Spain publishes emblematic manuscript of Portuguese medieval literature

The Ministry of Culture of Spain and the National Police of the neighbouring country presented today in Madrid a restored manuscript sheet of the Book of Mount, written in the fifteenth century, at the court of D. João I of Portugal.

Román Fernández-Baca, director general of Spanish Fine Arts, explained that this is a “fragment” of a work “emblematic of Portuguese medieval literature” and “fundamental” for studying the art of hunting.

The “precious” manuscript sheet, which had been stolen in 1995 and recovered in 2014, was “restored, studied and digitized“, and will be returned this Thursday, April 4, to the Provincial Archive of Lugo (Galicia).

The original Book of the Mount is from 1600 in the library of the school of the Company of Jesus of Monforte de Lemos (county of Lugo).

Previously, it was thought to have been donated to this institution by Cardinal Rodrigo de Castor Osorio, son of the Third Countess of Lemos, with links to the Portuguese royal family.

After the expulsion of the Jesuits from Spain in the eighteenth century, the work disappeared and was considered destroyed.

The Book of Mount, written by the direct initiative of King John I between 1415 and 1433, describes practical teachings on the art of cavalry and specific techniques for hunting different prey, especially the bear and the boar.

The book was only known through medieval testimonies, among them the references made by the son and successor of John I, King Duarte, and by the records in his library.

Until the retrieval of this manuscript, it was considered that there were only three copies of the Book of Mount, all of them copies after the medieval period.

The oldest, dating from 1626 and made from the book to which the fragment presented today belongs, is kept in the Fundação Oriente in Lisbon.

The two later ones were elaborated in 1844 and in 1897 and are, respectively, in the National Library of Lisbon and in the General Library of the University of Coimbra.

The mount was very important at the time because it was a way of preparing for war,” said Severiano Hernández, deputy director general of the State Archives.

The investigation into the location of the Book of Mount began in February 2014, when the Lugo Provincial Archive located 24 other “fragments” of this work that had been “reused” to protect several books with acts or notarial deeds made in Monforte de Lemos, in the eighteenth century.

According to what has been explained, parchment sheets being tougher than plain paper, the “fragments” of the Book of Mount were used to wrap the notarial deeds.

The recovered sheet was returned in 2014 by the family of a person who allegedly had subtracted the fragment” in 1995, said Enrique Juárez, chief commissioner of the Specialized and Violent Crime Unit (UDEV) of the Spanish National Police.

Written between 1415 and 1433, the book has 70 chapters divided by three volumes and was erroneously classified as containing a musical text.

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