Medieval manuscript shows cat pwning fox

This 13th-century manuscript shows that, although foxes are Honorary Cats, their title will always and only be honorific.


From Eric Kwakkel’s Tumblr:

Defiant cat riding a horse

This amusing illustration is from a French copy of Reynard the Fox. It shows the scene where Reynart and Tybert the Cat are racing each other. The latter seems to be winning and is sticking out his tongue to spite the fox. What makes the scene even more hilarious is the pointing hand to the left of this scene, drawing attention to it. It appears out of nowhere, through a hole in the parchment. It seems to hurry the animals along.

Pic: Paris, BnF, Fr. MS 12584. Check out the entire manuscript, with more images, here. [JAC: there are 327 pages of that manuscript, many with strange animal pictures.]

Tybert, by the way, is a great name for a cat.

Here’s a closeup of Tybert giving Reynart the raspberry:

Screen shot 2014-02-26 at 8.34.29 AM


  1. Posted February 26, 2014 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    A cat riding an horse? What, the cat’s trying to give the fox a chance to win?


  2. Lenny Darnell
    Posted February 26, 2014 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    lolcats – nothing new under the sun.

  3. Faustus
    Posted February 26, 2014 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Is this some sort of prototype Monty Python Cartoon?

  4. Posted February 26, 2014 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Amazing, the calligraphy. So regular, it looks like a computer-generated typeface.

    Also interesting, the two “s”, one that looks like today’s “s” and one like an “f”.

    You have the word befte (in fact beste) for animal, now bête, now the accent indicates a missing “s”.

    • Sawdust Sam
      Posted February 27, 2014 at 5:04 am | Permalink

      This is the ‘long s’ that was introduced in the 8th century. It was abandonded by European type founders in the early 19th century, but can be found on gravestones (in England) up to 1860 and in handwriting until at least 1880. It is still used in the Germanic Fraktur typeface. Excellent article in Wikipedia.

  5. SA Gould
    Posted February 26, 2014 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Apparently, cat is riding a Lego horse. Horses have 2/3 of their midsection cut out to accommodate riders legs.

  6. Diana MacPherson
    Posted February 26, 2014 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    Oh, so that’s where the French renard comes from! Or at least the tapestry shows middle French use of the word.

  7. penguin0302
    Posted February 26, 2014 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    Another humorous but unmentioned detail is the horse’s tail is noticeably raised which was more than likely intentional. This may be Monty Python’s inspiration to the French guard’s “I fart in your general direction” flame.

  8. boggy
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    See ‘Le Souris de Tybert’

  9. Joe
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 1:00 am | Permalink

    Just to add a piece of info, the index finger (also known as manicule) is common in manuscripts of the era and also in typography well into the 19th century. I don’t see a trompe l’oeil hole in the manuscript so much as a cuff from which the pointing finger protrudes. (I base this interpretation on half-remembered bits from Keith Houston’s excellent book of typographical curiosities, “Shady Characters”.) Aaanyway, cool picture!

  10. paul-g
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 5:25 am | Permalink

    That cat is the spitting image of Henry’s cat, of the cartoon of the same name. Friend of Chris Rabbit, no less.

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted February 27, 2014 at 9:06 am | Permalink

      I don’t know Henry’s cat, but Tybert reminds me of Max in his wolf suit, making mischief of one kind and another.

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