Laura Aydelotte, a scholar of rare books, creates striking animations from sketches and artwork appearing in medieval manuscripts. And each one has a unique story to tell.

The Dance of Death

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The Danse Macabre emerges from the art and allegory of the medieval period. Depictions of dancing skeletons and corpses such as the one shown here are meant to remind us of the universality of death, which comes to everyone alike, regardless of wealth, beauty, power or social station.

The Danse Macabre for this animation comes from the pages of a famous early printed book, commonly referred to as the Nuremberg Chronicles, from the year 1493.

Book of Genesis

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This animation comes from the bottom border of a page from a folio-sized 13th century Bible.

These creatures appear on the page that is the very start of Genesis—and on the left-hand border are images illustrating what occurred on each of the 7 days of creation. (If you know a little Latin, you may recognize the words In principio creavit deus… or "In the beginning God created…"). The fanciful beasts and birds drawn at the bottom thus loosely correspond with those being created in the text, but they also belong to the common practice among many medieval illuminators of adding imagery that served a purely decorative purpose.

Rocket Cat

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"Rocket Cat," the incendiary feline depicted on this 16th century manuscript, has received sufficient press that he may need no further explanation. You can read about him here, or just partake of the joys of watching Rocket Cat and Rocket Bird race around in blissful ignorance.

[Images: Laura Aydelotte, using images of materials from the Kislak Center at the University of Pennsylvania.]