque Bestiary).
It’s not clear what prompted Minaggio to create the feather book; some have speculated that it was to occupy his staff during winter and use up the feathers from the kitchen. Others say the regional governor may have commissioned it.
After traveling from Italy to the collection of an English judge named Taylor White in the 18th century, it is now held at the McGill University Library in Montreal. Below, you can see a selection of the best birds, hunters, musicians and, yes, dentists from The Feather Book.
(All Photos: Dionisio Minaggio, The Feather Book, Milan, c.1618, Courtesy Rare Books and Special Collections, McGill University Library)
See even more bird-themed images from the book on Atlas Obscura and stay tuned for more bird-related weirdness!
Update: Bonus Video
My friend, Eloise (aka Mello-Elo), very kindly shared news of this post on her blog, Monday Coffee. In the same post, she mentions a book with spectacular fore-edge painting, as the technique of painting on a book’s edge is called. This painting is normally only revealed when the book is viewed from a specific angle, making it a sort of medieval Easter egg:
Next on the series: A Bunch of Birds. Or is That a Watch of Nightingales?