Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Feather Book of Dionisio Minaggio

The Feather Book of Dionisio Minaggio. "...'Dionisio Minaggio Giardinero di Sa Ea Gv. Obnerator del Stato di Milano. Inventor et Feccit l'Ano del 1618." This inscription on the title page can be translated as: "Dionisio Minaggio, Gardener-in-Chief to the Governor of the State of Milan. Creator and Maker in the year 1618.'
What he had made was a book of designs of birds and human figures, each picture composed entirely of birds' feathers. The 112 birds consist of the feathers, beaks and claws laid down in true-to-life fashion. The other 44 figures are much more elaborate -- natural, undyed feathers arranged to show hunters (some on horseback), musicians, a knife-grinder, dentist and a set of actors from the Commedia del Arte. Actually, there are a few non-bird elements in 3 of the pictures -- dried oak leaves in picture 147, a snake skin draped in a tree (no. 66) and, in number 34, the bird is eating a small chameleon, part of whose skin can still be seen.
The 156 drawings were originally bound in a large leather-bound book but were taken apart and individually mounted behind glass shortly after McGill acquired the set in 1923 as part of the Blacker-Wood Library of Biology collection."


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