Monday, 29 January 2007

Tangut Coins

In my previous post I discussed a Yuan dynasty coin with a Tangut character on it, so I thought that as a follow-up to this it would be a useful learning exercise for me to have a go at reading the Tangut inscriptions on the coins that were issued by the Western Xia 西夏 regime during the 11th-12th centuries. Now I'm sure that someone has already analysed all the Tangut coin inscriptions in some obscure journal somewhere, but I don't have easy access to a research library, so I have had to try to read all the inscriptions from the coins myself using my somewhat limited Tangut reference materials (Wenhai Yanjiu and the index to Li Fanwen's Tangut Dictionary).

But as Amritas said in his most recent Tangut blog post, Nothing is ever easy when it comes to Tangut. Coins with Tangut inscriptions vary from very uncommon to extremely rare, and most surviving examples are badly worn, making it very difficult to make a confident reading, especially given the nature of Tangut characters (almost always very complex but often differentiated from other characters by only subtle differences, and on top of this the glyphs encountered in actual inscriptions often differ significantly from the dictionary form of the character). The situation is made even worse by the fact that there are considerably more fake Tangut coins in circulation than there are genuine coins, some of which have completely spurious inscriptions but others which are hard to tell from the real thing. Thus, after three weeks of investigation, although I have managed to interpret the inscriptions on most of the coins, there are still several points of doubt which await future resolution.



The Western Xia regime (1032-1227) issued two types of Chinese-style cash coins, one with an inscription in Chinese characters, and one with an inscription in Tangut characters on the obverse (and normally a plain reverse). The Tangut inscription on these coins always comprises four characters, reading clockwise (top-right-bottom-left), meaning "Precious Coin of the ... Reign Period". At present coins with Tangut inscriptions are known from six different reign periods, but there may be more waiting to be discovered (the Zhengde Baoqian type is known only from a single example discovered in 1999).


Coin Chinese
Translation
Tangut Inscription Reading* Reign
Period
Example
Coin

Fusheng Baoqian
福聖寶錢
𗼃𗼕𘏨𘔭 śjɨj ljo ljɨ̣ dzjɨj Fusheng Chengdao
福聖承道
[1053-1056]

NB These are
two different
readings of
the same coin
Zeno
#16068
Bingde Baoqian
稟德寶錢
𗣼𗧯𘏨𘔭 tśhja ꞏji̲j ljɨ̣ dzjɨj
Da'an Baoqian
大安寶錢
𘜶𗵐𘏨𘔭 tha nej ljɨ̣ dzjɨj Da'an
大安
[1076-1085]
Zeno
#1084
Zhenguan Baoqian
貞觀寶錢
Guande Baoqian
觀德寶錢
𗣼𘝯𘏨𘔭 tśhja bio̲ ljɨ̣ dzjɨj Zhenguan
貞觀
[1102-1114]
Zeno
#78
Zhengde Baoqian
正德寶錢
Zhide Baoqian
治德寶錢
𗣼𘇚𘏨𘔭 tśhja mji̲ ljɨ̣ dzjɨj Zhengde
正德
[1127-1134]
 
Qianyou Baoqian
乾祐寶錢
𘀗𘑨𘏨𘔭 tshjwu ꞏwu ljɨ̣ dzjɨj Qianyou
乾祐
[1171-1193]
Zeno
#16071
Tianqing Baoqian
天慶寶錢
𘓺𘅝𘏨𘔭 ŋwər ljwu ljɨ̣ dzjɨj Tianqing
天慶
[1194-1205]
Zeno
#1332

*The readings are the phonetic reconstructions given in Li Fanwen 李範文, Xia-Han Zidian 夏漢字典 [A Tangut-Chinese Dictionary] (Beijing: Zhongguo Shehui Kexue Chubanshe, 1997).


Character References

Tangut Reading Chinese References
𗵐nejān 安XHZD #0139, WHYJ #2920
𘅝ljwuqìng 慶XHZD #0305, WHYJ #3264
𗘞lhashèng 聖XHZD #0480, WHYJ #1089
𘓺ŋwərtiān 天XHZD #0510, WHYJ #4454
𘑨ꞏwuyòu 祐XHZD #0645, WHYJ #4150
𘇚mji̲zhì 治XHZD #0720, WHYJ #3194
𘔭dzjɨjqián 錢XHZD #1604, WHYJ #4429
𗧯ꞏji̲jbǐng 稟 = 秉XHZD #2135, WHYJ #2448
𗼕ljofú 福XHZD #2342, WHYJ #3650
𗼃śjɨjshèng 聖XHZD #2544, WHYJ #3628
𗣼tśhjadé 德XHZD #2748, WHYJ #2239
𘀗tshjwuqián 乾XHZD #3950, WHYJ #2781
𘜶thadà 大XHZD #4457, WHYJ #4815
𘝯bio̲guān 觀XHZD #5593, WHYJ #4773
𘏨ljɨ̣bǎo 寶XHZD #5655, WHYJ #3824

XHZD = Xia-Han Zidian 夏漢字典 (1997).

WHYJ = Wenhai Yanjiu 文海研究 (1983).



The readings for the Da'an Baoqian 大安寶錢, Qianyou Baoqian 乾祐寶錢 and Tianqing Baoqian 天慶寶錢 coins are clear and unambiguous. In each case the top and right Tangut characters of the coin correspond in meaning directly to the Chinese characters for the relevant reign period, and are written in the same word order as the corresponding Chinese characters :

𘜶 ( 大) + 𗵐 (ān 安) = 𘜶𗵐 Da'an 大安 [1076-1085]
𘀗 (qián 乾) + 𘑨 (yòu 祐) = 𘀗𘑨 Qianyou 乾祐 [1171-1193]
𘓺 (tiān 天) + 𘅝 (qìng 慶) = 𘓺𘅝 Tianqing 天慶 [1194-1205]

However, the inscriptions on the other three coin types are quite problematic, and are discussed in more detail below.



Fusheng Baoqian 福聖寶錢 or Bingde Baoqian 稟德寶錢 ?


This coin is supposed to have been minted during the Fusheng Chengdao 福聖承道 [1053-1056] period, and as such it is reputed to be the earliest known example of the Tangut script (officially promulgated in 1036). It is also the coin that I have had most dificulty with. This coin is not as rare as some of the other Tangut script coins (seven Fusheng Baoqian coins were unearthed from a hoard at Wushenqi 烏審旗 in Inner Mongolia), but none of the examples available on the internet or in my coin books have a clear enough inscription to make a certain reading. The top character is particularly obscure on all the genuine coins that I have seen. Due to the poor condition of most examples of this coin, it has been difficult to get a definitive reading of the Tangut inscription, and so there are two different theories as to what characters are inscribed on it.

The inscription on this coin was first translated by Luo Fuchang 羅福萇 in 1914 (see Addendum for details), who read the top character as 𗼃 (XHZD #2544, WHYJ #3628) corresponding to Chinese shèng 聖, and the righthand character as 𗼕 (XHZD #2342, WHYJ #3650) corresponding to Chinese 福. Taking into account Tangut word order this gives a reading of fú shèng 福聖, being an abbreviation of the name of the Fusheng Chengdao 福聖承道 reign period. Interestingly Luo Fuchang reverses the order of these two characters in his Tangut transcription of the coin (reading the coin in the order right, top, bottom, left), so that they correspond to Chinese word order, Fusheng 福聖 :



However, Luo Fuchang's reading of Fusheng 福聖 is not universally accepted. There is an article by Nie Hongyin 聶鴻音 that discusses the problematic identification of the "Fusheng" reign period, but unfortunately it is only accessible by subscription. From what I can glean from Google (which seems to have access to the full text of subscription journals such as these) the author believes that according to Tangut custom the name of the Fusheng Chengdao 福聖承道 reign period should be abbreviated as Chengdao 承道 not Fusheng 福聖, and that the Tangut characters corresponding to Chinese bǐng dé suì 稟德歲 found in the colophon to the Tangut translation of the Thousand Names of the Buddhas of the Past Sutra 過去莊嚴劫千佛名經 are equivalent to "Chengdao period" 承道年. This theory accords with the view of Chen Bingying 陳炳應 that the inscription on the Fusheng Baoqian coin should be read as Bingde Baoqian 稟德寶錢.

The resolution of the image of the colophon to the Tangut translation of the Thousand Names of the Buddhas of the Past Sutra (also in Shijie Zongjiao Yanjiu 世界宗教研究 1981.1 p.75) is not good enough for me to be a hundred percent certain what the Tangut characters are that correspond to the Chinese translation bǐng dé 稟德 (line 18 characters 6-7 of the colophon), but I am pretty sure they must be 𗧯 XHZD #2135 (WHYJ #2448) and 𗣼 XHZD #2748 (WHYJ #2239) respectively, as they are the only characters that correspond in meaning to Chinese bǐng 稟 (= 秉) "to hold" and 德 "virtue". Looking at the coin, with a little imagination you can see that the top character does indeed resemble the Tangut character corresponding to Chinese 德 "virtue" (XHZD #2748), but with a long vertical line as the righthand element. And on at least one coin the righthand character does look as if it might just be the character corresponding to Chinese bǐng 稟 (= 秉) "to hold" (XHZD #2135). This reversed word order (dé bǐng 德稟) is expected according to Tangut grammar, although on the Da'an, Qianyou and Tianqing coins the Tangut characters follow Chinese word order. However, there does not seem to be a satisfactory explanation as to why bǐng dé 稟(秉)德 "uphold virtue" should be equivalent to the Chinese chéng dào 承道 "follow the way", i.e. why do the Tangut characters corresponding to Chinese bǐng dé 稟(秉)德 refer to the [Fusheng] Chengdao [福聖]承道 reign period ?

There are thus two completely different readings of the Tangut inscription on this coin, neither entirely convincing. Looking at the image of an actual coin next to the two suggested readings (as shown above), it is difficult to make a decision on the righthand character, but to me the top character does look closer to 𗧯 ( 德) than 𗼃 (shèng 聖). But until a much clearer example of this coin comes to light, it is not possible to be sure whether the inscription is Fusheng Baoqian 福聖寶錢 (𗼃𗼕𘏨𘔭), Bingde Baoqian 稟德寶錢 (𗣼𗧯𘏨𘔭), or something else entirely.



Zhenguan Baoqian 貞觀寶錢 ?


The inscription on this type of coin was translated by Zhao Quanzhi 趙權之 in 1937 as zhēn guān bǎo qián 貞觀寶錢 "precious coin of the Zhenguan period", but looking at the coin it would appear that this is not a literal translation of the Tangut characters. The two reign period characters are quite clear on several of the coins of this type, and so we can confidently identify the top character as corresponding to the Chinese character 德 "virtue" (XHZD #2748) and the righthand character as corresponding to the Chinese character guān 觀 "to observe" (XHZD #5593). So we have 德 "virtue" rather than the expected zhēn 貞 "chaste, faithful", and as the character zhēn 貞 is actually equivalent to the character zhèng 正 "upright, correct" in the compound zhēn guān 貞觀, I don't think you can claim that 德 is nearly synonymous with zhēn 貞. Furthermore, given Tangut word order, these two characters would probably correspond to Chinese guān dé 觀德 "observing virtue", which takes us even further away from zhēn guān 貞觀. So all in all I'm not convinced that the inscription on this coin does necessarily correspond to the Zhenguan period [1102-1114].



Zhengde Baoqian 正德寶錢 ?


Only one example of this coin is known, and that was discovered in 1999. It was valued on a Chinese TV programme about antiques and collectables as being worth at least RMB 200,000 (about USD 25,000). The programme's Tangut expert, Bai Bin 白濱 (one of the compilers of WHYJ), provided the following explanation of the inscription :

It's first character is 德 [virtue], and the second character ought to be zhì 治 [govern]. zhì dé is in fact the same as zhèng dé; so it is a "precious coin of the Zhengde period".

它的第一個字“德”,第二個字應該是個“治”字,“治德”實際上就是“正德”,是正德寶錢。

Well, I have to agree that the top character is indeed 德 (XHZD #2748) and the second character, although not terribly clear, does look like as if it could be the Tangut character corresponding to Chinese zhì 治 (XHZD #0720). In fact we are helped in the identification of these two characters by a Tangut seal (coinicidentally also revealed to the world on a Chinese TV programme) which appears to have the same two characters as a date on its reverse :



As is invariably the case, the column of characters on the left of the knob is the name of the seal's owner, and the column of the characters on the right of the knob is the date that the seal was bestowed on its owner. In this case the first two characters on the righthand column 𗣼𘇚 appear to be the same as the first two characters on the coin. According to the above-quoted expert we reverse the two Tangut characters to get the corresponding Chinese compound zhì dé 治德 "governing virtue", and then for some unexplained reason we substitute zhèng 正 "correct, upright" for zhì 治 "govern" to magically get the reign period Zhengde 正德 ... at this point I call time out.

I'm beginning to get really suspicious of the Tangut character corresponding to Chinese 德 that coincidentally just happens to occur as the first character on the inscription of the "Fusheng" ("Bingde"), "Zhenguan" and "Zhengde" coins. For the Da'an 大安, Qianyou 乾祐 and Tianqing 天慶 coins the Tangut inscription corresponds exactly to the reign period in Chinese, with no change of word order (same also applies for the Tangut characters corresponding to the Tiansheng 天盛 period [1149-1170] which occur on a number of Tangut seals), but with the other three coins we have to jump through hoops to get to the name of the reign period in Chinese :

𗣼𗧯 dé bǐng 德稟 ⇒ bǐng dé 稟德 ⇒ chéng dào 承道
𗣼𘝯 dé guān 德觀 ⇒ guān dé 觀德 ⇒ zhēn guān 貞觀
𗣼𘇚 dé zhì 德治 ⇒ zhì dé 治德 ⇒ zhèng dé 正德

I just don't buy it. I think that there must be some other more reasonable interpretation of the meaning of these three Tangut coin inscriptions that doesn't involve the magical substitution of one character for another ... if only I had any idea what that explanation was.



And Finally ...

If you want to find out more about Western Xia culture and see some more examples of the Tangut script on various documents and artefacts, these are some interesting online exhibitions (in Chinese) :



Addendum [2007-03-17]

S.W. Bushell

I have recently had the opportunity to look at the earliest decipherment of Tangut coins, by S.W.Bushell in his "The Hsi Hsia Dynasty of Tangut, Their Money and Peculiar Script" (Journal of the North China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society Vol.XXX (1895-1896) pp.142-160). In this ground-breaking article Bushell deciphers 37 Tangut characters from various inscriptions, as shown below :

Based on this he was able to read the legend on the Da'an Baoqian 大安寶錢 coin, and was thus the first person in modern times to be able to understand the writing on a Tangut coin. He also illustrates a Qianyou Baoqian 乾祐寶錢 coin, but is unable to decipher the reign period on it.


Luo Zhenyu and his Sons

In China the first modern scholar to become interested in the Tangut script was Luo Zhenyu 羅振玉 (1866-1940), who in 1912 published a facsimile edition of nine pages from the Fanhan Heshi Zhangzhongzhu 番漢合時掌中珠 "Pearl in the Hand", and in 1927 published a compiliation of 33 Tangut seals Xixia Guanyin Jicun 西夏官印集存. Luo Zhenyu passed on his interest in the Tangut script to his first, third and fifth sons, who all published important books on the Tangut script :

  • Luo Fucheng 羅福成, author of Xixia-yi Lianhuajing Kaoshi 西夏譯蓮花經考釋 "A Study of the Tangut translation of the Lotus Sutra" (1914) and Xixia Guoshu Leibian 西夏國書類編 (1915), and publisher of the first facsimile edition of Yin Tong 音同 "Homophones".
  • Luo Fuchang 羅福萇 (1896-1921), author of a marvellous handbook on the Tangut script, Xixia Guoshu Lueshuo 西夏國書略說 (1914?) that I only looked at for the first time a few days ago.
  • Luo Fuyi 羅福頤 (1905-1981), who (with Li Fanwen 李範文) edited a compilation of 97 Tangut seals, Xixia Guanyin Huikao 西夏官印匯考 (1982).

In Luo Fuchang's handbook of the Tangut script he gives readings for the Fusheng Baoqian 福聖寶錢, Da'an Baoqian 大安寶錢, Qianyou Baoqian 乾祐寶錢 and Tianqing Baoqian 天慶寶錢 coins.



Last modified: 2017-01-01 (updated with Unicode Tangut characters)

If Tangut characters do not display correctly, please download and install the Tangut Yinchuan font.


Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Zhida Tongbao

This is probably my favourite Yuan dynasty coin, a rare special issue that has an obverse inscription in four different scripts. This particular example, with twin phoenixes on the reverse, sold in China recently for RMB 55,000 (nearly USD 7,000) [another example].



It is also quite an enigmatic coin, with different sources providing different explanations of the scripts and their meaning. In the auction catalogue of this coin it is described as being inscribed with a transcription of the standard coin formula Zhizhi Tongbao 至治通寶, i.e. cash coin of the Zhizhi period (1321-1323), reading top-to-bottom and right-to-left. This is the most common interpretation, but the inscription has also been interpretted as reading Zhiyuan Tongbao 至元通寶, i.e. cash coin of the Zhiyuan period (1264-1294 or 1335-1340), because some examples of this coin do have the inscription Zhiyuan Tongbao 至元通寶 in Chinese characters on the reverse. It is also less commonly interpretted as reading Zhida Tongbao 至大通寶, i.e. cash coin of the Zhida period (1308-1311). Everyone is agreed on three of the words, but the bottom character causes much confusion, with its script variously described as being Phags-pa, Tibetan, Uighur-Mongolian or Khitan. I don't think it is any of these scripts, and I think that the reading Zhida Tongbao 至大通寶 is the correct one.


Zhi

The top word is not problematic. It is clearly written in the Phags-pa script, and reads ji ꡆꡞ, corresponding to Chinese zhi 至.


Da

For a long time I was stumped by the word at the bottom of the coin, but then recently I looked again at the table of Sanskrit letters given by Tao Zongyi 陶宗儀 in his work on scripts and calligraphy, Shushi Huiyao 書史會要 (mid 14th century, but based on an earlier work), and it was obvious that the letter was in fact a corruption of the letter tha in the Lantsa script.



If you look at the 2nd letter down in the 4th column from the right you can see the letter tha, with the Chinese phonetic gloss of 撻. This is clearly the same letter as on the coin, but on the coin the top loop of the letter is incorrectly written so it does not join up. The letter tha is not the expected transcription of Yuan dynasty Chinese da 大, which is written tay ꡈꡗ in Phags-pa, but was perhaps close enough for someone who was not skilled in Sanskrit pronunciation

In fairness, I have to add that in the examples of this coin with Zhiyuan Tongbao 至元通寶 in Chinese characters on the reverse, the letter on the bottom has an additional horizontal stroke not seen in this example, but I think that that must be a later, further corruption of the unfamiliar letter.



Tong

The word on the right is apparently a transcription of tong 通 in the Uighur Arabic script (also known as Chaghatayid script), but unfortunately I have absolutely no reading knowledge of Arabic at all, so I don't know how exactly tong is transcribed. If anyone can provide a Unicode transcription of the word on the coin I would be very grateful.


Bao

The word on the left is the Tangut character 𘜑 (Xiahan Zidian #0999, Wenhai Yanjiu #4718).

In the 14th century Tangut "Sea of Characters" 文海 dictionary this character is glossed as meaning "wave" (Chinese bo 波), and Li Fanwen gives the character a reconstructed pronunciation of pa in his Tangut dictionary, so presumably this is a phonetic borrowing intended to represent Chinese bao 寶. Oddly enough this is not the Tangut character used for bao 寶 in Western Xia coins with a Tangut inscription (𘏨).



Last modified: 2017-01-01 (updated with Unicode Tangut characters)

If Tangut characters do not display correctly, please download and install the Tangut Yinchuan font.


Monday, 8 January 2007

Vanished in the Twinkling of an Eye

Here's an entry for a Chinese character meaning "to blink" or "to twinkle" in a standard Chinese-English dictionary :


Han-Ying Cidian 漢英詞典 (Shangwu Yinshuguan, 1980) p.594.


Notice anything funny about it ? Not really, then try typing it up using Unicode ... oops, now where is that character ? ... you know, the one with a 目 radical and shǎn 㚒 phonetic.

Look as hard as you like, but not one of the 70,229 unified ideographs that have already been encoded matches the head character in this entry. A mistake or an obscure character perhaps (really obscure not to be in CJK-B) ? But no, the same character is also found in the standard pocket dictionary of Chinese characters :


Xinhua Zidian 新華字典 (Shangwu Yinshuguan, 5th ed., 1979) p.398.


And the best one-volume dictionary of modern Chinese :


Xiandai Hanyu Cidian 現代漢語詞典 (Shangwu Yinshuguan, 2nd ed., 1983) p.998.


So if it is such a common character, how come it's not in Unicode ? Well, the answer is that officially it is in Unicode, just that it's been unified with the very similar character U+4039 䀹. Notice how the character we are interested in has a shǎn 㚒 phonetic, but U+4039 has a jiā 夾 phonetic. U+4039 is an uncommon character which does not occur in any of the three dictionaries cited above, but if you look in the big dictionaries you will find both characters (one with a shǎn 㚒 phonetic, and one with a jiā 夾 phonetic), treated as separate characters in their own entries.

Here's the entry in the great Kangxi Dictionary :


Kangxi Zidian 康熙字典 (Zhonghua Shuju, 1958) p.809.


Let's see how these two entries are handled in an electronic Kangxi dictionary (click on the 康熙字典 tab) -- hmm, the two entries are conflated, but the on-line editor has had to add the apologetic note "䀹原字从㚒,不从夾。" [this character is originally written with the shan radical not the jia radical] to the first entry. Not very satisfactory !

And here's the entry in the Chinese answer to the OED :


Hanyu Dacidian 漢語大詞典 (Hanyu Dacidian Chubanshe, 1991) vol.7 pp.1221-1222.


Hmm, clearly two distinct characters. So why are they unified in Unicode ? Well, I don't believe they should be unified as the rules for CJK unification are that two characters should not be unified if a source dictionary treats them as distinct lexical items.

By now the most tenacious of my readers will have discovered that although there isn't a unified ideograph corresponding to the character in hand, there is a compatibility ideograph that looks just like it, viz. U+FAD4. So why not use U+FAD4 for this character to distinguish it from U+4039 ? Well, compatibility ideographs are not real Chinese ideographs at all, they only sometimes look as if they are, but with a wave of the magic wand of normalization they vanish away. Or in more prosaic words, U+FAD4 is canonically equivalent to U+4039, which means that any conformant Unicode process can convert U+FAD4 to U+4039 in the twinkle of an eye, without so much as a by-your-leave. So, it is not useful to try to represent our character in permanent electronic text form using its lookalike compatibility ideograph.

For this reason John Jenkins and myself have submitted a proposal to disunify U+4039, which will hopefully see this woefully overlooked character encoded as a unified ideograph in its own right before very long.


Addendum [2007-02-05]

Kenneth Whistler has pointed out that there is one more compatibility ideograph, U+2F949, which is canonically equivalent to U+4039. Whereas the reference glyph for U+FAD4 is the same as the missing character, the reference glyph for U+2F949 is the same as U+4039. So if a new character is created for the shan-radical character and the jia-radical character remains assigned to U+4039, then the compatibility ideograph U+2F949 will have the correct canonical equivalence to U+4039, but the compatibility ideograph U+FAD4 will be left with an incorrect canonical equivalence. On the other hand, if a new character is created for the jia-radical character, and the shan-radical character is assigned to U+4039, then the compatibility ideograph U+FAD4 will have the correct canonical equivalence to U+4039, but the compatibility ideograph U+2F949 will be left with an incorrect canonical equivalence. So whichever of these two solutions is chosen (if either), one of the compatability ideographs will be left with an incorrect canonical equivalence. We will just have to wait and see what the relevent committees decide to do about it.



Addendum [2007-05-13]

The proposal to disunify U+4039 was subject to much discussion at the recent WG2 meeting at Frankfurt, and resulted in a decision to encode the shǎn character at the earliest opportunity. To this end the new character has been included in the additions to ISO/IEC 10646 under ballot as Amendment 4 in the basic CJK block at U+9FC3, and if all goes to plan it will making its debut in Unicode 5.1 this time next year.

I have also revised and expanded the disunification proposal (N3196) with further examples of usage and evidence for disunification.


Monday, 1 January 2007

72 Views of the Tower of Babel

Image Description
Illustration to the Cædmon Manuscript (parts of Genesis, Exodus and Daniel in Old English verse)
MS. Junius 11 page 82
Bodleian Library, Oxford, England
England, circa 1000
Illustration to the Old English Illustrated Hexateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy and Joshua)
Cotton Claudius B. IV folio 19r
British Library, London, England
England, circa 1025–1050
Part of a fresco at the Abbey Church, Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe, France
circa 1100
Ivory tablet at the Salerno Diocesan Museum, Salerno, Italy
circa 1150
Copy of part of a mosaic at the Cathedral of Monreale (Santa Maria la Nuovo), Monreale, Italy
circa 1180
Copy of an illustration to the Hortus Deliciarum by Abbess Herrad von Landsberg (1167–1195) [original manuscript was destroyed by fire in 1870]
folio 27v
Germany (Hohenburg Abbey, Alsace), late 12th century
Detail of a copy of the Ebstorf Mappa Mundi by Gervase of Tilbury [the original manuscript came from the Benedictine monastery at Ebstorf; was moved to the Museum of the Historical Society of Lower Saxony in Hanover in 1845; and destroyed by bombing in 1943]
Germany (Ebstorf), circa 1234
Illustration to the Bible of Robert de Bello
Burney 3 folio 5v
British Library, London, England
England (Canterbury ?), 1240–1253
Illustration to a Bible Historiée
Rylands French MS 5 folio 16r
John Rylands University Library, Manchester, England
France, circa 1250
Illustration to the Morgan Bible (also known as the Maciejowski Bible)
MS M. 638 folio 3r
The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, U.S.A.
France (Paris), circa 1250
Part of a fresco by Cimabue (c.1240-c.1302) at the Upper Church of the Basilica of San, Francesco, Assisi, Italy
1283
Mosaic (detail in colour) at the Basilica di San Marco, Venice, Italy
13th century
Detail of the 1869/72 facsimile edition of the Hereford Mappa Mundi
Hereford Cathedral, Hereford, England
England, circa 1300
Illustration to the Golden Haggadah
Add. MS 27210 folio 3
British Library, London, England
Spain (Barcelona), early 14th century
Illustration to a Bible Historiale
KB, 71 A 23 folio 16r
Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, Netherlands
France (Paris), circa 1320–1340
Illustration to the Bible of Clement VII
Add. MS 47672 folio 7
British Library, London, England
circa 1330–1350
illustration by Michiel van der Borch to Jacob van Maerlant's Rhimebible
MMW, 10 B 21 folio 9v
Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, Netherlands
Netherlands (Utrecht), 1332
Illustration to the Velislav Bible
MS 23 C 124 folio 3
National University Library, Prague, Czech Republic
circa 1340
Illustration to the Egerton Genesis Picture Book
Egerton 1894 folio 5v
British Library, London, England
England (Norwich or Durham?), circa 1360
Illustration to Rudolf von Ems's World Chronicle
Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich, Germany
circa 1370
Illustration to Petrus Comestor's Bible Historiale
MMW, 10 B 23 folio 19r
Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, Netherlands
France (Paris), 1372
Illustration to a Haggadah for Passover (the Sister Haggadah)
Oriental 2884 folio 3v
British Library, London, England
Spain (Barcelona), circa 1325–1375
Illustration to Omne Bonum (Absolucio-Circumcisio) by James le Palmer
Royal 6 E VI folio 2v
British Library, London, England
England (London), circa 1360–1375
Part of a fresco by Giusto di Giovanni de Menabuoi (c.1320 - 1391) at Padua Baptistery, Padua, Italy
1376–1378
Illustration to the Bible Historiale of Jean de Berry
MS. Ludwig XIII 3 folio 2
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, U.S.A.
France (Paris), circa 1390–1400
Illustration to a Bible Historiée et Vie des Saints
Spencer Collection Ms. 022 folio 14
New York Public Library, New York, U.S.A.
France, circa 1390
Illustration to the Bible Historiale of Guyart des Moulins
MS 5 folio 17r
Bibliotheque Municipale, Troyes, France
France, 14th century
illustration by Petrus Gilberti to the Bible Historiale of Guyart des Moulins
Royal 15 D. III folio 15v
British Library, London, England
early 15th century
Illustration to Rudolf von Ems's World Chronicle
MS. 33 folio 13
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, U.S.A.
Germany (Regensburg), circa 1400–1410
Illustration to St. Augustine's La Cité de Dieu
MMW, 10 A 12 folio 93v
Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, Netherlands
France (Paris), circa 1410–1412
Illustration to St. Augustine's La Cité de Dieu
MS 55 folio 111v
Bibliotheque Municipale, Boulogne-sur-Mer, France
France, circa 1400–1450
Illustration to e Livre du Trésor
Yates Thompson 28 [ex Add. MS 39844] folio 51
British Library, London, England
Italy (Florence), 1425
Illustration to the Bedford Book of Hours
Add. MS 18850 folio 17v
British Library, London, England
1414–1423
Illustration to a History Bible
KB, 78 D 38 I folio 16v
Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, Netherlands
Netherlands (Utrecht), circa 1430
Illustration to Speculum Humanae Salvationis
MMW, 10 B 34 folio 34v
Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, Netherlands
Germany (Cologne), circa 1450
Illustration Chronique de la Bouquechardière by Jean de Courcy
Harley 4376 folio 206v
British Library, London, England
France (Rouen), circa 1450–1475
Illustration to Des cas des nobles hommes et femmes by Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–1375)
Add. MS 35321 (Book I chapter iii folio 4v)
British Library, London, England
circa 1475
Illustration to Fasciculus Temporum
KB, 74 J 5 folio 4r
Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, Netherlands
Netherlands, circa 1475–1500
Illustration to La Bouquechardière by Jean de Courcy
MMW, 10 A 17 folio 184r
Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, Netherlands
France (Rouen), before 1477
Illustration to a Book of Hours
KB, 133 H 30 folio 107r
Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, Netherlands
Netherlands, 1478
Illustration to the Le recoeil des histoires de Troyes by Raoul Lefèvre
Royal 17 E II folio 8
British Library, London, England
Netherlands (Bruges), circa 1475–1483

Copy of a fresco by Benozzo Gozzoli (c.1421–1497) at the Camposanto, now at the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Pisa, Italy
1469–1484
Illustration to Speculum Humanae Salvationis
MMW, 10 C 23 folio 37v
Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, Netherlands
Germany, 15th century
Illustration to Le Tresor des Histoires
Cotton Augustus V folio 22
British Library, London, England
15th century
Illustration to La Bouquechardière by Jean de Courcy (c.1350–1431)
MS 728/312 folio 181v
Musee Conde, Chantilly, France
France, 15th century
Illustration to the Book of the Apocalypse
MS 28/1378 folio 8v
Musee Conde, Chantilly, France
France, 15th century
Illustration to La Sfera by Gregorio Dati (1362–1436)
MA 110 folio 24
New York Public Library, New York, U.S.A.
15th century
Illustration to La Sfera by Gregorio Dati (1362–1436)
MA 109 folio 17
New York Public Library, New York, U.S.A.
15th century
Illustration to La Sfera by Gregorio Dati (1362–1436)
Spencer Collection Ms. 185 folio 17
New York Public Library, New York, U.S.A.
15th century
illustration by Gerard Horenbout to a Book of Hours
Add. MS 35313 folio 34
British Library, London, England
Netherlands (Bruges or Ghent), circa 1500
Illustration to a Chronicle
MS 19 folio 3
Lambeth Palace Library, London, England
circa 1500–1550
Illustration to the Schönsperger Bible (Schönsperger-Bibel) page b8a
2 Inc.c.a. 2386 a, Bayerische StaatsBibliothek, Munich
Augsburg: Johann Schönsperger, 1490
Illustration to the Revelations of Methodius (Revelationes Methodii) page a6b
4 Inc.c.a. 1523, Bayerische StaatsBibliothek, Munich
Basel: Michael Furter, 1498

Illustrations to the Cologne Chronicle (Kölnische Chronik) pages C3a and C4a
2 Inc.s.a. 302
Bayerische StaatsBibliothek, Munich
Cologne: Johann Koelhoff der Jüngere, 1499
Illustration to the Liber Chronicarum (Das Buch der Croniken und Geschichten) page d4a
2 Inc.c.a. 3925
Bayerische StaatsBibliothek, Munich
Augsburg: Johann Schönsperger, 1500
Detail of the Carta Universal of Juan de la Cosa ((c.1460–1509)
Museo Naval de Madrid
Spain (Puerto de Santa María), 1500
Detail of the Cantino planisphere
Biblioteca Estense, Modena, Italy
1502
Drawing by Federico Zuccaro (1540/1541–1609)
The Louvre [INV 4535], Paris, France
Illustration to an Ethiopic hymnary, Tabiba Tabiban
Or. 590 folio 10
British Library, London, England
Ethiopia, 18th century


Update [2009-01-01]

In the two years since the birth of this page on January 1st 2007 the number of views of the Tower of Babel has grown to well over a hundred. To make this page easier to manage, and hopefully easier to appreciate, I am now restricting this page to medieval views of the Tower of Babel (at present less then the nominal 72 views in the title, but I expect the number of views to grow as more and more medieval manuscripts are digitized and made available online).

See the following pages for post-medieval and modern views of the Tower of Babel :



[Last updated : 2011-10-30]