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Today deals with two versions of the same manuscript, entitled “Der Naturen Bloeme” by Jacob van Maerlant [1]. There are several molluscs in these documents, but we focus here on two of them, Limax and Testudo.

The first version originated in Flanders c. 1350 [2]. On folio 109v one of the column miniatures illustrates Testudo. This ‘humanised’ snail has two pointed ears, an eye, nostril, and a mouth with dents; it looks very grim and could also be seen as a malacomorph hybrid showing a dog-head (or even a bat). The shell is dextral, with three whorls showing axial marks. This may be considered an iconographic paraphrase of older illustrations, e.g. items #38, #29.

KB_KA 16_f109v
On folio 133r Limax is shown. It is a stylised illustration of a slug, with an eye and mouth; one long pinnacle on the head may be representing the tentacles, although this seems odd to me. As far as I know this is the oldest representation of a slug, however, with some doubt. The accompanying text reads: “Limaxs es ene maniere van slecken / Dien wi sien haer seluen recken / Ende traghelike hene gaen / Experimentator doet verstaan / Datsoe tewintre es verloren / Te lentine so comt soe voren / Ende segghen dat dat bloet van hare / Die porrekine so vaste sluut / Datter gheen haer mee gaet vut / Ende daer puusten wassen in wonden / Men wriifse ontwee tien stonden / Dat soese ghenesen doet / Van dezen wormen weset vroet / Dese ne leghet in ghene scelle / Maer soe cruupt in haers selues velle.” The message of this Medieval Dutch text is that the slug’s slime may be healthy.

KB_KA 16_f133r

The second version of the manuscript originated more than a century later, either in Flanders or in Utrecht [3]. In this version, the order of the animals is different. Limax is treated on folio 090v, showing a coarser animal. The pinnacle is pointing forward, and no mouth is shown.

KB_76 E 4_f90v

For Testudo there are two miniatures, each with their own description. Folio 070r shows a figure similar to folio 109v of the first edition. However, the shell seems drifting on gulfs, thus suggesting a marine species. This is being cooroborated if we read the text: “Testudo dats slecke in latiin / Die in India so groot siin / Als plinius ende ander tellen / Dat liede wonen in haren scellen / Ende si van heilande theilande varen / Indie rode see daer mede te waren”. [4]

KB_76 E 4_f70r
In we Folio 093r undoubtedly illustrates a land snail, with two tentacles, an eye-spot and a mouth. The reddish, dextral shell has more than three whorls, and shows marks suggesting rather close ribs; the aperture is relatively narrow. The text reads: “Testudo es die name der slecken / Die haer can in haer huus decken / Ende schiint oft ware marberiin / Ende dat verhart dat sonneschiin / Van haren lime ende makent hart / Som siin si root som bont som swart / Ist datmen werpet vp hare sout / So verderuet met ghewout / So datter of bliiuet harde cleene / Sonder een luttel bloets allene / Ende dats goed te medicinen / Aldus doetse dat soud dwinen.” From the 5th line it can be deduced that an epiphragm (dried slime closing the aperture) was made, and thus it is a land snail.

KB_76 E 4_f93rKB_76 E 4_f93r_d

It may therefore be concluded that Testudo can refer to two different types of snails, and the first land snail in a Dutch manuscript only appeared in the second half of the 15th century.

[1] I am grateful to Nes van Hulzen, who suggested Der Naturen Bloeme as medieval Dutch literature with snail illustrations, thus laying one of the corner stones for this blog.
[2] KBH, Ms. KA 16, 164 ff. http://manuscripts.kb.nl/show/manuscript/KA+16. Dated c. 1350.
[3] KBH, Ms. 76 E 4, 152 ff. http://manuscripts.kb.nl/show/manuscript/76+E+4. Dated c. 1450–1500.
[4] Referring to occurrence in the Red Sea. From a transcription of Ms. KA 16 by Ed van der Vlist, curator medieval manuscripts KBH, whose kind cooperation is here gratefully acknowledged.