This week’s edition of Mmm… Marginalia is found in The Hague MS MMW10 A14, a now incomplete missal made in the Netherlands in the 14th century. And here it is:
Why have these lions stuck their heads into a basket and a potted plant? Usually, when I ask such questions, they’re less than rhetorical and just the setup for some lame joke. But this time there actually is a reason why these lions are acting weird, instead of just “it’s a joke.” And it’s pretty much for the same reason Johnny Depp now has a tattoo reading “Wino Forever“.*
Once they balanced on their noses the coats of arms of the original commissioner of the manuscript, Arnold of Oreye, who was the Lord of Rummen and Baron of Quaerbecke–which was all well and good until the Oreye family sold the manuscript. The new owner was not so keen on having someone else’s coat of arms in the margins of his missal, so he called in an expert to rectify the problem.
Usually, the new owners would just have the old coat of arms scratched off, or painted over with their own coat of arms. But for whatever reason, this new owner hired an illuminator with a whimsical streak, and the result was two lions now demonstrating that curiosity is a problem for great cats as well as small.
*Sure, it seemed like a good idea at the time to get “Winona Forever” tattooed on his bicep, but once she was out of the picture, some adjustments had to be made.**
**Actually, I have an alternate theory that Johnny Depp meant to communicate his continued undying love for the first two syllables of Winona’s name. Presumably, the last syllable was the cheating one.